Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is entirely a personal decision – though it has been universally accepted that breastmilk is the complete food for a baby till 6 months, after which it can be continued for as long as the parents want. However, breastfeeding may not be possible for all mothers, and in such cases, infant formula is the best and a healthy alternative. Infant formulas provide babies their much needed nutritional requirement to grow and thrive. If you have decided to formula feed your baby, you will have many questions and doubts, which we have tried to clear below.
The foods designed to cater the nutritional requirements of infants below 1 year of age are called as ‘infant formulas’. They usually consist of concentrated liquids, powders or easy-to-use forms which can be fed to the baby after mixing with water or other liquids. These food preparations are life-saving for infants having difficulty in breastfeeding or if the mother is not having sufficient milk to lactate the infant. Infant formula is the only other food than breast milk that is considered as nutritionally acceptable for babies under 12 months of age. They are nutritious for the baby, and even contain some essential vitamins and minerals that breastfed babies get from supplements.
Infant formulas are commercially manufactured under strict sterile conditions and attempt to duplicate the mother’s milk. Comples compounds of sugars, fats, proteins and vitamins are created under expert care. Infant formulas can only be manufactured commercially and should not be attemped to be prepared at home. If for any reason you are not breastfeeding your baby, the only alternative is infant formula that is prepared commercially.
Depending upon nutrients, taste, cost, ability to be digested and the calorie count, the following 7 types of infant formulas are available:
Cow’s milk is not advised till the baby celebrated his first birthday. That is because it lacks the nutrients which are there in infant formula, and your baby could have iron deficiency, among other health issues. Infant formula has been largely made to resemble the composition of breast milk, and hence is the best alternative to breast milk for babies under the age of 1 year. Read more about giving cow’s milk to the baby here.
Based on your budget, desire and convenience, you can choose from the below infant formula preparations:
However the market also offers toddler formulas which is quite expensive and is said to be good for babies who are usually ‘picky-eaters’. They have not yet proved to be better off than multivitamins or whole milk.
According to pediatricians the standard infant formulas should have 20 cal per ounce and around 0.45 grams of protein per ounce. Infant formulations based on cow’s milk are ideal for preterm and full-term babies.
Infants taking sufficient feeds and gaining weight do not require minerals and vitamins. Your doctor might advise you to add extra fluoride if the water mixed in formulas is not fluoridated.
The pediatricians believe that cow’s milk is not advised for children below 1 year of age. Infant formulas should be administered to infants below 1 year of age while after 1 year the child should be given whole milk.
If in any situation, an infant cannot be breastfed, it is mandatory to feed him or her with iron fortified infant formulations. Infant formulas fortified with iron are effective and safe for your baby and ensure proper growth and development. Iron deficiency anemia is common in infant feeding on cow’s milk. The usage of iron fortified infant formula can drastically lower down the risk of anemia in infants. Iron is a very essential nutrient, and the best way to provide your baby with iron is feeding him iron fortified formula.
It may be mentioned here that vital ingredients such as iron, copper, vitamin C and vitamin E are not found in cow’s milk. Gastrointestinal bleeding can be seen with cow’s milk so pediatricians recommend infants should be given iron fortified formulas during first year of their early life.
Here are some important points to be borne in mind while preparing the infant formula feeds:
Checking the expiry date is crucial before administering not only the infant formulas but also every food items and medicines.
Expiry date implies the date or time duration up to which the food can keep its nutritive value intact micro-biologically and is physically stable. It denotes the time before which food should be consumed to derive maximum nutritive value.So, whenever you shop for your baby’s milk, do not forget to read about the expiry date.