Breastfeeding is the natural, inexpensive, and most beneficial way to feed any newborn baby. However, for some mothers, that is just not possible due to many different factors, which may include underlying medical conditions or hormone imbalances.
According to the Journal of Perinatal Education, substitutions for breastmilk date back as far as 2000 BC, and in writings during the Roman Era, Middle Ages, and Renaissance cleanliness of bottles was a favorite topic. Formula has come a long way from ancient times, and since 1980, there's been regulation over the components that are required in infant formula which ensures that infants receive the best, most carefully formulated products on the market. More importantly, it allows the regulators to keep track of any productions that do not meet these guidelines which help to protect consumers.
Research has shown that infant formula can cause some health problems such as atopy, diabetes mellitus, and others. However, as technology improves companies can adjust the formula composition of their product, and although formula will never compare to breastmilk, it still provides an infant with the nutrition they may otherwise not get. Here is a list of 20 things to know about how formula is made, to help mothers get a clear picture of what is in the formula, how it is regulated and the differences between formula and breastmilk.
20 There are milk-based and soy-based formulas
Infant formula comes in three distinctly different types, which according to the Mayo Clinic includes cow milk protein-based formulas, soy-based formulas, and protein hydrolysate formulas. Each kind of formula addresses different needs that an infant may have. Cow milk protein-based formulas are the most commonly used among mothers which consist of cow milk that has been altered to provide nutritional balance to infants. Soy-based formulas are designed for infants who have an allergy to cows milk or components such as lactose and is an excellent alternative. However, some babies are also allergic to soy products and as such protein hydrolysate formulas would be the best. These formulas are specially formulated in that proteins have been broken down further to allow for easier digestion. Finally, there are specially designed formulas for babies who are premature or who have other underlining medical conditions.
19 There Is A Lot Of Quality Control Related To Production
A great deal of quality control is evident during the production of infant formula. However, many other factors ensure that the best product, with the best ingredients, is produced. According to Health Canada, there are “general requirements for effective control of ingredients, formulations, processes, facilities, and equipment used for the production of infant formula products.”
Moreover, regulations do not just include ingredients or production, it also consists of the location and area where facilities are built, to ensure they cannot be contaminated by internal or external sources. Finally, employees at these facilities are required to receive updated training annually, and all procedures of production must be outlined in great detail to ensure consistency and approved by Health Canada.
18 Infant Formula Recalls do happen, so keep an eye out
Infant formula recalls are rare even on a worldwide scale. However, they do happen. According to The Baby Swag, most infant formulas are recalled due to the fear of salmonella contamination. Some brands who have experienced recalls since 2016 include Sammy’s milk which did not meet federal regulations during production.
Additionally, Aptamil Powdered Baby Milk who made changes to the production of their formula creating a heat sensitive product. Finally, Similac Formula which faced some issues with beetle infestations in their factories as well as complaints from parents that the composition was not pleasing to their little ones. It is important to note that there are no current active recalls for infant formula on the FDA’s website.
17 It must include 29 different nutrients
According to the FDA or Food and Drug Administrations website, infant formula is defined as food which must adhere to particular dietary guidelines. These guidelines outline that companies are required to include 29 nutrients with the maximum amount added for 9 of those nutrients. Moreover, all ingredients that are in formula must be considered safe under the law and is regulated by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition as well as the Office of Food Additive Safety. Finally, the FDA also has guidelines in place before companies are allowed to market infant formula which includes registration, notification, and verification.
16 Your Baby May Have Formula Allergies
Some infants have a sensitivity to cows milk and as such may be sensitive to some forms of formula. It is important when giving your infant formula for the first time that you observe any warning signs that the formula is an allergen for your infant. According to the BabyCenter, there are visible signs such as prolonged fussiness or crying after feeding, excess gas or colicky, and your infant's stool may be unusually hard or watery. Other symptoms include “a rash, hives, eczema (dry, flaky patches of skin, especially around the forehead, and vomiting.” If you suspect that your infant has a formula allergy talk to your doctor to see what other options are available to you.
15 concentrated liquid formula is more expensive only lasts a little while
Infant formula comes in three different forms for convenience and ease of use. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a powdered formula which is the least expensive and must be mixed with water when prepared. Moreover, there are concentrated liquid formula which similarly to powdered formula must be mixed with water at a ratio of 1 to 1. Finally, there is ready to use formulas, which are the most expensive as they do not need to be mixed with water, and is the most convenient when traveling or have limited access to facilities to prepare formula. The prepared formula can be stored in the fridge for 48 hours. However, unused formula left out for more than 1 hour must be discarded.
