It must be quite intimidating standing in the baby formula aisle for the first time and not know which one is right for your baby. Not to mention the overwhelming pressure that comes with making the choice and not knowing the extent of the risks.
After all, when it comes to the nutrients and comfort of your baby, this can be extremely hard. The key is to do your research beforehand and never get stuck in the formula aisle.
We can help with that. We’re providing valuable input as to how you can pick the right one for your baby. So, without wasting any more time, let’s jump right into it!
Back to the Basics
Fat, protein, and carbohydrates make up 97% of most baby formulas. If you exclude fat, then protein and carbohydrates are still enough to make an impact on your baby’s digestion and comfort.
Let us give you some relief by saying that you can ignore the labels printed on the front of the baby formula. There are a lot of formulas you’ll have to look through to find the one that feels best for your baby. To save you some time, you can afford to ignore the front labels.
Using words such as ‘gentle’ or ‘sensitive’ doesn’t really mean much. What you have to check out is the back of the product. Flip it over and take a look at the list of ingredients in the formula. Focus on the first few ingredients. This is what will help you find what kind of formula you’re looking for, whether it’s organic baby formula or not.
For those who are wondering, yes, there are both soy-based formulas and dairy-based formulas. Regardless of that, you should be asking how much protein your baby will actually be consuming.
So, let’s find out.
A Full-Sized Standard Protein Formula
When it comes to standard formulas, you should know that they don’t process protein at all. The size is still big and the same as when it comes out of the cow or soybean.
Soy proteins and cow’s milk have much bigger proteins present in them than breast milk proteins do. When you’re buying formulas, you might come across non-fat milk, whey protein, milk protein isolate, or soy protein isolate in formulas (soy-based) on the list of ingredients.
These formulas are all standard-sized formulas with full-size proteins. Most healthy babies can easily handle these big proteins. But you should keep in mind that it does take more digestive work to absorb them.
Partially Hydrolyzed Protein Formula
As the name suggests, hydrolyzed protein means the protein is hydrolyzed. In layman terms, this means it is broken apart. So, compared to a full-sized standard protein formula, the partially hydrolyzed protein formula is smaller. This means the formula is broken down into smaller pieces, similar to breast milk proteins.
When checking the ingredients, you should look for the words “partially hydrolyzed” in front of the protein. That’s where you’ll find out how small the proteins are. For example, one brand of soy-based formula has a partially hydrolyzed protein. This is different from a full-sized soy protein in another brand.
Proteins that have been partially hydrolyzed need less digesting to be absorbed. Additionally, this sort of formula is an excellent option for newborn infants. It’s also helpful to infants with a history of digestive issues or are going through discomfort digesting full-sized proteins.
Fully Hydrolyzed Protein Formula
These proteins are considered to be tiny. So, if you can partially hydrolyze a protein, then you can fully hydrolyze a protein!
Fully hydrolyzed proteins are also known to be hypoallergenic. Thanks to their size being so small, they don’t trigger allergies in a baby or child, even if they are allergic to full-size cow’s milk protein.
If a formula has fully hydrolyzed protein, the label will read hypoallergenic clearly on the front.
You have to bear in mind that these formulas are made specifically for infants who have allergies to cow’s milk. Sometimes it can help babies who have faced serious digestive issues.
However, these are not common scenarios and for that, fully hydrolyzed formulas should be tried only with a doctor’s recommendation. Otherwise, it’d be wise to avoid it.
In breast milk, lactose is the source of carbohydrate, and all babies are easily able to digest it. For parents who are starting their babies off on formula for the first time, it’s best to start with a lactose-based one and see how it goes.
How it Works
Most babies thrive on lactose-based formulas. However, infants with undeveloped or inflamed digestive systems, especially those born preterm, may have very little of the enzyme necessary for lactose digestion. Even babies drinking a low lactose formula or recovering from diarrhea will most likely have fewer lactose-digesting enzymes. They would be much more comfortable on a formula with lesser lactose.
What Lactose is Removed
If a formula has no lactose present, some other carbohydrate will have to be substituted for the baby to get enough carbohydrate energy.
Thankfully, there are two other carbs that are easy for babies to digest: glucose sugars and sucrose.
Even though both of these things are safe for babies, our personal preference is towards glucose sugars. These days, there are many different types of glucose being used in formulas. These include corn syrup, brown rice syrup, glucose syrup, maltodextrin, and corn syrup.
The only way you can know if a formula is lactose-reduced or not is to check out the other carbohydrate sources present on the list of ingredients.
Picking a Formula
Given the range of protein options, with varying kinds of carbohydrates, there are many formulas for parents to choose from. This is nothing short of overwhelming, but don’t lose hope! By knowing what you want in your baby’s formula, you can get started on narrowing down the list.
It helps if you prioritize choosing protein first, as protein is known for affecting your baby’s comfort and digestibility. Going from that, you can then pick a formula that has a carbohydrate blend matching or coming close to what you are looking for. Then experiment with it and see how it goes.
This decision is made purely based on science than with a bit of trial and error. You can always change formulas when the time comes. This way, it’ll be much easier to pick the right formula for your growing baby.
When you come across a situation where you have to switch your formula, it’s best to take it slowly. A simple way to tackle this over a few days would be to slowly decrease the amount of the old formula in each bottle, and at the same time, increase the amount of the new formula.
This solution is very important as well. If the new formula has larger protein strands or contains more lactose, then your baby will need to make more digestive enzymes, which takes time. Those digestive enzymes would then help to digest more lactose as well as bigger proteins.
In conclusion, we’d like to say that it’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the right milk formula for your baby. All parents do at one point because they want what’s best for their babies. Focus on the back, know what ingredients are most suitable for your baby, and experiment with the formulas that suit you best.
Your job as a parent is to love your baby and make sure it is well-fed and cared for. If you can manage that, then you’ve already done an amazing job!
Go with your gut and nail this parenting plan for finding the right baby formula.