Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Which Formula Milk?

For the first year, formula milk (and breast milk) must be provided to an infant as this milk comprises more balanced nutrients and are easier to be processed and absorbed in the body than cows' milk. Cows' milk should not be prescribed as the main drink if the baby is less than one year old.

There is such a wide choice of formula milk on offer that it can be hard to know which to choose. In addition to the regular milk, there is a specialist formula milk for babies who have milk allergies or intolerance, reflux, as well as for pre-term babies and hungrier babies, etc.

But first things first:

  • Pediatricians tell me that they do not recommend any particular brand. They all contain similar ingredients, and it is only good marketing that persuades a mother she is giving her baby 'the best' formula milk. Nor do they recommend organic over non-organic.
  • It is, however, best to choose a brand that contains added prebiotics (which are a natural component of breast milk), as these will increase the friendly bacteria in the baby's gut and help develop his immune system.
  • If the formula you choose doesn't appear to agree with your baby (i.e., he brings quite a lot of it up, becomes “mucusy” or won't drink much), it's worth swapping to another brand to see whether it suits him better.
  • If this doesn't help, don't continue to try other brands as there might be another cause (such as reflux or milk allergy) for his symptoms. See your doctor and take his advice.
  • If there is a history of hypersensitivities in the family, it might be best to use a hypo-allergenic formula right from the outset, but you should also discuss this with your doctor first. It's not a good idea to label your baby as 'allergic' without first getting a medical opinion.
  • Consult your GP or pediatrician before using any specialist milk —this is because many doctors think that some milk (e.g., soya) can cause worse problems than the standard cows' milk formulas.
  • Ready-made milk (in cartons and small bottles) are nutritionally the same as making up your own with powder, but are a lot more expensive!

Regardless of which brand of formula you choose, make sure that it is suitable for the age of your baby, and only graduate to milk for the older or 'hungrier' baby once it becomes appropriate.

Each tin of formula milk will have full instructions on making up the feeds and storage, and will also include feeding guidelines as to roughly how much milk your baby will need according to his age and weight. As long as the baby's weight gain is good, it doesn't matter if he is drinking more or less than the chart recommends.

First infant milk

This should be your first choice of milk for a normal healthy baby and is suitable from birth. It will be whey dominant, meaning it is easy to digest and as close to breast milk as possible.

Milk for the 'hungrier' baby

This can also be utilized from delivery, but casein is (rather than whey) dominant. Casein is harder to digest than whey, which means the milk stays in a baby's stomach for longer and leaves him feeling more satisfied and better able to feed slightly less frequently. It is not more fattening than other milk and is ideal to use for a hungry baby who is frequently feeding and gaining too much weight. You should only switch to this milk if your baby needs it, because a very young baby might find it too hard to digest, and this will make him uncomfortable and unsettled.

Follow-on milk

You should switch to this milk at six months. In addition to all the previous ingredients, follow-on milk contains extra iron, calcium and Vitamin D, all of which are beneficial for older babies. In addition to solid food, this will meet all his nutritional needs until he can start drinking ordinary cows' milk at the age of one year.

Specialist formula milk

These are designed for babies with special dietary needs (e.g., pre-term or low-birth-weight babies, and babies with milk allergies, etc.), or those with feeding problems (such as reflux) who need to use a specialist rather regular formula milk. Many of these are available on prescription only, but others can be bought over the counter. None the less, I do recommend that you consult a doctor before using any of these milk (including soya and goats' milk) to be sure that: 

  • your baby is genuinely unable to drink cows' milk formula
  • a proper diagnosis is made (e.g. of milk allergy) so the right milk is prescribed, and follow-up appointments are made to review your baby's progress


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