by Jan Murray
Breast milk of course is the absolute best milk for your baby during the first one or two years but if this is not possible there are other alternatives; but which one do you choose?
In days gone by babies were given watered down ‘carnation milk’, ‘condensed milk’ or cow’s milk; some added ‘Pentavite’ for vitamins, some did not. Research has shown that these are not the best choices for babies and could even do harm.
Today in 2010, we are fortunate enough to have infant formula that has been researched, modified and tested and continues to be researched to provide milk closest to living breast milk. It is commercially synthesised therefore it will never reach the premium standard of natural breast milk but at least it has to be better than what our ancestors used.
Up until the age of 12 months a baby requires an infant formula for optimum digestion and nutrients.
Weaning onto solids 'taste it'
There are many types and brands of 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 like a vitamin in milk form and not a food substitute. ‘Progress’ (2) formulas have added iron and nutrients for increased growth and development requirements but if the ‘starter’ formula is better tolerated after six months and solid food has been introduced then it is not absolutely necessary to use.
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 now 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 even further 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 can make goat milk formula easier to digest for some babies. It is more rapidly digested therefore can be helpful for a baby with reflux.
Soy based infant formula – This milk is commercially made from the soya beans which have similar protein content to cow’s milk. It contains lactose. During processing the protein is isolated without its cofactors needed for digestion and metabolism and therefore is not a good choice for babies.
Lactose free infant formula (LF)- This milk is usually cow milk based and has no lactose. This formula may help babies who suffer from excessive wind, explosive poos and unsettled sleep patterns due to lower bowel pain.
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. 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 is an alternative milk for babies who have a primary risk of dairy allergy. Do not use if a baby has already been exposed to dairy through breast milk or another formula.
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 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. Very hungry babies are thought to do better on casein dominant formula.
After 12 months a baby’s gut is mature enough to progress onto cow’s milk or an alternative such as rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, goat milk or toddler milk. These milks are not natural or organic but 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, therefore 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. 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 and has the equivalent amount of protein to cow’s milk therefore it is not tolerated if allergic to cow milk protein. Research shows that 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 leaves out the natural digestive and metabolism cofactors, deeming soya milk often difficult to digest.
Rice milk is made from brown rice, has no lactose and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, and is higher in carbohydrate and lower in protein and calcium. A suitable milk alternative when cow, goat and soy milks need to be avoided.
Oat milk is made from whole oats making it higher in fibre than other milks. It is usually calcium fortified and naturally sweet.
Toddler milk is marketed for toddlers 12 months to 3 years. Yes, it contains added nutrients and iron but if a toddler’s diet is adequate then this milk is unnecessary. It can be helpful for a poor eater as it increases iron into their diet which will improve their appetite as well as supplying a balanced amount of nutrients. Do not give more than the required milk intake as it is NOT a substitute to food.
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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. For more online resources visit http://www.settlepetal.com