14 Generic vs. Brand Name Formula: they're not the same, and name brands aren't always better
Dr. Young from Baby Formula Expert on Healthy Baby accounts that there are FDA regulations which require a formula to contain specific ingredients. However, that does not mean that all formula is precisely the same. Comparatively Similac and Advantage, when compared, differed in a few ways. Foremost, there was more coconut and less sunflower oil in the generic brand; the name brand formula contained micronutrients, and the generic brand had monoglycerides to assist in texture. Dr. Young outlines that people must make informed decisions about what they buy as consumers and read ingredient contents to ensure it is right for their babies. Finally, don’t assume that name brand is always best, be a savvy shopper and educate yourself so you can make the best decision.
13 The Importance Of Iron-Fortified Formula
Iron is an essential mineral which allows for healthy growth in infants; it is often added to formula due to the lack of natural iron reserves infants have. Moreover, according to Healthy Children, it has significantly reduced anemia in recent years. However, some parents worry that additional iron in the formula may cause constipation in their newborns. This is not the case because the amount that is added will not adversely affect digestion. Pediatricians have recommended that all babies who are not breastfed or who are partially breastfed be given iron-fortified formula up to one year of age to promote healthy development.
12 What Is Enhanced Baby Formula?
Formula can be fortified with additional nutrients, minerals, and additives such as fatty acids, probiotics, and prebiotics which all aid in the development of the brain, eyes, and intestinal lining. However, according to the Natural Society, some additives that are of concern is DHA and ARA enhancements. These artificially produced fatty acids are supposed to make the formula more like breastmilk. However, several studies have found that there is no benefit to having these additives in formula. Moreover, many complaints have been brought forward regarding the additives, but at this time the FDA has not provided any information as to the future inclusion, or exclusion of these ingredients.
11 Check The Expiry Date: nutrients will degrade
Some foods and items we buy have several different dates which include, best by dates; sell by date and use by date. These dates help sellers and consumers know when a product is likely to spoil and how long they have to sell and use the items. For some things the date is not that important, you could consume noodles that were past their best by date and be fine. However, when it comes to infant formula, you do not want to use an expired product. The reason for this is, according to the Bump, that nutrients in the formula will begin to degrade. Considering that this is an infant's primary source of nutrition if they are exclusively formula fed, it is not something that should be kept past its expiry date.
10 Length Of Formula Consumption For Most Infants: about 4 months
Up until an infants first birthday they will require the nutrients in breastmilk and formula. Babies, according to Kids Health, can be introduced to solid foods around four months, but should not be introduced sooner than this as it can put them at greater risk of developing obesity.
Moreover, parents must ensure that their infants are ready for solid foods, this means that infants must show interest in food, be able to sit up unassisted, have developed oral motor skills, and weigh twice their birth weight. After the first birthday parents can begin introducing cows milk and start weaning their child off milk and breastmilk.
9 Formula babies grow slower at first, but by 1 year they're bigger
Breastmilk and infant formula provide the best nutrition for your developing bundle of joy. However, don’t expect your baby who was formula fed to grow and develop at the same rate as a baby who was breastfed. The Babycentre sheds some light on the differences one can expect to see between the two feeding options. Foremost, infants who are formula fed grow faster than those who are not, within the first year.
Moreover, although breastfed babies grow quickly in the first three months of their lives, they tend to be leaner then formula fed babies, weighing on average 1 pound less. The most common reason for the differences is consistency, breastmilk changes from day to day, which is not true for formula. A mothers breastmilk may change depending on her diet and overall health, whereas formula is always the same.
8 Formula has higher risks, but it's better than no food
The debate between breastfeeding and formula feeding is an ongoing one, and often mothers feel guilty if they have to formula feed, I know I did after a three-month-long struggle that ended in heartbreak. Moreover, according to WebMD breastmilk offers a multitude of benefits compared to formula; which includes, cost, protection against infections, prevention of SIDS, nutritional balance, ease of digestion, protection against allergens, decreased risk of obesity, promotion of brain development, and weight loss for the mother.
However, if breastfeeding is not an option for you, don’t feel guilty about it because infant formula has significantly increased its nutritional value over the years to more closely resemble that of breastmilk. More importantly, this means that your infant will receive all the nutrients they need to grow and develop, giving you some peace of mind.
7 A Lot Of Work Goes Into Making Infant Formula
A great deal of work and care goes into making formula for infants, and although it will be simplified in this section, there is a great deal of information available on the exact processes used. According to How Products Are Made, the process begins with the design which is the type of formula that will be produced, either milk or non-milk based. After this process, raw materials are added, which includes proteins, fats and carbohydrates, diluents, minerals, vitamins, and emulsifiers/stabilizers.
