Today, it's nearly impossible to find a label that doesn't tout things like DHA and ARA (fatty acids that are believed to help brain and eye development) and pro- or prebiotics (which promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract), says Jennifer Shu, M.D., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. That's really good news: No matter what you buy, you can rest assured it's healthy.
Don't let the ingredients intimidate you: Formula is simply a combination of water, proteins, fat, and carbs, mixed with vitamins, minerals, and other additives that imitate breast milk. Brand-name and store-brand formula are screened by the FDA and have to comply with the Infant Formula Act. Formula is probably safer than much of what you eat, says Frank R. Greer, M.D., a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison.
Powder is sold in a canister or in travel-friendly packets and has to be mixed with water. Major selling point: It's also the most economical. Concentrated liquid is a bit more expensive because it's less messy to prepare. But it still has to be mixed with some water. Ready-to-use nixes mixing. It's the most costly, but it may make stools looser, which could help if Baby is easily constipated, says Dr. Shu.
Babies born premature or at a low birthweight might benefit from a formula with extra calories, minerals,
and vitamins. Check with your doctor first.
That label just means that at least 95 percent of what's in the formula (such as milk or soy) was made without antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals. Expect the cost to reflect that.
Originally published in American Baby magazine in June 2014.
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