Formula Feeding : What to Expect

In the month of February we celebrated national pregnancy week (8 – 12 February 2016).  As a mommy-to-be, one aspect that is most definitely something to decide on and read up on is which feeding method you will be using to nurture your baby.  We are all very much aware of the fact that “breast is best”, yet there are times when a mommy cannot breastfeed her little one for various reasons.  So what are your options when you opt for formula feeding, how can you make sure to optimise the health of your formula-fed infant and what should you generally know about formula feeding?

It is very important to highlight that the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk is commercial infant formula.  Children should not be fed cow milk at any time during the first 12 months of life. The reason for this is due to the nutrient content of cow milk being very different to that of breastmilk or infant formula and is too difficult to digest. Cow milk also contain substances that could cause other health problems in babies.

Common concerns among mommies, when they do consider formula feeding their little one, is whether infant formula is nutritionally complete, is it safe to use etc.  There has been some downsides around formula feeding and its effect on babies’ immune and neurological development, but there are definite strategies to address this.  Despite the fact that no feeding formula contains the immune molecules passed in breastmilk from mother to baby, many contain the same types and amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals as breastmilk.  Luckily, infant formulas are constantly improving and the research on breastmilk alternatives is growing by the day.  A good example of such development is that most infant formulas now contains types of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA:  docosahexaenoic acid and ARA: arachidonic acid) and other essential fatty acids, that have been shown to enhance visual and neural (mental) development in infants and play an important role in brain function.

Whether you are a first time mom-to-be or have been through “the process” before, one thing is for sure: the variety of infant formula available on the market is overwhelming!  There are several brands of infant formula on the South African market, but the top four selling  brands are  NAN, Novalac, S26 and Similac for reasons specific to each one.

So let’s look at the most common types of formula, in general, to choose from

1. Regular formula:

Most infant formulas are made from cow’s milk which has been adapted to be suitable for babies. The proteins are changed to be easily digestible, milk sugar (called lactose) is added to resemble breastmilk more closely, and vegetable oil is replaced for butterfat.

A. Starter formula:

These milks are suitable from birth to 6 months of age.  They are usually based on the whey of cow’s milk, which is known to be more easily digested.  This lighter protein is preferred for younger babies, since the digestive system is still very immature and could struggle to digest and adapt to heavier protein based formulas.

B. Follow on formula:

Follow–on milks are suitable for babies from 6 to 12 months of age, covering nutritional requirements of the infants as part of a diversified diet.  These milks tend to be predominantly based on the casein of cow’s milk, which is referred to as the “heavier” protein type to digest.  The reason for changing the protein profile is for easier weaning, to prepare baby’s gut for the digestion of solids.

C. Growing up formula:

These milks are suitable for babies from 12 to 36 months of age.  As your child grows and develops, their nutritional requirements change.  Often toddlers tend to be fussy eaters and as a consequence of not following a balanced diet, are at risk of nutrient deficiencies.  Growing up formulas could provide your toddler those nutrients that they might be lacking.

2. Hydrolysed formula:

These formulas are defined as cows’ milk-based formula treated with enzymes in order to break down most of the proteins that cause symptoms in allergic infants.  What this also means is that the protein content is broken down into smaller proteins, making it easier for baby to digest.  What is important to know about hydrolysed formulas are whether they are partially hydrolysed or extensively hydrolysed.  Partially hydrolysed formulas are often recommended by health care professionals for infants who are allergy prone/ have a family history of allergies, in order to prevent these allergies from occurring in the infant.  The higher the level of hydrolyses/ the more the protein is broken down, the better the product would be in preventing allergies, reducing the allergenicity of the product.  Extensively hydrolysed formulas are indicated for the treatment of a cow’s milk protein allergy.  However, if you ever do want to feed these formulas to your little one, it is best to do on your healthcare professionals’ advice

3. Soy-based formula:

Soy based formulas are made from soybeans supplemented with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.  However, soy formulas are even more different from breastmilk than cow’s milk and they are not generally recommended as a first choice infant formula.  Some healthcare professionals might still recommend soy based formulas for babies with a cow’s milk allergy, but it is important to know that it is common for infants with a milk allergy to also be sensitive to soy protein and so the choice to use soy formula in this particular case is also debateable.

4. Special formula:

Special formulations are available for special medical purposes such as for premature babies, babies that suffer from severe cow’s milk protein allergies or maybe metabolic disorders.  However, these infant formula products should be used only on the recommendation of a healthcare professional like your baby’s paediatrician.

However, so many times our little ones struggle with more common tummy troubles such as colic, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea and for these conditions there are also infant formulas on the market that are specifically designed to address these problems, in my case i used Novalac as they have a whole selection of products for each of these problems.

So now that you know what your options are, your next question is probably: “How do I help my baby to feed from a bottle?”  Feeding is a perfect opportunity to help you and baby form a close loving connection, so here are a few pointers to get you into the swing of things:

  • To help your baby feel safe and loved, always hold your baby close to you and look into his eyes when feeding.
  • Try to hold your baby fairly upright, with his head supported in a comfortable, neutral position.
  • Hold the bottle horizontal to the ground, tilting it just enough to ensure your baby is taking milk, not air, through the teat. Babies feed in bursts of sucking with short pauses to rest. In this position, when your baby pauses for a rest the milk will stop flowing, allowing him to have a short rest before starting to suck again.
  • Brush the teat against his lips and when he opens his mouth wide with his tongue down, help him draw the teat in.
  • You will see bubbles form in the bottle as your baby feeds. If you can’t see any bubbles, break the suction between his tongue and the teat from time to time by moving the teat slightly to the side of his mouth. You should then see bubbles rushing back up into the remaining milk.
  • Interrupting the feed from time to time also gives your baby a chance to register how ‘full’ (satisfied) he is, and control his intake.

NHS guide to bottle feedingWe also came across this wonderful “Guide to bottle feeding” leaflet with information from UNICEF that gives information on:

  • How to make up a feed
  • Feeding your baby
    • How often should I feed my baby?
    • How will I know if my baby is hungry?
    • How do I know if my baby is getting enough infant formula?

Download here.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to health professionals’ advice. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.