How does Formula affect Babies
How does formula affect babies
Breast milk is the best food for infants until they are 6 months old. The mother’s milk comes in various consistencies depending on the age of the infant to cater to his overall development and boost his immunity.
Though all mothers are aware of this, not everyone is able to nurse their babies. Some mothers aren’t able to breastfeed because of certain medical complexities. In some cases, the babies are born with some special needs that make it difficult for them to latch on to their mother’s breasts.
When a baby cannot be breastfed, the doctor recommends an infant formula that is carefully prepared so that the baby can digest it well. Many mothers worry if their babies may get impacted because of formula feeds.
Yes, formula is definitely not as healthy or as nutritious as breast milk, but that doesn’t mean that they are harmful to infants. Here, let us see a brief overview of formula feeds and the risks that babies can experience when they are fed formula feeds right from birth.
Choosing a Formula for your Newborn
You need to explain to your doctor about the reasons why your baby cannot be breastfed. He would then recommend a formula after checking your baby thoroughly for any allergies. Mostly, all formula feeds that are available from reputed brands are made from cow’s milk and soybeans.
You can give your baby the same unless he has some milk-related allergies. You should also choose the iron-fortified formula so that your baby gets the required dosage of iron for his development.
The formula that you choose should be from a reputed company that makes its products in a sterile condition. The formula should contain almost the same ingredients as that of your breast milk, to mirror its benefits.
When you want to give formula to your newborns, you should always choose the commercially prepared products instead of making your own. Once your baby has crossed 6 months, you can prepare a customized feed for him using fruits, vegetables, rice, and other solids.
What are the Types of Formula available for Infants
To know if your baby would be affected by the formula that you choose, you should first be aware of the basic types of formulae foods available for infants in the market today. Here is an idea of the common types that you should know of:
Formulas Based on Cow Milk
This is the most common type of formula food for infants. These have proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the right quantities. Also, the cow’s milk content in these feeds is diluted well so that your baby can digest them easily.
In these, the proteins are broken down considerably to the form of their amino acids, so that your baby can easily absorb their nutrients. If your baby has milk-related allergies, you can give them these partially or extensively hydrolyzed formulas, as they contain hypoallergenic properties in them.
These are easy to digest just like cow’s milk-based foods. These are plant proteins that are very good for your baby. However, doctors don’t recommend soy-based formula for babies that are born prematurely.
Formulas that don’t have Lactose
There are many formulas that don’t contain lactose to cater to the needs of lactose-intolerant babies. In place of lactose, these formulas use other easy to digest sugars such as corn syrup.
Formula for Low-Weight Babies
When your baby is born prematurely, or when he is of very low birth weight, you need to give him specific formulas that are designed for such babies. You should choose formulas that contain easy- to- absorb fats such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) to help your baby gain the right amount of weight within the right tenure.
Fortifiers to be Mixed with Breast Milk
Sometimes, breast milk alone is not enough to satisfy the nutritional needs of babies with special needs. In such a case, you need to invest in fortifiers that can be mixed with breast milk and fed to the babies. You should never treat these fortifiers as standalone foods.
These are formula foods that should be fed to babies with special needs or lack in a specific kind of nutrition.
What should Infant Formula Contain?
To know if a particular formula feed would impact your baby or not, you should have a clear idea about its contents. Here are some of the major ingredients you will find in most of the infant formulas today:
- Carbohydrates (in the form of lactose or other sugars)
- Fat (most formula foods contain 60% whey and 40% casein proteins, similar to what is found in breast milk)
- Vitamin & Minerals- Iron, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B5 are some of the main vitamins found in a formula to help in the overall development of a baby
- DNA and RNA building blocks – also known as nucleotides to boost the immunity of the baby (these are present to mirror the composition of the breast milk)
- Fiber, amino acids, and rice starch, probiotics, and prebiotics – these help in the overall gut health of the baby
Risks associated with using Formula
Though almost all formulas are prepared to mirror the composition of breast milk, they cannot replace the goodness of human milk at all. According to various studies, here are some important points that you should know when you decide to give formula to your baby because you cannot breastfeed him.
Absence of Antibodies
Formula, regardless of how sterile they are, doesn’t contain antibodies that are found in plenty in breast milk. These antibodies are the ones that develop a baby’s natural immune system. So, babies who aren’t breastfed are prone to infections in the later stages, when compared to babies who are breastfed.
The mother’s body is blessed with the magical skill to adapt itself according to the baby’s demands. In the first few days of delivery, a woman’s breast milk is very thick and full of nutrients.
It is also known as colostrum. It contains a load of nutrients to protect the baby from all types of infections. As days go by, the consistency of breast milk changes automatically and it is of a thin consistency for your baby to digest well. With formula, you cannot expect this flexibility.
Though infant formulas contain a lot of gut-health promoting ingredients, they cannot match the nutrients found in breast milk. Studies have revealed that formula-fed babies are more prone to bowel-related issues (such as gas, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, etc.) when compared to babies that are breastfed.
Very Less Immunity to other Ailments
Studies conducted by reputed pediatric organizations across the globe have proved that formula-fed infants are prone to experience the following ailments in the later stages of their lives when compared to breastfed infants:
- Mild or severe ear infections
- Problems or infections in the lower respiratory tract, resulting in problems such as asthma and other lung infections
- Diabetes type 1 or type 2
- Extreme skin rashes or itchiness, also known as eczema
How does Formula affect Babies when you are Combining it with Breastfeeding?
Sometimes, mothers don’t have enough milk supply to breastfeed their babies exclusively. So, they may resort to breastfeed thrice or four times a day and supplement the other times with formula feeds. If you have been combining formula with your breastfeeding routines, you should know how it can affect your babies.
- The consistency of breast milk is watery, whereas the formula is quite thick. Therefore, babies take a long time to digest the formula. Due to the thickness of the foods, babies intend to feel full for a long time, and they don’t nurse from you as often as you would have liked. The lesser they nurse, the lesser is your breast milk production. This is why you should always try your best to exclusively breastfeed your babies until they are 6 months old, at least.
- When babies get used to drinking formula from a bottle, they are used to the free flow of milk that comes from the hole of the nipple. Therefore, when you try to position him for your breastfeeding routine, he may not latch on to your nipple properly. He may not want to suck from your nipple, because the flow of breast milk is not as quick as the flow of the formula. Babies also experience nipple confusion when bottles are introduced to them at a very young age, as a result of which they may stop feeding from you directly.
From the above, it is evident that though formula can contain all the required ingredients for a baby’s overall development, it can never be replaced with breast milk. If you find it difficult to breastfeed, please talk to your doctor or lactation consultant to try new positions or techniques to breastfeed successfully. You should treat formula as a last resort only.