By Jan Murray
Breast milk is the best milk for your baby during the first year. If breast milk is unavailable there are suitable Infant Formula alternatives. Which one do you choose?
Previously, babies were given watered down ‘carnation milk’, ‘condensed milk’ or cow’s milk. Research shows these milks are not the best choices for babies and can do harm. Today, in 2016, Infant Formula is researched, modified and tested to provide milk that is closest to breast milk. It is commercially synthesised and fails to reach the premium standard of breast milk but it is a better alternative than our ancestors used.
Until the age of 12-months babies require Infant Formula for optimum digestion and nutrients. There are many types and brands of alternative milks listed under the age categories of starter (1), follow on (2) or toddler (3).
‘Starter’ and ‘Progress’ formulas are complete food substitutes but ‘toddler milk’ is not. ‘Progress’ (2) formulas have added iron and nutrients for optimal growth and development. However, if ‘starter’ formula is more convenient and solid foods have been introduced there’s no need to change formulas at 6-months.
Cow’s milk based Infant Formula.
This is commercially modified cow’s milk to resemble breast milk and is suitable for most babies. It is not suitable when babies have a cow milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance or have parents who want to keep away from animal based foods. Some milks have been further enhanced with added docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Omega – 3 fatty acids and prebiotics and probiotics for added immunity and digestion. Research is ongoing for more refinements.
Goat milk based Infant Formula.
This commercially modified goat milk contains slightly less lactose than cow’s milk with the protein similar to cow’s milk but forms a softer non-clustered curd. These facts may make goat milk formula easier to digest for some babies. It is more rapidly digested therefore may be helpful for a baby with reflux.
Soy based Infant Formula
This milk is commercially made from the soya beans that have similar protein content to cow’s milk. It contains lactose. During processing the protein is isolated without its co-factors that are needed for digestion and metabolism and is not suitable for babies under 6-months of age.
Lactose free Infant Formula (LF).
This milk is usually cow milk based and has no lactose. This formula may help young babies who suffer from excessive wind, explosive poos and unsettled sleep patterns due to lower bowel pain. Lactose is important for immunity and should not be removed from an infant’s diet unless necessary.
Anti Reflux Infant Formula (AR).
This is usually a cow milk based formula that has been thickened using either carob bean gum or maltodextrin (enzymatically derived from any starch but usually corn or wheat). This thickened milk is for babies who have difficulty keeping milk down (reflux). Depending on the thickening agent used this milk may not be suitable for babies who are lactose or wheat intolerant.
Protein modified cow milk Infant Formula (HA).
In this milk the cow milk protein has been broken down to make it easier for babies to digest and has been used as an alternative milk for babies who are a primary risk of dairy allergy. However, evidence is not strong on whether HA milk prevents the development of dairy allergy.
Protein free Infant Formula.
An extensively hydrolysed 100% whey protein specialty formula for babies with a diagnosed dairy protein or soy allergy. Medical supervision is required for babies on this formula and in Australia this milk is only available by script.
Casein dominant or whey dominant Infant Formula.
Whey and casein are the proteins found in milk. Whey dominant formula is the most common on the market, is closest to breast milk, and digested quicker than casein based milk. Very hungry babies are thought to do better on casein dominant formula. ‘Follow on’ Infant formula is usually casein based.
Weaning onto solids ‘taste it’
From 12-months of age
After 12-months of age a baby’s gut is usually mature enough to progress onto cow’s milk or an alternative such as rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, goat milk, almond milk or toddler milk. The choice of which one to use is yours. Babies require full fat milk until at least 2 years old.
Goat milk has a similar protein in a comparable quantity to cow’s milk but forms a softer, non clustered curd and contains slightly less lactose, possibly making it easier to digest. It is more rapidly digested and may be helpful for an infant with reflux or frequent positing. It is usually not tolerated by those who have a cow milk protein allergy.
Cow milk is a nutrient dense food when ingested in its raw organic form (breast milk or unpasteurised milk) but unfortunately vitamins and minerals are lost today with the pasteurisation and homogenisation process (heating it to make it better for us!) There is also a difference in milk produced from relaxed cows grazing in open fields of grasses and flowers to a mass produced commercially fed cow living in overcrowded cement floor stalls. A2 milk has been found to be better tolerated by some. Milk just isn’t the same milk as years past. Lactose free cow’s milk is also available.
Soya milk is made from soya beans. Soy milk has the equivalent amount of protein to cow’s milk and is not a good alternative for cow milk protein allergy. Research shows processed soy can prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. The commercial processing involved in isolating the protein in soya beans omits natural digestive and metabolism co-factors, making soya milk difficult to digest.
Rice milk is made from brown rice and has no lactose. It is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, and is higher in carbohydrate and lower in protein and calcium. Rice milk is a suitable milk alternative when cow, goat and soy milks are unsuitable.
Oat milk is made from whole oats and is higher in fibre than other milks. It is usually calcium fortified and naturally sweet.
Toddler milk is marketed for toddlers (1 to 3-years of age) and contains added nutrients and iron. This milk is not for toddlers who are gaining weight and developing appropriately. However, these milks can increase appetite by improving iron levels when the required amount of 1 – 2 cups is given. More than this amount slows eating as milk is filling but NOT a substitute for food.
This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. She publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.