Nearly 90% of parents in America will end up using baby formula at some point or another. If there was a stigma against it, that stigma seems to be fading.
But it’s also created a market flood of baby formulas. From small organic companies to international giants like Nestle, there’s no lack of options available. That’s a good thing for conscientious or picky parents, but it does make the process of finding the right formula considerably harder. But you can cut through the confusion and shop conscientiously for a baby formula by just following a few simple steps.
We won’t get into the ecological costs involved in the factory cattle farming industry apart to say that it’s devastating. But more directly worrying are the chemicals and toxins that are used in raising cows. GMOs, hormones, and other chemicals are bad for the cow and bad for you—but they’re especially worrying for babies.
Given that their immune systems are still developing and formula will constitute the bulk of their diet, you want to make sure that there isn’t anything harmful in your milk. But be sure to take a glance over the ingredients even if you do go with an organic formula. Brands can still be organic and unhealthy, and some manufacturers bulk up their formulas with unnecessary fats and sugars.
Fatty is Good
While it’s important to make sure that an infant gets their essential nutritional requirements, the first few months of a baby’s life is largely about growing. A healthy baby will generally put on an ounce of weight every day for the first two weeks of their life. It makes sense that babies are naturally raised on milk, given that it’s such a rich source of fat and carbohydrates. But fats can also help promote good mental health and assist with cognitive development. Just make sure that you seek out the right fats. Omega-3 fatty acids should make up a significant portion of the fat content since they play a pivotal role in both neurological and optical development.
Probiotics Are Important
When a baby is feeding off of formula or breast milk, their gastrointestinal systems are still developing. It’s a big reason why infants need to be burped so much, and it’s a common source of upset stomachs and accidents. And while infants receive a healthy dose of probiotics before they’re born, supplementing that is critical.
Many baby formulas add in probiotics to help promote digestive health. That’s a nice bonus, but it isn’t an absolute necessity when shopping for baby formula. You can get the same results with olive-oil based probiotic supplements.
Don’t Neglect Vitamins
The vitamin content in your baby’s formula can have a dramatic impact on their health and early developmental growth.
Two vitamins, in particular, are provided naturally through breastfeeding: vitamin A and vitamin D. You’re probably already aware that milk is heavily fortified with vitamin D, but every formula isn’t going to offer the same amount of vitamin D—and they aren’t all going to offer it in its most digestible form. Going with a formula made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk can help with that. Vitamin D is especially important if your child doesn’t get enough sunlight, and most mothers are vitamin D deficient. That means even if you breastfeed, you may want to find supplements to boost your baby’s vitamin D intake.
Vitamin A isn’t quite as abundant in milk as vitamin D, but it serves a lot of critical functions in the body of a baby. It assists with the development of the nervous system and also provides a boost to the immune system.
The best baby formula will include a nice balance of all of these elements. But ultimately, you need to find what works for your baby in particular. Take the time to sit down with your pediatrician and use online resources to figure out what you need and narrow down your options.