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Stepping into the baby aisle of your local grocery store probably presents you with more formula options than you ever would have imagined.
These various formulas are made by different brands, come in different forms, and are even called different names.
In order to understand the differences between baby formulas, it can be helpful to learn to recognize the differences in their ingredients, and recognize the different categories of formula.
Recognizing the Differences in Ingredients
Understand that the nutrients in most formulas are similar, but their sources can be different.
All baby formulas are regulated and, in general, every baby formula contains basically the same combination of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals, which closely mimic that of human breast milk.
The difference between the formulas is the sources of the proteins and carbohydrates that are used.
There can also be some variation in the sources of the other main components.
Some parents may prefer not to feed their baby a formula that has a particular nutrient source, such as corn syrup, while others have no problem with it.
Since the nutritional value is basically the same for all formulas, knowing about nutrient sources is a useful way to differentiate between baby formulas.
Identify lactose in cow's milk formulas.
Breast milk and formulas made from cow’s milk have the same main carbohydrate, which is lactose.
However, there are lactose-free and soy formulas for babies that are lactose intolerant or being raised as vegans.
These, and other specialty formulas, contain various types of carbohydrates that might include sucrose, modified corn starch, corn maltodextrin, or corn syrup solids.
Know that some formulas are made from soy.
Most formulas have cow’s milk as a base and whey and casein are their proteins, but some other formulas are made from plant proteins and have a soy base.
These proteins have a soy protein isolate that is easier for some babies to digest.
Soy-based formulas are often fed to babies who suffer from allergies or digestion troubles when fed formulas with a cow’s milk base.
Vegetable based formulas are also popular with vegans because they want to avoid products that come from animals.
Understand the ingredients used in organic formulas.
The ingredients in organic formulas are sourced from organic produce and organic dairy.
These ingredients are obtained without the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and growth hormones.
Some people believe that organic ingredients are more healthy for developing babies, and limit their exposure to harmful chemicals.
Be aware of probiotics used in some formulas.
Probiotic formula is formula that includes good gut flora, microorganisms that are meant to promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Generally, these formulas are given to babies who suffer from diarrhea or generally weak immune systems.
These bacterial cultures can strengthen the body’s immune response and soften stools.
Look out for other ingredients that are often included in formulas.
The regulations for baby formula are strict about the nutrients that must be in the formula in order for the baby to grow and develop properly.
However, these regulations do not restrict the addition of “other ingredients”.
Various brands add these ingredients for various reasons.
One ingredient that is often added is various types of different nucleotides, which are supposed to help with the development of the immune system.
These added ingredients are safe for the baby to consume and may help them develop, but they are more likely a way for the different brands to make their formula stand out.
Recognizing the Different Categories
Notice the characteristics of ready-to-use formulas.
Ready-to-use formulas are liquid and ready to be poured directly into the baby bottle without being diluted.
These formulas focus on convenience, especially for late night feedings.
Ready-to-use formula is also the most costly type of baby formula.
Because of its volume, ready-to-use formula also require quite a bit of storage space compared to other formula categories.
Another factor to keep in mind with this category is that this category of formula is perishable and will not last long after the container is opened, even when refrigerated.
Learn to identify powdered formulas.
Powdered formulas are purchased in powder form, and mixed with water when preparing for feeding.
These formulas need to be measured and thoroughly mixed with the right amount of water when making a bottle for a baby.
Formulas in this category do take a bit more time when preparing a feeding, but several bottles can be made at once and stored in the fridge for later use.
Powdered formula is the least expensive and takes up the least amount of space in the pantry or diaper bag.
One issue with formulas in this category is the possibility that the powder might not get thoroughly mixed with the water in the bottle and clumps will form that can clog the nipple.
Another issue is that there may not be any suitable water available when it is necessary to make a bottle while away from home.
Realize what is considered a concentrated liquid formula.
Concentrated liquid formulas have characteristics of both powdered formula and ready-to-use formula.
Concentrated liquid formulas are in the middle category, being in liquid form, but still requiring additional water prior to serving.
The cost of these formulas is generally between that of the other two categories.
They are easier to mix than the powdered formulas because there is no chance of clumps forming, but there is the chance of leakage when transporting an open container.
Get familiar with hydrolyzed formula.
Hydrolyzed formula is formula that contains broken-down proteins that are easier to digest.
There are two types of hydrolyzed formulas:
partially hydrolyzed and extensively hydrolyzed.
The extensively hydrolyzed formula is intended for babies who have problems with allergies or problems with the digestion of nutrients.
Partially hydrolyzed formula is a formula designed for babies who suffer from colic and have stomach problems.
This formula is easily digested because it is made from whey protein.