Expecting a baby is both the most exciting and the most frightening time of any woman’s life. So much to plan for, and so much to prepare! Starting from one of the most basic questions: what is your newborn going to eat?
You’re likely to hear breastfeeding recommended time and again as the best food for babies, and that can be stressful if you’re unable to breastfeed. But you’re far from alone: according to parenting.com, 40 percent of American moms can’t breastfeed for a wide variety of reasons, and their babies grow up happy and healthy all the same. Nutritional and pediatric medicine have never been better – all you need is a little research to pick the best formula for your baby.
Here’s three questions to ask as you get started.
Organic or Non-organic?
Organic foods and organic farming are all the rage – but what does that label really mean? In the case of baby formula, a dairy product, that “USDA Certified” label means all the dairy is sourced from organically farmed cows. They’ve been raised naturally and sustainably, without injections of antibiotics or growth hormones that could make their way into the milk. Any plant-based ingredients, like corn starches, will also be from organic sources, grown without any pesticides or herbicides that could still be lingering in the formula.
This isn’t to say that non-organic formula is dangerous or unhealthy. It still has to meet health and hygiene standards before it can be sold! However, many parents and pediatricians prefer organic baby formulas like Honest Company’s, to keep any of those chemicals out of your baby’s sensitive system. Newborns have delicate digestion, and dairy proteins can sometimes lead to gassy babies. Organic formulas are easier on their developing tummies.
Organic formula will also be free of GMOs – genetically engineered food products which are usually bred to be pest resistant. Like inorganic foods, GMOs aren’t necessarily harmful, but organic farmers and some parents and pediatricians feel safer steering clear of them, especially in delicate infants.
What Nutrition Does Formula Need?
When you’re researching a formula, look for the phrase “nutritionally complete.” This means the formula contains 100 percent of the necessary nutrients that human’s bodies can’t produce themselves: most vitamins, as well as minerals like calcium and iron. Adults can get those necessary nutrients from their varied diet, but for your newborn, all those nutrients need to come from their formula!
You may also see the phrase 100 percent RDI, which is another good sign. RDI stands for recommended daily intake, so 100 percent RDI is another way of saying the formula contains all the nutrients your baby needs, in the amounts they need. Any pediatrician recommended or pediatrician approved formula will be nutritionally complete, containing everything your baby needs to grow.
What Should You Avoid?
Just like your formula should contain 100 percent of necessary nutrients, there are a few things it should definitely not contain. They include:
· Processed sugars: corn syrup solids or maltodextrin. Cow milk is lower in lactose than human milk, so formulas contain some kind of sweetener to make up the difference in carbohydrates. Avoid formulas that contain maltodextrin or other highly processed sweeteners, since they can be harsh and overly fattening for a growing baby.
· Palm oil or palmitic acid. Palm oil is sometimes added to baby formula to mimic palmitic acid in breast milk. However, it has been found that palmitic acid from palm oil reacts differently in the stomach than palm oil from breast milk. It forms a soapy solid that can produce major upset stomachs (and upset babies and upset parents.)
· Carrageen. Carrageen is sometimes added to formula as a stabilizer to prevent it from separating in storage, but it’s one of the worst additives formula can contain. It has no nutritional or flavor value (all it does is prevent separating), but it can cause serious inflammation, so serious that the European Union banned its use in formula. Steer clear of a formula that contains it.
· Common allergens. Since formula is usually produced in a factory along with other food products, it can always run the risk of coming into contact with common allergens like nuts, soy, and gluten. Fortunately, most manufacturers are very careful to avoid this kind of contamination, especially in baby food. Just look for an allergen free label on the packaging.
Don’t be worried or ashamed about your decision to feed your baby formula! Nutrition and medicine have made sure that baby formulas on the market today contain everything your child needs to make their first six months happy and healthy. A little homework, and you’ll be well equipped to pick the formula that’s best for you and your new family.