What is baby formula?
Baby formula, infant formula or formula milk is regarded as the closest thing to a mother’s breast milk. It is a powdered formula that is either cow’s milk based, soy based or hydrolysed-protein. The formula – fortified with added vitamins, nutrients and minerals – is added to boiled water that has been cooled, which is then fed to the baby through the use of bottles and teats.
Newborn baby formula is not mixed with cow’s milk, which is too high in protein for babies under 12 months to digest. These additional proteins are removed from cow’s milk based formulas.
What are the differences between the types of formula?While all formulas will differ slightly between brands, the biggest differences are found in the types of formula.
Cow's milk basedThis type of formula is adjusted to most closely resemble breast milk. Its fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral levels are regulated and adjusted for babies at different ages.
Hydrolysed-proteinThis means cow’s milk based formula that has had its proteins further broken down to aid in digestion. Usually these formulas are also lactose free.
Soy-basedLike the other types, soy-based formulas are mixed with nutrients to make them appropriate alternatives to breast milk. The main difference is that these formulas are plant rather than animal based.
Why do some babies or mothers need to use baby formula?
There is a range of reasons why some mothers choose to use or must use baby formula. Some women choose formula because they are concerned that their diets or habits might pass on trace amounts of harmful substances to their child. Some women might be suffering from mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue that makes breast feeding painful. Other women might be unable to breast feed due to physical complications or medical conditions.
In some cultures public breastfeeding can be frowned upon, meaning that the use of baby formula among women from that culture may be more likely.
Are there any side effects of baby formula?
The use of formula milk often involves a larger financial and time cost. The feeding apparatus used for baby formula must be boiled and sterilised before re-use to avoid any bacterial contamination. This can be time-consuming and means that you must be prepared to feed well in advance of your actual feeding times.
In general, baby formula can’t match the complexity and matched nutrients of breast milk. However, as mentioned above, there are times when the healthier or more preferred alternative is formula milk. If in doubt, talk to your health provider, women’s clinic or community centre for further advice. In the end, and despite any real or perceived pressures, the choice remains with mum.
*The above should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of trained medical professionals.