There are many reasons why some women simply can’t breastfeed, and there is often an associated guilt and concern regarding the baby’s development and immune function. Of course it is ideal to breastfeed, but when this is not an option, it is important to accept the situation and make the best choices for your baby.
Acceptance is important, as a stressed parent is not a happy parent, and the most important nutrient for your baby, above and beyond breast-milk, is love. Be sure to have gone through every avenue possible to help establish breastfeeding ie a lactation consultant so that you can feel relaxed in your decision.
Choosing a formula for a baby at any age can be tricky, but especially for a newborn. For a newborn or young baby who is not receiving breast-milk, it is also essential to give probiotics to provide extra immune support.
What is the right baby formula?
There are many options when it comes to choosing a baby formula. There are pros and cons to different types of formula, and we will try to briefly cover them all.
Basically, baby formulas are designed to mimic the nutritional profile of breast-milk, and while they can’t compare or compete with the real thing, they are definitely the next-best food for your baby if they are under twelve months.
Unmodified milks (cow, soy, almond, rice, A2 etc) of any kind are not enough, so please read through this section and contact us if you have any questions about formulas.
Cow’s Milk Formulas - These are by far the most common formulas available, especially as we live in New Zealand, where dairy is our main-stay and we are culturally bred to believe that cow’s milk is God’s gift to children! Unfortunately, we simply cannot recommend cow’s milk formulas for most babies, as we see all too often that it is the most common allergenic/reactive food and can cause a wide-range of health problems, some of which are not evident until later in life.
The proteins in cow’s milk are far larger than breast-milk and are difficult for a baby to digest. Please note that a reaction to cow’s milk or cow’s milk formula in a baby is only very rarely due to a lactose-intolerance, and more commonly due to other components such as proteins. If you do use a cow’s milk formula, please choose an organic one.
Soy-based formulas - There are many reasons why soy-based formulas are actually banned in many countries. Soy is not the innocent “health” food that many believe, especially not in its highly processed form. Soy is mildly oestrogenic, and should not be used exclusively in babies, it can also effect the thyroid gland and contains phytates (which can block nutrient absorption), and often aluminium. There are some circumstances in which some soy is okay, as in the case of a completely dairy-intolerant baby who cannot handle even goat’s milk formula, but in this case it should be alternated with a rice-based formula to minimize detrimental effects and to reduce the risk of allergy. Soy is increasingly become a common allergen as it is used as an ingredient in more and more processed foods. Soy does have a good protein and nutritional profile, but for the reasons outlined, we do not recommend it as a sole food.
Rice-based formulas and Rice milk - Occasionally we recommend rice milk to babies that are dairy intolerant if they are exhibiting signs of intolerance such as severe eczema. We usually recommend this as a short-term approach to let the body rest and let symptoms resolve.
We always recommend the addition of probiotics and flaxseed oil to boost the nutritional profile of the rice-milk, and it is not adequate as a sole food long-term for babies. This should only be done under the supervision of a qualified health professional.
Goat’s Milk Formulas - We believe that an organic goat’s milk formula is the best bet when it comes to choosing an alternative or a supplement to breast-milk. The proteins and general nutritional profile are the most similar to human breast-milk. Even non-organic is a very good option.
Neocate and Hypoallergenic formulas - These are prescribed by a paediatrician for a baby who has a medically diagnosed cow’s milk allergy. The proteins from the cow’s milk are broken down into their individual amino acids, reducing the allergenicity of the formula.
DIY seedmilk - This is suitable when weaning after six months, and is not to be considered as an alternative to breast-milk in new-born babies. This is a nutritive food/milk to be given where there is no prior history of allergy or intolerance. A combination of nuts and seeds are soaked overnight with plenty of purified water, then blended the next day and strained.
Nuts/Seeds that are suitable include: Almonds, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts. The texture should be similar to soy milk.
Other tips for making formula:
Remember to always use a glass bottle (or suitable phthalate-free substance) with a silicon or rubber teat.
Never microwave formula or the water for formula.
Use purified water.
Always follow instructions exactly as different formulas have different ratios of water to powder.
As we work a lot with babies and children with allergies, we often recommend alternating formulas so that intolerance is less likely to develop.
Signs of formula intolerance
How do you tell if your baby is developing a reaction to a food that you are eating (via breast-milk) or to a formula they are drinking?
Common signs include:
Changes to sleep patterns/ disturbed sleep
Irritability, inability to settle
Of course, these signs are not conclusive, as many babies exhibit many of these symptoms! But if there is a CHANGE in signs or behaviours, do start to notice what may have changed in your or your baby’s diet.
If in doubt, the best way to be sure is by having an Allergenics Test for food intolerances. It is best to have both you and your baby tested if you are breast-feeding