What is the best formula for breastfed babies? None at all! But we get many breastfeeding moms looking for tips and recommendations for a baby formula closest to breast milk to feed their normally breastfed babies as an occasional supplement. While we encourage still encourage moms to build a breast milk stash of their own so they can exclusively breastfeed and do not need formula, we also know that some moms still want the option of formula even if it is for occasional use. For these moms, we know that it’s best to select a formula that has as many similarities to breast milk as possible.
|Please remember that formula is by nature inferior to breast milk. They are NOT interchangeable. No formula can deliver all of the health benefits that come from breast milk. However, there are some advanced formulas on the market that can come closer than others. If you are going to use baby formula, some choices are better than others.|
These following tips will help you understand some of the technical terms used in advertising and seen on formula packages. With this information, you’ll have the information needed to make educated decisions on behalf of your baby.
What’s In Your Baby Formula?
Technology is changing everything in the world, and that includes baby formula. Manufacturers are always finding new ways to make their formula more comparable to breast milk, but some are better than others. If you familiarize yourself with the following terms, you’ll understand what you’re reading when you study specific formulas on the market:
- DHA: This stands for docasahexaenoic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found naturally in breast milk. It’s believed to play a critical role in brain development and functioning. While formulas once contained no DHA, you can now find select products that do include this ingredient. This is one ingredient that can give an infant formula some of the natural benefits obtained from breast milk.
- MFGM: This stands for Milk Fat Globule Membrane and refers to the proteins and lipids naturally found in each drop of breast milk. It is believed to play a critical role in the development of cognitive functioning and is one natural component of breast milk that couldn’t be duplicated in man-made formulas until recently. This is another powerful ingredient that takes a formula much closer to breast milk in terms of health benefits.
- Lactoferrin: This is a protein found naturally in colostrum. It’s believed to play a critical role in developing and supporting a baby’s immune system but may also help with the respiratory system. If you want a baby formula that protects your infant in the early days of life, this is an ingredient that you want in your formula.
- ARA: Also known as arachidonic acid, this is a natural component to breast milk that is now added to some baby formulas. It may play a role in developing the central nervous system, but some manufacturers add it simply to balance other fatty acids in the formula.
- Organic Lactose: Breast milk is naturally high in lactose, so it makes sense that some formulas are now made with organic lactose rather than corn syrup solids and other carbohydrates. This is considered a more natural ingredient, and it can make your formula a little more similar to natural breast milk.
- Non-GMO: You’ll see this term throughout the grocery store, and it has now made its way into the formula market. It simply means that the formula was created with corn or soy that was not genetically modified. Similac was the first to create a non-GMO version of their Advance formula, but there are other options available now.
- Hypoallergenic: If your little one has a negative reaction to cow milk or ingredients in many standard baby formulas, you may try a hypoallergenic blend like Gerber Extensive HA. It’s made with 100% whey protein and includes adequate iron and DHA for healthy infant development.
- Added Iron: Baby formulas were traditionally low on iron when compared to natural breast milk, and there are health consequences to iron deficiency in the first year of life. This is why you’ll see added iron advertised for many formulas today. If you don’t know whether your baby needs added iron, talk to a medical professional who is familiar with your baby’s health record.
If you want your baby’s formula to match breast milk as closely as possible, look for products that contain many of the natural components of breast milk. For instance, Enfamil Enspire contains DHA, MFGM, and Lactoferrin.
It’s considered one of the best matches to a mother’s breast milk, but keep in mind that these ingredients aren’t exactly the same as the natural components found in breast milk. There’s simply no way to mimic the goodness of breast milk entirely, but technology is taking us closer and closer.
What About Cow Milk?
You may think of formula as a man-made version of breast milk, but that isn’t necessarily true. Research has uncovered the benefits of using cow milk as a base for infant formula.
The trick is that the milk is altered and new ingredients are added to create a safer and more nourishing product for babies. This is why many formulas will advertise cow’s milk but it’s not safe to simply fill your baby’s bottle with the milk that you may drink as an adult.
Many parents now favor these formulas, but make sure that the one you choose doesn’t utilize milk from cows fed antibiotics or human growth hormone. You should see this clearly marked on the label. You may also consider formulas based on goat milk, especially if your baby is allergic to cow milk.
Vermont Organics offers an organic milk-based formula that is quite popular because it’s eco-friendly. The cow milk is also sourced from free-range cows that are allowed to roam freely rather than being held captive.
Pure Bliss from Similac is also a good option. It’s made with milk sourced from grass-fed cows and is free of GMO, human growth hormone and antibiotics. Don’t confuse the Pure Bliss Infant Formula with the Pure Bliss Toddler Drink, which adds probiotics for digestive health.
Need More Help Choosing a Formula?
Again, breast milk is ALWAYS the best choice, but if you are going to supplement then it’s a good idea to talk about formula options with your pediatrician or family doctor. They will give suggestions or tell you what to look for as it pertains to your baby’s unique medical needs. You should still read through the information in this guide and go into that meeting informed so that you can ask more detailed questions while you have the doctor’s attention.
- Supplementing With Formula While Breastfeeding – The Facts Moms Need to Know
- When to Introduce a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby (and How!)
- Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: Why, How and Tips for Success