Why Infant Formula instead of cow's milk?

The diet of a growing baby is a mother's constant cause of anxiety. When should the infant learn to eat, how to change his/her food habits, how to create the feeding schedule? These are some of the common concerns. Today's post distinctly elaborates on why babies do not necessarily need to be given cow's milk. Infant feeds change according to their age. Therefore, the necessity of providing infant formula vs. cow's milk should be segregated age-wise.

Until a year, an infant should not be given cow's milk; the simple reasons are:

  • Newborn babies and infants (at least up to the age of 12 months) are not capable of producing the enzyme that is needed to digest cow's milk.
  • Cow’s milk has high concentrations of protein and minerals that could stress the baby's immature kidneys. This could result in diarrhea, stress and even fever!
  • Vitamin C and iron are essential for the baby's development. Cow's milk lack in these and therefore sometimes causes anemia (iron-deficiency anemia) in babies.
  • Cow's milk is hard to digest and often irritates the lining of the baby's stomach. Consequently, blood is seen running into the stool
  • Since cow's milk does not contain the appropriate amount of fat required by an infant's growing body, it is strictly not recommended up to the age of 12 months.

The most obvious question that crops up is: How do I choose between the different variants of infant formula? To arrive at the right decision, one needs to know some necessary information on the product. Let's have a glimpse of the main types of Infant formula. All infant formula products are FDA regulated, and manufacturers must meet the standards set by the FDA in maintaining the nutritional standards of the products that they sell. The composition and taste could vary, although.

So, what are the different types of infant formulas?

Soy-based formulas – Some infants are intolerant to animal protein or lactose, which is a carbohydrate naturally present in cow's milk. Soy formulas are an appropriate alternative as they have a rich protein content too. But be a little more careful if you are planning to switch from some other feeding schedule; a child who's allergic to cow milk could be allergic to soy formula too!

Protein Hydrolysate formulas – The breaking down of protein is termed as hydrolysis of protein and thus is the name of these formulas. They are formulated for babies who have a considerable amount of protein allergy. Therefore, infants who cannot intake soy formulas or cow's milk are given those hydrolyzed formulas.

Formulas based on cow milk protein – These formulas are manufactured by altering cow's milk in order to resemble breast milk closely. Therefore, they are easy to digest and provide infants with the correct balance of nutrients that are required for growth and development. Necessary nutrients provided by infant formulas are available in specific essential variants. What makes them necessary is the incorporation of some extra nutritional value. For instance, an iron-fortified infant formula helps in the proper growth and development of your child.

Another type is enhanced infant food. They are enriched with DHA and ARA (docosahexaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, respectively). These are omega-3 fatty acids that are found in breast milk and some nutritious foods like fish and eggs. Research shows that these help in eyesight enhancement and brain development too.

The above discussion, however, does not sufficiently wipe away the anxiety of a newborn's parent. Changing feeding habits in accordance with the child's age is a significant cause of concern. Although infant formula is available in different forms – powdered, concentrated liquid or ready-to-use, the baby has to switch away from it gradually after attaining a certain age. Our next post would throw light upon which is the perfect age to switch from formula food to whole milk and in what quantity as well as quality (low-fat or non-fat) should the milk be provided to a baby.