We all want our children to have the best start in life, beginning with their nutrition.
But what is the best baby formula (and is there such a thing)?
From birthing to bathing, the choices for parents can be overwhelming. But few topics are as nerve-wracking as deciding how to feed your baby in the first few years of their life.
Breast- or bottle feeding? Powdered formula or liquid? Sensitive tummy and lactose-free versions–the baby aisle is downright exhausting!
One thing is for sure: you want to know that your baby is getting all of the nutrients s/he needs to grow and thrive. But with so many options on the market, how can you be sure which is the best baby formula?
As pediatricians, we understand your concerns. So let’s talk.
Why Use Formula?
First of all, if you’ve made the decision to bottle feed your baby, great! You won’t receive any judgment here. There are a wide number of reasons why parents choose formula over breast milk…and all of them are valid!
- Baby has food allergies.
- Mother couldn’t produce enough breast milk.
- Mother doesn’t have time to nurse or pump.
- Father wants to contribute to feeding the baby.
- Mother is taking medications that may be passed through her breast milk.
- Mother is experiencing postpartum depression.
There are many more reasons to formula feed than the ones listed here. The most important thing is to make sure that your baby is getting the right nutrients they need.
What Is Formula?
Baby formula is a mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fats—essentially, everything your baby needs to survive and thrive. Some formulas may contain additives, such as iron and vitamins.
Formula can be made in a variety of ways. Some use cow’s milk (or components of it) or soy and others use smaller, broken down, versions of protein (more on that in a minute). The biggest component in any baby formula will be carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. It’s what gives your baby the strength to keep you awake for those late night
party sessions feedings.
You may see some baby formulas labeled “for sensitive stomachs” or “reflux friendly.” However, the labels don’t matter as much as the ingredients. Once you figure out what works best with your baby’s stomach, get into the habit of reading labels.
The only way to tell which one is right for your baby is to give them a try. Some babies do great on a cow’s milk variety, while others may have food allergies and require a soy-based version. During your pregnancy, collect a variety of samples so you can see which one is the best for your baby.
You can also discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. They will be the best guide when it comes to nutrition and your baby’s individual needs.
Alternatives to Baby Formula
As a parent, you soon find out that unsolicited advice comes in all shapes and sizes. But advice on the best baby formula should not come from old wives’ tales.
Occasionally, older generations may suggest condensed milk or goat’s milk in place of commercial baby formula. Unfortunately, these do not have the full nutritional content that your baby needs and it would be unsafe to rely on them.
Another harmful practice is watering down baby formula to make it last longer. While we understand that some families are on limited budgets, watering down baby formula is not the best way to pinch your pennies. There are several organizations that can help you get formula for discounted rates (or even free) if you qualify. We will be happy to discuss these options with you.
Baby Formula Preparations
Baby formulas come in three types, depending on the mode of preparation you prefer.
Powdered formulas come in cans with a scoop that you use to measure the formula into a certain amount of purified, distilled, or good-quality tap water (not well water!). You then heat it in whatever way you prefer.
For ease of use, baby formula makers (such as the BabyBrezza) make whipping up your baby’s bottle as easy as making your morning cup of coffee.
Baby formula concentrates are liquid-based formulas that must be mixed with water before feeding. And ready-made formulas come premixed and ready to feed to your baby.
Powdered options are often the least expensive, followed by concentrates and ready-made.
Which Is the Best Baby Formula?
As you might have guessed, there really is no single brand or type of formula that is best for every baby.
All formulas in the US have to pass rigorous FDA inspections prior to being sold on the shelves. As long as you’re sticking with FDA-approved formulas and checking the recall lists regularly, you should be fine.
The best baby formula will be different for everyone, depending on your baby’s nutritional needs, your budget, and how much time you’re willing to put into making up a bottle. Whatever formula you choose, make sure that the container is in good condition (i.e. unopened and undamaged) and that the expiration date hasn’t passed.
Formula has come a long way since it rose to popularity in the 1950’s. But the sheer number of available options can be confusing to parents.
But the good news is that your choice of baby formula will have no effect on whether your baby makes it into Harvard or not. So relax, trust the experts, and remember that “fed is best.”
As always, if you have any questions about the ingredients or formulas we trust, schedule an appointment. We can go over your baby’s individual needs and come up with the best baby formula for you.
Call us today for your appointment.