Choosing infant formula
Holistic Nutritionist, Carley Mendes, shares tips on what to look for when buying infant formula.
We all want the best for our babies. If you’re looking for an alternative to breastfeeding, whether by necessity or choice, the variety of options that you are faced with may be overwhelming. If turning to infant formula to feed your baby, there are certain things to consider.
There are many benefits to choosing an organic formula whenever possible. They are free from genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs) and unhealthy oils processed with toxic solvents. Unlike conventional formula, the DHA & ARA in organic formula is extracted with water rather than chemically extracted with hexane. The milk used in organic formula is from cows that have not been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Buying organic also ensures that ingredients in the formula have not been derived from crops sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.
Look for Lactose
All formula contains added sugars to mimic breast milk, which is high in lactose and naturally quite sweet. The sweetener that most closely resembles lactose in breast milk is lactose from cow’s milk. Although many manufacturers use plant-based sweeteners, the most concerning being corn syrup solids which may contribute to overfeeding and obesity. True lactose intolerance is a rare genetic condition and is different to a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.
Ingredients to avoid where possible:
Soy is an alternative to milk-based formula, but this shouldn’t be your first choice for your baby. Soy-based formula contains high levels of phytoestrogens, plant-derived estrogens that have the potential to disrupt baby’s intricate hormonal system. Formula made from soy also contains phytic acid, which can block the absorption of minerals that are essential for babies like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Parents may turn to soy-based formula if their baby experiences digestive issues from cow’s milk formula, but hypoallergenic formulas are often better choices for sensitive babies.
The European Union has banned the use of carrageenan in all infant formula because it can lead to significant intestinal inflammation, but it is still added to some ready-to-feed formula manufactured in North America. Powdered formula does not contain carrageenan.
The fatty acid profile of breast milk is very complex and hard to duplicate. Palm oil is often added to formula to mimic the palmitic acid found in breast milk. Although this processed oil can be difficult for babies to digest and can cause intestinal inflammation.
Synthetic Nutrients & Preservatives
Unfortunately, synthetic nutrients & preservatives are commonly added to formulas in North America. The only way to completely avoid them is by making your own infant formula, sourcing donor milk, or importing a high-quality formula from Europe where the regulations on certain ingredients are more stringent. If importing formula you may also consider a brand made with goat’s milk as it is less allergenic and is easier to digest than cow’s milk, making it a suitable option for sensitive babies. Goat’s milk infant formula is currently not sold in the US however goat’s milk for toddlers is available.
Supplementing a formula-fed baby
Some nutrients may be low or absent from certain brands of infant formula. So depending on what your particular formula contains, you may want to consider additional supplementation for your baby such as:
- Infant Probiotic: To promote healthy digestion, strengthen immunity, and help prevent eczema and allergies.
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid): A polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acid essential for the development of baby’s brain.
- Vitamin D3: Important for the development of bones and teeth, immune function, and to help protects against respiratory infections.
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