While nearly all mothers have heard the benefits of breastfeeding babies, most babies will at some point consume infant formula, either as a sole source of nutrition, or as a supplement. Baby formula is, in many ways, very similar to breast milk. There are several types of infant formula on the market for babies with different needs. It is a good idea to be familiar with the ingredients in your baby's formula, so that if he has a problem with one type of formula, you can work with his pediatrician to find a formula that will suit him better.
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Most baby formula is made with either cow's milk or soy milk as the main protein ingredient. This protein is broken down to make it easier for your baby to digest. It is not safe to give babies cow's milk or soy milk straight because the baby will be unable to digest it. In certain infant formulas, called hydrolyzed formulas, the protein is broken down into even smaller particles for easier digestibility. These formulas are sometimes recommended for babies with allergies or colic.
Many baby formulas are available with two essential fatty acids included, called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). These fatty acids are found in breast milk. According to naturallysavvy.com, some studies have found that babies who have DHA and ARA by way of breast milk or enhanced infant formula score better on mental development tests and have better vision than babies whose formulas are not enhanced.
Baby formulas are required by the FDA to contain the recommended dietary allowance of nutrients and vitamins, according to keepkidshealthy.com. Most infant formulas contain iron, though low-iron formulas are available. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend low-iron formula for any babies. Keepkidshealthy.com states that formula-fed babies do not need additional vitamin supplementation.
Potentially Dangerous Ingredients
Reuters.com states that trace amounts of melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, have been found in baby formulas and were found in one type of baby formula sold in the United States. While several babies in China were sickened by or died from melamine poisoning, no babies have gotten sick in the United States as of January 2010.
ABC News reported in 2009 that perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, was found in 15 brands of baby formula in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency stated that the amounts of this chemical that were present in the infant formula were considered safe, but the Centers for Disease Control said that there was still some concern, especially in areas that had high levels of perchlorate in the water.
Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a chemical that is commonly found in certain plastics. It can affect the brain and reproductive organs of humans, and has been found in infant formulas. According to naturallysavvy.com, using powdered baby formula instead of ready-to-use formula can minimize the risk, as the powdered form contains much less BPA.