Choosing formula has become as confusing as choosing the right college. As a holistic health coach, I highly encourage breast-feeding, but I will admit neither of my children were breastfed babies. I was gung-ho about breastfeeding, but like so many mamas, my plans didn’t pan out the way I had expected. Thankfully the formula industry continues to evolve, and there are plenty of options to make sure your little one is getting the necessary nutrition to grow and thrive.
Still the right formula for you isn’t there waiting for you -- some research is required. As the formula industry has grown tremendously, so have your options. Do you want liquid or powder? Can or plastic? Concentrate or ready to feed? The list goes on and on. And what’s right for one mama (and baby) might not be right for another. Here’s a few tips to help steer you in the right direction.
Powder or Liquid?
When it comes to powder versus liquid, powder is a better option. Powder formulas tend to have less BPA (Bisphenol A is a chemical found in plastics that has been found to disrupt hormones, up your potential risk of cancer and increase risk of brain development of children.) than liquid because you need to add water therefore diluting the BPA. Studies have found 8 to 20 times less BPA in babies that are powder fed when compared to liquid ready to feed in a can. Liquid should only be used if it comes in a plastic container and ideally concentrated.
Should I consider soy?
Avoid soy if at all possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends soy consumption only to those babies who medically require it. Soy is a natural plant estrogen that may affect the developing baby. As a holistic health coach I don’t recommend soy to be a staple in any diet because it is a hormone disruptor that has been linked to various cancers. Also, unless specified, you can bet that it is genetically modified.
Conventional or Organic?
Then there is the question of whether purchasing organic is necessary. With conventional formula, there is the concern of pesticides and herbicides sprayed over the feed, as well as growth hormone, antibiotics in the cow’s milk and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) added to the formula. So if it is possible, go for the organic formula.
Are there any ingredients that I should be on the look out for?
Keep in mind that the FDA sets standards of what the formula must contain. So as far as nutrition goes, your baby will be receiving federally required nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to support healthy development.
One ingredients that you should be conscious of is sugar (which can be listed as corn syrup or brown rice syrup). Sugar is added as a carbohydrate. The issue with adding high amounts of sugar is the possibility of overfeeding and causing excess weight gain.
Carrageenan is found in many organic and conventional products. Its job is to work as a thickening agent, but in baby formula, it is a convenience ingredient. Carrageenan helps parents avoid having to shake the ready-to-feed formula. In return, it causes inflammation of the gut, various gastrointestinal complications and in recent reports, high rates of malignant tumors.
What’s the deal with DHA and ARA?
DHA and ARA is another hot topic ingredient. Both are found in breast milk and linked to healthy brain and nerve development. Because it has such positive reviews, you can now find infant formula with added DHA/ARA. The idea is good, but the issue is how the DHA and ARA is added to the formula. DHA comes from lab-grown algae and is extracted with hexane, a questionable chemical that is a bi-product of gasoline. The same goes for ARA, except it comes from soil fungus. Several studies have been conducted on infant formula-fed babies. Findings have concluded that there is no significant advantage to babies that have been given the DHA/ARA formula. But there is a concern regarding the usage of hexane.
Are there any alternatives?
Yes, there are alternatives. There is the option of making your own formula. You can check out The Weston A. Price Foundation who has three versions (raw milk, goat milk and liver based). The drawback to this is that it is time consuming, and raw milk isn’t readily available. The pros are that it is free of any processed ingredients, soy-free and all of the vitamins aren’t synthetic so the baby is able to absorb them much more easily than synthetic vitamins.
What about store brand formulas?
Go for it! All formulas have to meet the minimum requirements of the FDA. Most formulas can be found as a generic formula. The reason you are paying less is because the companies spend little to no money on marketing and samples.
What about specialty formulas?
If you haven’t already gone down the aisle of baby formula, well, brace yourself. There are not only several brands, but now there are specialty formulas. For example, there are formulas with added rice for the baby that suffers from acid reflux, soy-based, reduced lactose, and the list goes on and on. With everything in life, there is no one size that fits -- or formula that feeds -- all. Every baby is different. If you originally went with a standard conventional formula, I would highly suggest giving an organic formula a try.
When can I stop using formula?
As always, consult with your pediatrician. Most would say by their first birthday you can wean your little one off. By then the amount of formula consumption is decreased significantly and replaced with wholesome foods.
Should I consider toddler formula?
Again, discuss with your pediatrician, but I don’t see a need for toddler formula. Your toddler should be getting his or her vitamins from a variety of whole unprocessed foods.
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