Breast milk is best
Breast milk is natural, comes at the right temperature and contains body building proteins, essential fats, calcium, iron and zinc, vitamins A, B, C, D and E, plus other key vitamins, minerals and nutrients for healthy growth.
Breast milk also contains:
- Substances such as antibodies that help protect against allergy and infection and help your baby’s immune system develop.
- Enzymes to help support a baby’s immature gut and help digest nutrients.
- Hormones and fats such as Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Omega-6 Arachidonic Acid (AA) – thought to assist with brain, eye and nerve development.
- And a whole lot more we do not yet fully understand.
How to choose the right infant formula
If you are not breast feeding or unable to, there are many formula choices available. Essentially, products are divided into formulas for healthy babies and those for babies with problems associated with allergies, lactose intolerance, and reflux. Also for babies over 6 months of age, there are Follow-On formulas.
There are three main categories of infant formulas:
- Whey predominant
- Whey predominant + additional Omega fats
- Casein predominant
There is also a range of formula for babies with specific feeding problems:
- AR Thickened formula (anti-reflux or regurgitation)
- Hypoallergenic formula (for babies with food allergies)
- Soy infant formula
- Goat infant formula
- Lactose free infant formula (for babies with lactose intolerance)
What are the key differences between infant formulas?
There are many different baby formula brands and it can sometimes be confusing. While all provide adequate nutrition for infants, there are differences between the types and amounts of ingredients used.
In general, formulas for healthy babies are usually cow’s milk based. They can be described as either whey or casein predominant. Whey and casein are the protein component of an infant formula. Breast milk is whey predominant and contains more protein in the whey form than casein. Whey predominant formulas more closely mimic the protein content of human milk. They form a softer curd, which is more easily digested then the curd of most casein predominant milks.
Some formulas are labelled as ‘Gold’ – these formulas contain added essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 DHA and Omega-6 AA. The essential omega fats DHA and AA are important for brain and visual development.
Why use an infant formula instead of cow’s milk if not breast feeding?
Cow’s milk is not suitable for babies under 12 months of age. Cow’s milk contains the wrong balance of nutrition for babies and is low in key vitamins and minerals, particularly iron.
Babies need milk feeds to be easy to digest, as their digestive systems are immature.
- The levels of protein and salts in cow’s milk are too high and can lead to problems such as dehydration in babies.
- Cow’s milk contains very little iron. Infants are born with sufficient iron stores for the first 4-6 months of life. Introducing cow’s milk before 12 months of age increases the risk of iron deficiency in infants.
- Feeds with relatively low protein and salt levels such as breast milk are easy for babies to digest.
If not breast feeding, infant formula contains all the nutrition your baby needs to grow and develop and is a safer more nutritionally appropriate choice than cow’s milk.
Breast milk and infant formula have the right balance of nutrients for infants under 12 months of age.