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Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill.
Nutrition plays a huge role in the mental and physical development of your child during their early months and years. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby in the first year of their life, however, if breast milk is insufficient or breastfeeding is not possible, you should carefully approach the choice of formula for your baby. The introduction of formula milk to your child’s diet should only be considered after speaking to a healthcare professional, e.g. your midwife, doctor or health visitor.
Choosing a baby formula can be confusing for parents as it is vital that your baby receives all the nutrients needed for essential growth and development. This is why consulting a healthcare professional is so important and why, if you would like to do some personal research, we hope that the following information is useful.
The most common types of formula are ‘first infant’’ and ‘follow-on‘. First infant formulas are intended for newborn babies up to the age of six months. Their composition supports the physiological needs, metabolism and digestion in the first six months of a child’s life. Follow-on formulas are designed for children aged six months and over, they should never be fed to babies under 6 months old.
Formulas marked ‘from 0 to 12 months‘ can be used throughout the entire first year of a child’s life, however, due to the wide range of first infant and follow-on formulas, these are less popular. In addition to the age of the baby, their general health will affect the choice of the formula.
Children with a high risk of allergies should be prescribed a hypoallergenic formula - in these products, cow's milk proteins are split into smaller fragments, and as a result they become easier for your baby to digest.
Babies with intolerance to lactose should be prescribed low or lactose-free formulas. In this case, the lactose is removed or its content is significantly reduced.
Children suffering from regurgitation are often prescribed anti-reflux formulas. These are special milks containing thickeners, which reduces the chance of reflux.
When there are so many formula choices available it’s helpful to understand how to choose the right one for your baby. Here’s our guide to helping you make that decision.
Consultation with your dedicated healthcare professional is useful for all parents, regardless of the health of your baby. A specialist can provide you with all the information you need to choose a formula for your child - in particular, which ingredients are key to your baby’s health and wellbeing.
Manufacturers are constantly working to improve the composition of infant formula, with the help of various ingredients, to bring them closer to the characteristics and properties of breast milk. To see how one formula differs from another, you need to compare their compositions and also learn as much as possible about the properties of their ingredients.
About 1/5 of all fatty acids in breast milk are palmitic acid. Palmitic acid is also found in palm oil, which is why some companies choose to add it to their baby formula. However, fat molecules (triglycerides), within palmitic acid in palm oil and breast milk differ in structure and are not absorbed in the same way by your baby.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for the healthy growth of cells and tissues in a young baby. They are also important for healthy brain development. When formulas contain these healthy fats, a slight fishy odour is possible when opening the packaging, this quickly goes away and is not present in the diluted formula.
Once you have chosen a formula, watch how your baby reacts to it for the first time. If they seem happily satisfied and are not fussy afterwards, then you’ve made the right choice. If your baby has an allergic reaction or other serious symptoms, you should immediately consult a doctor who will determine the cause of these symptoms and advise on correct nutrition going forward.
In summary, here are our recommended steps to choosing the correct formula for a happy and healthy baby:
In preparing the article, the following materials were used:
‘Types of formula milk -Your pregnancy and baby guide’ NHS England website 2020
"The National Program for the Optimization of Feeding of Children of the First Year of Life in the Russian Federation." Moscow, 2011.
Nutrition of a healthy and sick child. A manual for doctors edited by V.A. Tutellana, I.Ya. Horse. Moscow, 2014.