What's Really in Your Baby's Formula?


BottleEven though I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby, I struggled with latching problems and milk production for almost all of the first 12 months of his life. That meant I needed to supplement with baby formula.

My pediatrician's office suggested a particular brand, but I wanted to do my own research. How difficult could it be? The answer was very. There are so many different kinds of baby formula: Soy, lactose-free, cow's milk, organic.

As if that's not enough choices, most of the big brands are now also including additional nutrients and amino acids. I have to wonder if the specialty formulas are really beneficial or are they more of a marketing tool to drive up the cost of formula?

Any of the major formula brands should meet your baby's basic nutritional needs. But that doesn't mean that all infant formula brands are the same. Here are some of additives and special enhancements you'll find within the major formula brands: 

  • DHA and ARA are important nutrients that occur naturally in breast milk. They are added to most baby formulas, but not all -- so make sure and check your labels. 
  • Antioxidants also can be found in breast milk and as an additive in some the major formula brands.
  • Probiotics are the newest addition to some formulas. Probiotics may help in reducing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, lowering the risk of food allergy, and improving infantile colic. The key words here are "may help," there is no conclusive evidence to support this to date. 

Of course, there is no magic eight ball when it comes to formula, and it's worth it to have a lengthy conversation with your pediatrician to determine which one is best for your baby.

If you are bottle feeding, what formula do you use and why? Would you pay more for antioxidants or probiotics?


Image via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

baby first year, baby health, formula


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RanaA... RanaAurora

The problem here, like I mentioned before and will in the future in more detail, is that DHA and ARA in breastmilk are not the same as the fake one in formula.

The one in formula is genetically-modified algae, extracted with the neurotoxin "hexane
(which is refined crude oil), was never approved by the FDA, hasn't been proven to DO anything and causes life-threatening diarrhea in newborns.

Are you sure you want it now? Only formula companies have told you to pay more for it, right? They're not exactly non-biased.

RanaA... RanaAurora

And I have to ask... did anyone help you use an SNS?

Stefa... Stefanie83

my child is supplemented as well.  he was a 33 week preemie and we have been struggling for 3 months to try to get him to be a 100% BF baby but now that I've been back to work, things have only gotten worse.

Anyway, he is fed enfamil premium lipil but i definitely have my doubts about whether the DHA/ARA any other additions are "good".  I do believe that infant formulas are a LOT better now than they were about 20 years ago, but I strongly believe that they are no where near as good as breast milk.  Still, they have their place.

Commenting on RANA, no one ever even mentioned SNS to me in the NICU, the LC first mentioned it to me after I had returned to work.  I regret not knowing about it sooner....

RanaA... RanaAurora

Stefanie, it bothers me how little the SNS is used when it could help solve soooo many problems!

Good for both of you, by the way, for sticking with nursing even when it's tough.  ANY breastmilk is better than none!

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

The formula companies CLAIM that the DHA and ARA additives are good for babies...but they've never been tested.  They are actually fighting hard against having to prove their claims.  From what I understand, many nurses have nicknamed that type of formula "Diarrhea Formula" or something similar.  Not sure I'd want to give that to my baby...

Doug Streifel

I don't know for sure if there is a difference between synthetic DHA/ARA and the breast milk kind. I think it is irresponsible to assume that they are the same without testing however. To be sure, hexane has been found in formula which contains ARA/DHA. The only explanation for this is seriously neglectful behavior on the part of formula companies. Hexane in this case is used as a solvent to extract the ARA/DHA from the byproducts of producing it. There are easier to remove and less toxic solvents (but more expensive) like ether that could be used instead. 

 Not long ago, decaffeinated coffee was produced using a solvent called dichloromethane. Unacceptable levels of the solvent were present in decaffeinated coffee. Adults who chose to drink decaf coffee were being slowly poisoned until people started complaining. The FDA has to date not banned the use of dichloromethane in producing coffee or other foods. However, industry moved voluntarily on to better methods. Dichloromethane eats through latex gloves and can be toxic on skin contact. It's nasty stuff. Hexane isn't as bad, but I wouldn't want to drink it either.

In short, formula companies will not stop including toxic petrochemicals (gasoline has a lot of hexane in it) until consumers start complaining and not buying those products.


RanaA... RanaAurora

In short, formula companies will not stop including toxic petrochemicals (gasoline has a lot of hexane in it) until consumers start complaining and not buying those products.

Very true, Doug.  In order to do that, we need people to be willing to discuss downsides of formula without taking it personally.

nonmember avatar Carol

There are 150 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in breastmilk which is a living synergistic fluid. As has been mentioned the two LCPs in most formulas are derived from algae and soil fungus (GMO?), fed inside large vats with yeast and soy (GMO?) and extracted using hexane. Personally if I had to use a formula product I would want the least mucked around with product. All industry can ever hope for is a 'as good as possible' nutritional product. Misleading health claims are just that - claims to entice parents to buy. Nucleotides have never been shown to be beneficial when added to formula. Check out this very good report for more about DHA & ARA.

ethan... ethans_momma06

:( I was hoping that this would be an actual look into what really is in Formula, not just a list of some of the perks that they claim to have. Heck, Saying it has 'probiotics' still doesn't let us know what is ACTUALLY in there.

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