Must-know: how to choose a baby formula

When you’re sleep-deprived and overwhelmed – and without a good knowledge of paeds or nutrition – choosing the right formula for your infant seems like a task best left to an expert.

Generally, your paediatrician will recommend a formula that’s right for your little one, but sometimes it helps to know more about formula, especially if it doesn’t agree with your infant. Also, knowing more about it can sometimes help you make better choices, along with your paed, and you’re better equipped in the shopping aisle and doctor’s room.

Here’s info on the most common types of formula:

Cow’s milk-based formula

Most formulas have cow’s milk as their main ingredient as it has the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, but it’s been altered to make it safe and easy to digest (babies are able to digest regular cow’s milk after they’re one year old). The protein is made more digestible through heating and other methods, and more lactose (milk sugar) is added to make the concentration the same as breast milk. Fat (butterfat) is removed and replaced with other oils and fats that infants can digest more easily.

Cow’s milk formulas generally also have added iron, which is important for the growth and development of the brain and nervous system.

“Most formula has cow’s milk as its main ingredient as it has the right balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates, but it’s been altered to make it safe and easy to digest…”

Hydrolysed formula

In this formula, the cow’s milk protein is broken down into smaller proteins to make them easier to digest. Your baby might be prescribed this formula if they seem fussy after eating, which could show that they have problems digesting ordinary cow’s milk formula or have an allergy to milk protein. It’s also recommended for babies who have a high risk of developing allergies (if there’s a family history).

Many preemies have hydrolysed formula when they have problems absorbing nutrients. Hydrolysed formulas are generally more costly than regular formula.

Soy-based formula

This formula is made with a plant protein that is modified for easy digestion and supplemented with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. However, soy formulas are even more different from breast milk than cow’s milk and generally aren’t recommended as a first choice infant formula, or for preterm babies who weigh less than 1.8 kilograms.

Soy formula is usually prescribed to babies whose parents have a preference for a vegetarian diet, and infants with a hereditary lactase deficiency, in which they can’t metabolise lactose (the main sugar in milk) or a sugar component of it called galactose.

Specialised formula

Special formulations are available for certain medical purposes such as for premature babies, babies with severe cow’s milk protein allergies or metabolic disorders.

For babies with more common tummy troubles such as colic, reflux, constipation and diarrhoea, there are also infant formulas specifically designed to address these. Always chat to your paed before switching to any of these formulas.

Want to know more about formula terms and ingredients to help you understand more? Download our A-Z guide to feeding here.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. 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 the advice of health professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.