Breast milk is the nutritional gold standard for infants, but breastfeeding may not be available or the personal choice for all new mothers. Regardless of feeding method, all parents want the best for their child. But for those who formula feed, an abundance of choice in the grocery aisle can be overwhelming. Read on to learn my top tips for choosing the best baby formula for your family.
Consider medical conditions
First and foremost, take into account the health of your child. If your baby is premature or has a medical condition, it’s always best to speak with your health professional as they may recommend a specialty product, such as a hypoallergenic (extensively hydrolyzed) or soy-based formula. For healthy, term babies, the following tips may be helpful.
Choose easy to digest protein
A baby’s digestive system is still developing so it’s important that the protein in formula is easy to digest. For newborns, a partially hydrolyzed formula, which contains protein that is already somewhat broken down, may be easier to digest and may help reduce allergic conditions like eczema. Goat’s milk protein is another easy to digest protein as it forms a smaller, softer and looser curd in the tummy compared to cow’s milk protein; goat’s milk infant formula, however, is not yet available in the US.
Look for added whey
Breast, cow and goat’s milk are made of two main types of protein: whey and casein. While breast milk contains more whey than casein, both cow and goat’s milk contain more casein than whey. To better simulate the composition of breast milk, many formulas add whey to adapt this protein ratio. Added whey protein may also be beneficial because it is digested more quickly than casein. Look for the addition of either cow or goat’s whey on your baby formula ingredient list
Prefer lactose as the primary carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are an important energy source for babies, and lactose is the primary carbohydrate in breast milk. Lactose is often blamed for tummy troubles in little ones but lactose intolerance is uncommon in children under 2 or 3 years old; it may be the protein is cow’s milk that is the culprit. Look for “lactose” (not maltodextrin, corn syrup or sucrose) on your baby formula ingredient label.
Choose added omega 3 fatty acids
DHA is a type of omega 3 fatty acid that is critical for eye, brain and neurological development, and may even benefit cognitive development. DHA, along with other fatty acids like ARA, are naturally found in breast milk. There are different sources of DHA that are approved for use in Infant Formula. Look for DHA and ARA on your baby formula ingredient label.
Depending on what’s important for your family, you may wish to consider choosing a formula that is not genetically modified (non-GMO), is organic, or made in Europe. However, be aware that just because the label says non-GMO or organic, it does not mean that it’s the best formula – always read the ingredient label to know what’s really in your baby’s formula.
Feeding choices can be complicated, and parents have enough stress without having to defend their reasons for using formula. By having open conversations about formula and providing transparent nutritional information, we can empower parents to make the best decisions for their family.