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Picking the right formula

There are 6 main ingredients your formula milk must contain if you are going to ensure that your baby receives all of the nutrients he needs. They are as follows: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and trace ingredients to satisfy specific needs.

  • Carbohydrates: As lactoseis the main carbohydrate present in breast milk, this is the carbohydrate you want on the ingredient list of your formula, cow-milk based formula usually meets this requirement. However, if your baby is lactose intolerant carbs, such as sucrose, corn starch or corn syrup, are some alternative options.
  • Proteins: Breast milk tends to be made up of 60% whey protein and 40% casein, so you are looking for a protein ratio similar to this. Yet again, cow-milk based formula is your best bet, but watch out because some use 100% whey protein. Soy milk and hydrolysed formulas will contain different proteins. Speak to your pediatrician for more details.

    baby with bottle

    Does this have all the ingredients I need?
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  • Fats: Breast milk has a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats, so this is what you’re looking for in your baby’s formula. Most formulas use oils, such as palm, soy, coconut and sunflower oil to ensure your baby gets all the fats he needs. However, we do not recommend palm and palm olein oil, because they have been found to inhibit the absorption of fats and calciums in your baby’s body and that’s the last thing you want. Also, try to buy a formula containing both AHA (arachidonic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are two omega-3 fatty acids found in breast milk, which are important for brain and vision development during your baby’s first year.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Your baby needs the same vitamins and minerals he needed while you were pregnant, so that’s what you’re looking for. Don’t worry most formulas will contain these vitamins and minerals, however, they often have different names on the ingredient lists. For example: ferrous sulphate is iron, sodium ascorbate is vitamin C and calcium pantothenate is vitamin B5. If you’re not sure what a certain ingredient is ask your pediatrician or look it up, chances are it’s something you know. We highly recommend an iron fortified formula throughout the first year of your baby’s life, because iron is essential for your baby’s circulatory system and brain development and an iron deficiency is often accompanied by many developmental problems.
  • Trace ingredients: Check that your formula contains nucleotides and smaller amino acids, which are present in breast milk and are important for immune system development and growth. If your baby has bad reflux, try to buy a formula that contains rice starch and if he suffers badly with diarrhea, soy or dietary fibre is a good ingredient to look for.

Remember, NEVER mix your own ingredients with formula milk. The balance of nutrients in each formula is perfectly measured to ensure your baby receives the nutrition he needs and adding ingredients can put your baby’s health at risk.

Also, when in doubt, always turn to your pediatrician for advice. He or she will be able to give you case specific advice.

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