Baby formula, baby rice cereal or simply baby food, baby formula or first milk or powdered milk, baby formula-based or ready-to-eat milk, is simply a commercially prepared food intended for feeding infants and growing children under the age of 12 months, generally prepared for oral consumption or bottle-feeding from either powder or fluid. Most baby formula on the market today is nutritionally balanced to provide your baby with the nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development. In most cases, baby formula is enriched with vitamins A, B, C, D & E and other essential minerals and nutrients that your baby needs to develop properly. Baby formula has also been found to help babies become more secure and calm, reducing crying, fussy, smelly or distracted cries, slow learning, slow motor skills and is an excellent source of protein for baby.
There are two main types of baby formulas on the market today, powdered and pasteurized. Pasteurized baby formulas are processed to kill any bacteria and germs before the food is distributed to the baby. Although this may minimize the shelf-life of the product, some experts believe this process of pasteurization may actually cause more harm than good. Pasteurized baby formulas are typically made with cheaper carbohydrates such as corn or wheat, higher levels of sugar, or with milk substitutes such as soy or whey.
Baby formula contains mostly casein, which is the protein derived from cow’s milk. Experts recommend not adding extra vitamin or mineral content because it may harm the baby’s digestive system. Although some formulas contain additional vitamins, these should be consumed in the form of vitamins and minerals already present in cow’s milk. Consult your healthcare nurse or doctor to determine the exact amount of additional vitamins and minerals you can include in your baby’s formula.
Most baby formulas contain skimmed milk or cream, which is the condensed form of whole or even half milk. Skimmed milk has less fat and therefore provides a lower fat baby formula. Skimmed milk contains no fat, hydrogenated fats, or artificial flavor or color. Your healthcare professional will advise you whether a formula with added skimmed milk or reduced fat is best for your baby.
Other important ingredients to look for in a baby formula are protein (which can come from cow’s milk or chicken), calcium, iron, zinc, and fatty acids. Health professionals believe that babies who receive adequate amounts of these nutrients through formula milk develop better eyesight, grow taller, have a healthier immune system, and have a higher tolerance for illnesses. Several health organizations recommend that pregnant women and their babies eat as much as six ounces of breast milk or infant formula daily.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be given cow’s milk from the first day of life. It is believed that cow’s milk is ideal for the development of infants because it contains the necessary proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals needed to help baby grow and develop normally. Although there is some debate as to whether or not goat’s milk or other types of milk may provide an adequate amount of nutrients for infants, most health professionals believe that cow’s milk works best. One reason why cow’s milk is believed to be best is that it contains all the essential fats and vitamins required by infants. One of the reasons why infant formula may not be as beneficial for some babies is that they do not get enough of the fatty acids in cow’s milk. However, even when cow’s milk is not the best choice, the formula is better because infants who receive formula gain adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals through the combination of milk and formula.