Today I want to finish up our little mini series on newborn nutrition. We’ve discussed breastfeeding and bottles, but I certainly don’t want to forget about formula. Formula may not be the preferred method of feeding your baby in the nutrition world but that doesn’t make it a bad option, just an alternative. Kind of like I would prefer a raspberry milkshake but I’ll take a vanilla if raspberry just isn’t going to work out (vanilla may not have all the same ingredients as raspberry but it has the same basic components… this analogy may make more sense later… or maybe not :).
Formula comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can buy cows-milk based, soy, hypoallergenic, lactose free, elemental… I could probably continue. Whatever you choose, make sure it agrees with your baby’s belly, go for the iron-fortified variety (after all, the iron is one thing formula does better than breastmilk), and prepare it according to the manufacturer’s directions. Cow’s milk formulas should work for most babies as lactose intolerance typically doesn’t begin to show until after 12 months. If you think your baby needs something other than a cow’s milk formula, be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician before making the switch.
Preparing formula correctly may seem trivial but is actually pretty crucial to making sure your baby is getting enough calories and not too much formula. If you add too much formula to the water it will have what we call a high solute load. This can be hard on your little one’s digestive tract and kidneys. Keep in mind that adding rice cereal to the formula in the bottle is a no-no as well. Formula companies are also producing “toddler formulas”. Save yourself a small fortune and just give your child whole milk when they turn 12 months. “Toddler formula” is just a nice way for formula companies to make more money on you (as if what they charge for infant formula isn’t enough).
Formula fed infants may have a different feeding schedule than breastfed infants. Typically, formula fed infants need to eat 6-8 times per day whereas breastfed infants may eat 12 times per day. Most newborns need 2-3 ounces of formula each time they eat, giving more if your infant continues to show hunger cues. As your baby grows, the amount they eat per feeding will increase but the number of times they need to eat will decrease (similar to breastfeeding). The nice thing about formula is that it provides all the vitamins and minerals your baby needs, no extra supplements required!
So you may be asking yourself, why is breastfeeding encouraged over formula? Here’s the difference: breastfeeding allows antibodies (remember the milkshake analogy… these would be the raspberries) to pass from mother to baby via breastmilk. Does that mean your baby will be sick constantly if you choose to formula feed? Not necessarily, but studies show benefits of breastfeeding in protecting against infection. Antibodies are just something that can’t be manufactured anywhere but a human body. Although with medicine these days, who knows what they’ll come up with? Another difference is that the composition of breastmilk evolves with your growing baby. Again, something formula can’t do, but the composition of formula is still completely healthy for your infant. I’ve just touched on some of the main nutritional differences here. If you want to learn more about breastfeeding check out this post.
The bottom line is that you have to decide what works best for you and your sprout. If breastfeeding feels uncomfortable or just isn’t working out, no need to feel guilty. Formula provides everything your infant needs to grow, develop, and thrive. Just pick a commercial formula that works for you and your little one (no homemade stuff here), prepare it correctly, and enjoy the time you have to bond while feeding your babe!