Though the number of breast feeding mothers is on the rise, it will not always be an option for every family. Thankfully, there are formulas readily available to help nourish or supplement your infant. Plus, there is even a Do-It-Yourself option for the family looking to customize their infant's diet.
How to Choose the Best Formula for Babies
Lactose is the sugar carbohydrate found in breast milk. Cow’s milk does not contain as much lactose as human milk so manufacturers must add an additional sweetener to make up the difference. Lactose is the main form of energy the infant needs to survive. Unfortunately, many infant formulas today, even of the organic variety, do not contain lactose. So, formula manufacturers supplement the human form of lactose with a plant-based sweetener or glucose solids. This is the reason behind corn syrup and/or corn syrup solids in formula. These plant based sweeteners result in a very sweet tasting formula which can alter the infant’s food cravings for the rest of their life. However, this sugar is needed to balance the components of whey used in most formulas.
Most formulas are comprised of entirely whey or casein proteins from cow’s milk, or a mixture of the two. Of course, soy formulas would be the exception of this rule. A 70/30 whey- casein ratio is the mixture that most accurately represents the components of human milk. Companies claim that whey is easier on little bellies to digest. Because of this, some companies have developed hydrolyzed, or predigested whey formula that will help to decrease stomach problems even more.
Soy formulas contain a form of soy protein instead of the whey/casein mixture. When a dairy allergy is involved, there may not be a choice but to use a soy formula. If it is not medically necessary for your infant to use a soy protein, we suggest reading the Truth About Soy before making the decision on whether this type of formula is the right choice for you.
DHA and ARA
Breast milk contains the fatty acids DHA and ARA. DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid and ARA is an omega 6 fatty acid. DHA has been credited to healthy brain and eye development. Because of this, formula manufacturers are looking to replicate this by adding DHA from algal oil produced in a factory from C. Cohnii and M. Alpina. The DHA in algal oil is extracted using toxic hexane. Unfortunately, there have been studies that show synthetic DHA does not improve intellectual abilities.
Breast milk is a very fatty, oily substance. To mimic this characteristic, formula manufacturers will add a mixture of oils to replicate the fatty acid profile of breast milk. Human milk has low saturated fatty acids, high monounsaturated fatty acids and high linolenic acid. Some of the common oils found in formula are palm olein, coconut, sunflower, safflower, and soy oil. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the palm olein oil is not properly absorbed and processed by infants. This means that infants consuming palm oil have a decreased absorption in oil and calcium, and this deficiency is noticeable in their bones.
There are stricter regulations on how many of the ingredients are sourced in organic formula. Choosing a certified organic formula will help decrease the amount of chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides ingested by your little one.
Of all the formula currently available, none contain cholesterol. Breast milk is a medium-cholesterol diet. This is something to consider before choosing to formula feed or deciding whether homemade formula may be the better choice for your infant.
Do It Yourself
The Weston A Price Foundation has an amazing tutorial for making your own infant formula. Some of the ingredients include the following: raw milk, coconut oil, gelatin, fermented cod liver oil, homemade whey, and a few more options. They also have variations using goat's milk and liver based formulas.
DHA and ARA in Infant Formula - Cornucopia Institute
How To Find the Safest Organic Infant Formula- Cornucopia Institute
Choosing Formula - Dr. Sears
Reduced bone mineralization in infants fed palm olein-containing formula- NCBI
Top Baby Formulas- Consumer Reports
Photo Credits: Amanda A. & Lara604