We can all agree: Breast is Best! There is no formula substitute that will ever compete with the health benefits provided by breast milk. From dehydration to enhancing immune boosting properties for a sick infant, a mother’s breast milk is able to adjust its nutritional components to reflect the immediate needs of her baby. However, there are a number of issues that can prevent a family from feeding their infant breast milk. Adoption, significant breastfeeding complications, and other health and family issues can inhibit short- or long-term accessibility to breast milk. Choosing a proper infant formula for new parents can be nerve racking. It is daunting to assess formula options without information as to what truly makes a formula nutritionally superior.

When choosing a formula, clean quality ingredients are first and foremost in importance. As with any healthy and quality food, begin by reading the ingredient list, note the number of ‘real’ food-based ingredients. The primary ingredients should begin with real foods such as goat milk, organic cow’s milk, organic rice, organic whey, organic lactose, or organic Non-GMO soy. A formula must also contain organic simple carbohydrates needed for energy for growth and development from a recognizable food source such as corn, soy, palm, or coconut. For brain development and weight gain, a healthy fat will be added such as coconut oil or other vegetable oils. The next ingredients will be nutrient additives such as Vitamin E or alpha-tocopheryl acetate, which may appear as the common or chemical name. If an ingredient is unrecognizable or seems chemical in nature, be sure to look it up. Many times a formula will contain a vitamin or mineral additive that looks like an unhealthy preservative but is simply the chemical name of a healthy nutrient supplement.

Infant formulas have traditionally been cow’s milk, soy, or rice based. However, a new category of goat milk-based formulas has become accessible. Goat milk is more digestible than cow’s milk and is more similar to breast milk. Although goat milk is still lacking key nutrients contained in breast milk, it is a far superior choice as a formula base than other options. Kabrita goat milk formula is a newer product to the American market, but is the highest quality formula currently available. Kabrita is headed by a naturopathic doctor and an infant formula nutritionist, both with small children who needed formula supplementation.

Families have also chosen to make their own formula using a combination of goat milk, rice syrup solids, and added fats and nutrients. Recipes for homemade formula are traded on the internet without supervision of an infant nutritionist, pediatrician, or naturopathic doctor. While homemade formulas can be excellent options, they must be approved by a qualified and knowledgeable health practitioner well versed in infant nutrition.

Again, choosing a formula is a very difficult decision. Focus on quality, organic ingredients from companies you may be familiar with such as Earth’s Best. Consider buying more than one formula base to ensure your baby is getting a range of quality ingredients, although the nutritional content should be very similar between brands. When in doubt, research ingredients to check on quality.

Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health. She can be reached at Optimal Health Center (760) 568.2598.

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