Types, Preparation & Tips for Formula Feeding Babies

"It is said that for the first six months, breast milk is the best feed for your baby. It has all the necessary nutrients and fats for your growing baby, and an infant needs nothing more. But at times, there are situations where the mother cannot produce enough breast milk for her baby, or the supply takes longer than anticipated to kick in. This article about Healthy Foods to Increase Breast Milk Supply will help you if you are struggling with a low milk supply. There are also some cases where the child might not even have a lactating mother, or the mother needs to travel, and there is not enough expressed milk for the baby. In all these cases, or cases parents choose to go for a combination feed or formula feed their baby; formula milk comes to the rescue. This Care for Child article will discuss all aspects of formula milk for newborns.

Types Of Baby Formula

These days, you will find a variety of formula milk explicitly meant for different needs. Here are the various kinds of formula feed powder you would find in the market:
  • Cow's milk-based formula feed – Cow's milk composition is the nearest to human milk. Thus, once the baby starts, cow's milk is the most common substitute for human milk, even when preparing formula feed for newborns. The fats, carbs and protein are adjusted to make it easy for newborns and infants to digest.
  • Hydrolysed formula feed – The protein molecules of the formula milk are broken down into smaller particles to make it easy to digest. This is called partial or complete hydrolysis of the formula feed. This process makes it easier for an infant to absorb the protein and is best for kids who might have an allergy to a specific protein present in the milk due to a developing digestive system.
  • Soy-based formula feed – A substitute for animal milk, soy formula is plant-based milk. This is an excellent choice for parents who want to raise their kids vegan or for kids with temporary lactose intolerance.
  • The formula for lactose intolerant babies – Like soy milk, many other substitutes are available for babies who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is due to the inability to digest the milk sugars; this formula replaces the milk sugars with other sugars, such as corn sugar.
  • The formula for premature babies – Premature babies have very different nutritional needs than babies born full-term. Thus, there is special formula milk available to fulfil those needs.
  • Organic formula feed – There is no difference between regular cow-based formula milk and organic one. The only difference is that this one is used organic milk instead of regular milk. A few parents prefer everything organic, and this formula feed can help them have an option.
  • The formula for specific medical conditions might be much costlier than regular formula milk. Still, at times particular digestive or allergy conditions in babies demand a unique formula that your paediatrician should help you identify and recommend.

Forms Of Baby Formula Preparation

  1. Powdered Formula – The most common formula milk available in India is the one that comes as a powder and must be mixed with water to prepare formula-feeding milk for babies. However, if you need to feed formula to your baby regularly, this can be your best choice, as one pack can last days or weeks based on your baby's consumption.
  2. Concentrated Liquid Formula – A little more expensive than powdered formula, concentrated liquid formula comes in smaller quantities. It just needs to be mixed with water directly in the feeding bottle, and it is ready to use. This is best suited for travel and is convenient when out and about.
  3. Ready-Use Formula – Mostly used at hospitals, the ready-to-use formula is a one-time-use formula that needs not be mixed with anything. Instead, open the lid and feed it to the baby.

Essential Components Of A Baby Milk Formula

Formula milk is fortified with a few extra ingredients to boost its nutritional value for a growing kid. The following are usually components of a baby's formula feed:
  • The main component of formula milk is cow's milk. This is the base to add all other nutrients to make it more nutritional. Except for plant-based formula milk, soy or other plant-based ingredients are the base for formula-feed milk.
  • Most formula milk is iron-fortified. This is necessary for your growing baby. Do not go for a formula-feed brand that is not iron-fortified unless advised by your baby's paediatrician.
  • Formula milk is fortified with DHA or ARA, which are substitutes for fats in breast milk.
  • At times, some formula-feed brands also have added probiotics in them. This can be useful if your baby has recurring gut trouble or is suffering from diarrhoea and needs a unique formula that helps better digestion.

How To Choose The Right Formula For Your Baby

There are many factors that you will need to consider before buying which formula milk to go for:
  • Do not make the brand decision before your baby is born. If you can produce enough breast milk and your baby is satisfied and growing well, you might save a fortune on formula feed boxes.
  • Ask your baby's paediatrician for a type of formula that would best suit your baby. You can either decide on the brand yourself or ask for a brand recommendation from the doctor.
  • Keep your budget in mind. Formula feed can be expensive; thus, choose the brand based on your monthly budget.
  • You would also need to decide on the form of formula feed you want to choose. Again, the powder formula is the cheapest and most reasonable choice.
  • Bigger stock-keeping units are cheaper than smaller sizes. So, if you are going to formula feed for longer, going for a bigger size pack is a reasonable and affordable choice.
  • Make sure you check the expiry date before buying a pack. It should not be expired or even near expiry as you will not use up the whole box in one go, and it might last you a few days or weeks.

How To Prepare The Bottle Of Formula Milk

Each brand has its powder and water proportion ratio recommended based on the composition. All powdered formula comes with a scoop to measure the powder and mix a particular amount of water. Please stick to the ratio mentioned in the box and do not experiment with proportions. Inappropriate promotions can cause constipation or diarrhoea. Prepare the formula in boiled lukewarm water. You do not need to heat the formula before feeding it to your baby.

Things To Remember Before Using Baby Formula

  • If breastfeeding works for you and your baby, experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding your child until six months.
  • Ensure the bottle you use to prepare and feed your baby's formula is appropriately sized for their age.
  • Investing in an electrical bottle steriliser that can sterilise multiple bottles together is a smart choice if your baby consumes formula feed regularly. This will save time for fixing each bottle individually on a gas stove.
  • A metal or glass bottle is safer and more hygienic than plastic bottles.
  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry before you prepare a bottle of formula feed for your baby.
  • If you have prepared extra new formula, store it in the refrigerator. The prepared formula can be used at any time within 24 hours. If unused for more than 24 hours, discard the recipe and prepare a fresh batch.

Follow-up Baby Formula & Switching Formulas

You might need to change your baby's formula brand or type if there is an allergic reaction, suitability issue or digestion issue that a particular brand or type of formula is causing for your baby. For example, if your baby experiences a rash on the skin, diarrhoea, weakness or forceful vomiting that does not just spit or throw up after the feed, you need to consult your doctor. This might indicate that your baby needs a different brand of formula feed. Also, as your baby grows, the nutritional needs of your baby change with age and weight. Therefore, you must graduate your baby with the formula recommended by their paediatrician.

Common Questions Parents Ask

Q1 Can I make baby formula at home? Although expensive, the formula powder you get in the market is made after extensive research and in a clean and hygienic environment. In addition, many online recipes are available that might tempt you to try your version. But please remember that these can be dangerous and cause severe digestion and medical troubles for your baby. Q2 Can I mix formula milk with baby cereals once the baby starts solid foods? It is recommended not to mix formula milk with anything else. Baby cereals come with a recommendation of how much water needs to be combined to prepare them. Stick to the guidance on the box. Q3 How much formula should I feed my baby in one feed? Let your baby decide how hungry they are and how much formula they want to consume. Within a few days, you will see a pattern and realise how much formula feed needs to be prepared per feed."
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