Someday we’ll have enough milk banks for every baby to have human milk
regardless of circumstances.
The reality right now is that some babies need formula.
What’s the best kind to use? It depends.
Milk-based formulas are cow milk-based and are a much better choice than soybean-based formulas. However, cow milk proteins are one of the most common allergens for infants and small children. A compromise is “predigested” formulas or hydrolisate formulas, which are widely available –especially if there is a family history of allergy. The hydrolisate formulas are expensive, they smell and taste terrible, and they are still a health risk. They also,
Low-iron formulas may make sense for a baby who is mostly breastfed. Her iron needs – especially if her umbilical cord was not cut until it stopped pulsing – are well-met through breastmilk. Mostly formula-fed babies are a different story. Since iron is poorly absorbed from formula, quite a bit must be added, which can be hard on a baby’s system, but iron is necessary. If your baby is mostly formula-fed, it probably makes sense to start with the higher-iron version unless your baby has obvious problems with it.
Powdered formulas are never sterile, and formula-fed babies lack the breastfed baby’s immune system. A few life-threatening cases of bacterial infection in babies up to a year old have resulted from powder that was contaminated at the factory. For at least the first month or so, it may be a good idea to use a concentrate or ready-to-feed, especially if your baby is completely formula-fed.
ADA/ARA-enriched formulas are
Soy formulas are not milk and should never be a first choice. They lack lactose, and contain high levels of “phyto-estrogens”. The long-term effects of these early estrogens on baby boys and girls are unstudied. It is known that the thymus (an important part of our childhood immune system) is significantly smaller in infants raised on soy-based formula.
Homemade formulas are not a good idea. Remember, a baby can eat only what we feed him. If it isn’t a complete food, he loses out. If it has too many minerals,
Organic formulas may focus more on being organic than on their list and balance of ingredients, and there is some question as to whether the ingredients meet the true definition of “organic”. Until we know more, if you choose organic formula it may be better to stick with a mainstream company while you work on your own milk supply.
This is not an encouraging list. There is no formula that does a good job of approximating the many functions of human milk. However, milk banks are scarce and milk from them is, for now, both expensive and not often covered by insurance. Some mothers compromise by offering some donor milk along with
Pumping isn’t fun, but it’s a life-long gift of health to the baby who receives it. The less the formula used, the less the risk. But remember Rule Number One: Babies Need to Eat. If you must use formula, think of it as a medication – not a good idea to take if you don’t need it and never without side effects, but good to have if you really do need it… at least it is until we have more milk banks around!
©2013 Diane Wiessinger,