Once all the ingredients are combined the manufacturing process begins, first by mixing the ingredients. After this comes pasteurization which protects against spoilage and the development of bacteria. This is followed by homogenization a process that stabilizes the product by decreasing fat and oil particles. Next, is standardization which ensures vital parameters were met during production. The final product is then packaged and finally sterilized to eliminate any microorganisms that may have lingered in post-production.
6 Breastmilk Is Incredibly Hard To Imitate
Formula has been around much longer then most people realize dating back to 1867 with Liebig’s infant food. According to Infant Formula: Evaluating the Safety of New Ingredients there are several barriers that manufacturers face in the production of formula. Firstly, breastmilk is produced naturally by the human body, and all components are balanced for optimal development. However, formula must be engineered, and although they may have most of the elements that are offered in breastmilk, it may not be as balanced as need be.
For example, some ingredients such as iron require antioxidants to balance out their effects which directly affect the availability of nutrients to infants. Moreover, the form of the molecules that manufacturers use must also be considered, due to the sensitivity of an infants digestive system. It is clear that producing formula is a challenging process, however, with the improvement of technology this process has become more simplified and easier to create.
5 The Manufacturing Process In Most Facilities
Infant formula is an extremely sensitive product to produce, not to mention that it must do what the human body does naturally and provide nutrition to an infant for them to thrive in the first year of their life. According to Food Quality and Safety, several stages in production require methodical design to ensure quality is maintained.
During the mixing process, a vacuum mixer is used to ensure that solids and liquids are dispersed evenly and in the most hygienic way possible. Mixing is followed by the evaporation process where liquids are turned into vapor and then treated with heat to maintain quality and protect the final product. An optional step that some facilities include is cavitation which adds “microstructural conditioning that optimizes particle structure, size, and distribution of solid components.” Finally, the use of a complete automation system allows the most precise level of quality control, as well as traceability if production is not to standard.
4 Picking The Right Formula For Your Infant may take time
Feeding your infant may seem daunting if breastfeeding is not possible with the many variations of formula on the market. According to US News Health, the best place to start is by selecting a primary cows milk based formula, which most infants tolerate. From here you can make adjustments by choosing the best variation for your infant, be sure to talk to your doctor and describe any concerns that you have such as gas or poor digestion. Many formulas cater to specific needs such as sensitivity, colicky and any other discomforts your baby may experience. It may take some time to get it just right so be patient and ensure you listen to your infant's needs.
3 Properly Preparing Formula Manually
Formula preparation is a sensitive process, and two basic things to keep in mind is hygiene and mixing. According to Similac, you want to wash your hands thoroughly each time you prepare a bottle and ensure that the bottle is clean and sterilized. Moreover, you want to prepare formula that is suited best for your infant, and fit best to your lifestyle, if you are always on the go ready-to-feed formula may be better for you.
For proper mixing, read all preparation instructions and follow them precisely as incorrectly prepared formula can cause discomfort for your infant. Finally, it is not necessary to feed your warm infant formula. However, you may choose to do so if you are boiling water or you find your baby prefers a warmer temperature.
2 Storage: keep it cool and dry, and don't keep unfinished formula for later
Formula storage is just as important as its preparation. According to Similac formula should be stored in a cool, dry place in a sealed container. Moreover, it should never be stored in the refrigerator or be exposed to extreme temperatures. Furthermore, it is recommended that a container is used within one months time, which will not be an issue if you exclusively use formula. Finally, if your baby has started a bottle but did not finish it do not reuse it or save it for later, discard it. This is important because your baby's saliva mixes with the formula and can contaminate it with bacteria, which will not be destroyed if refrigerated or reheated.
1 Automatic Formula Machines
Currently, on the market, there are automatic formula machines which produce mixed formula bottles in seconds. I personally had one of these machines, the Baby Breeza Formula Pro, and although it comes at a price of $149.99 it was worth every penny. My husband insisted on the investment, and I am glad he did for several reasons. Firstly, your baby will wake up a lot during their first year of life, and it saves valuable time during the preparation process.
Moreover, it ensures that the bottle is consistently the same, there is no worry of putting in too much formula or too little, and the machine is catered to various kinds of formula. Furthermore, it is far more hygienic than hand mixing as the formula is never exposed to other contaminants it goes from the container into the formula reservoir where it remains in an airtight space. Finally, the machine warms the water to near body temperature, which is far more pleasant for your infant to consume and can produce various bottle sizes to maximize what you get out of your formula.