Picking the Right Baby Formula

Have you noticed the baby boom going on right now?  It's not just in my office, but for the first time in five years, the U.S. birth rate is increasing.  With all of these babies coming into the world, there is always a lot of discussion about infant feeding. While most of the mothers of the newborns I see breast feed, there are some women who are unable to breast feed, and there are also some mothers who breast feed, but choose to supplement their baby with formula. This combination of breast feeding and formula feeding typically occurs when moms return to work. 

There are several things you need to know when picking an infant formula. Firstly, infant formula generally comes in concentrated liquid and powder versions, as well as ready to feed. If you are only going to be using an occasional supplemental bottle, the ready to feed version is quick and easy. But, ready to feed formula is also more expensive (you have to start saving for college some time), so I typically recommend a concentrated formula. This means you add water to the formula as you make it. I find this easier for traveling as well. 

The type of water you add to concentrated formula depends on where you live. I prefer tap water as in my practice area there is added fluoride in the tap water and this is beneficial, although at the same time too much fluoride can cause mild changes to a child's dental enamel. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that in an exclusively formula fed infant, it may be beneficial to use a low-fluoride bottled water some of the time to prepare infant formula, as well as tap water. If you have concerns you should discuss this with your own pediatrician.  Everything in moderation, right? 

The Food and Drug Administration regulates all infant formula, but that does not necessarily mean that all brands are the same.  Think about this in terms of schools which all have set educational standards but differ in various ways as well. While all formulas have carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and DHA and ARA, some formulas, like Similac, have added lutein which is a nutrient to support a baby's eye development as well. 

While all infants have periods of fussiness, at times it may be related to the type of formula they are receiving. The best way to gauge how a formula is working is to observe the baby's reaction.  It typically takes a few days to weeks for an infant to adjust to a formula, so I don't recommend trying a different formula every day. If you think your baby is having a problem with one formula talk to your doctor to discuss the possibility of using a special formula that may include soy, low-lactose, or hypoallergenic formulas. 

As babies grow they will begin to eat solid foods, which is typically somewhere around 5-6 months. At this time, if you are using formula you may want to look at formulas designed for an older baby. Babies typically begin eating cereal, followed by veggies, fruits and protein.  You can look for a stage 2 formula, like Similac Advance Stage 2, which has added protein, calcium and Vitamin C to complement an infant's changing diet and to support their growth and development.   

Lots of important information to consider when you choose an infant formula. If you ever have a question, just ask your pediatrician. 

Dr. Sue has an agreement with Similac to lend her expertise as a subject matter expert in infant nutrition.




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