Infant formula is a healthy substitute for breast milk for feeding infants. Mothers who, can’t breastfeed or who have decided not to can feed formula to their babies. Infant formula is a manufactured food to feed infants and babies up to 12 months of age. Most infant formulas are made with cow’s milk that is treated to make it suitable for babies. Infant formulas include powders, concentrated liquids, and ready-to-use forms.
Types Of Infant Formulas
Different formulas are available to feed infants younger than 12 months old who are not drinking breast milk. While there are some differences, all infant formulas contain all the nutrients babies need to grow and thrive.
The following are different types of formulas:
- Cow's Milk-Based Formula
- Almost all babies do well on cow's milk-based formulas.
- These formulas are made with cow's milk protein that has been changed to be more like breast milk. They contain lactose (a type of sugar in milk) and minerals from the cow's milk.
- Vegetable oils, plus other minerals and vitamins are also in the formula.
- Fussiness and colic are common problems for all babies. Most of the time, cow's milk formulas are not the cause of these symptoms. This means that you likely do not need to switch to a different formula if your baby is fussy. If you're not sure, talk with your infant's doctor.
- Soy-Based Formula
- These formulas are made using soy proteins. They do not contain lactose.
- Soy-based formulas should be used for infants with galactosemia, a rare condition. These formulas can also be used for babies who can't digest lactose, which is uncommon in children younger than 12 months.
- Most pediatricians suggest using cow's milk-based formulas when possible rather than soy-based formulas.
- For parents who do not want their child to eat animal protein, pediatricians recommend either breastfeeding or soy-based formulas.
- Soy-based formulas have not been proven to help with milk allergies or colic. Babies who are allergic to cow's milk may also be allergic to soy milk.
- Hypoallergenic Formula (protein hydrolysate formulas)
- This type of formula may be helpful for infants who have allergies to milk protein and for those with skin rashes or wheezing caused by allergies.
- Hypoallergenic formulas are generally much more expensive than regular formulas.
- Lactose-Free Formula
- These formulas are also used for galactosemia and for children who can't digest lactose.
- A child who has an illness with diarrhea usually will not need lactose-free formula.
Special formulas are available to feed babies with certain health problems. All pediatricians know them and will recommend one if your baby needs a special formula.
- Reflux formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch. They are usually needed only for infants with reflux who are not gaining weight or who are very uncomfortable.
- Formulas for premature and low-birth-weight infants have extra calories and minerals to meet the needs of these infants.
- Special formulas may be used for infants with heart disease, malabsorption syndromes, and problems digesting fat or processing certain amino acids.
Most formulas are available in the following forms:
- Ready-to-use Formulas. These formulas are convenient, but cost more. You can use these without adding water.
- Concentrated Liquid Formulas: These formulas are less expensive. You have to mix water to these formulas.
Powdered Formulas: These are the least expensive formulas. You have to mix water to these formulas.
What Pediatricians Recommend?
Pediatricians recommend that all infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula for at least 12 months.
Babies have a slightly different feeding pattern, depending on whether they are breastfed or formula fed. Generally, breastfed babies tend to eat more often. Formula-fed babies may need to eat about 6 to 8 times per day.
Here is more about formula feeding:
- Start newborns with 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) of formula per feeding (for a total of 16 to 24 ounces or 480 to 720 milliliters per day).
- The baby should be eating at least 4 ounces (120 milliliters) per feeding by the end of the first month.
- As with breastfeeding, the number of feedings will decrease as the baby gets older, but the amount of formula will increase to approximately 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 milliliters) per feeding.
- On average, the baby should consume about 2½ ounces (75 milliliters) of formula for every pound (453 grams) of body weight.
- At 4 to 6 months of age, an infant should be consuming 20 to 40 ounces (600 to 1200 milliliters) of formula and is often ready to start the transition to solid foods.
A child can be fed infant formula until he/she is 12 months old. Pediatricians recommend not feed regular cow's milk for children under 12 months old. After 12 months, the child should be fed only whole milk, rather than skim or reduced-fat milk.
All standard formulas contain 20 Kcal/ounce or 20 Kcal/30 milliliters and 0.45 grams of protein/ounce or 0.45 grams of protein/30 milliliters. Formulas based on cow's milk are appropriate for most full-term and preterm infants.
Infants who are gaining weight with formula feeding usually don’t need additional vitamins or minerals.