Infant Formula: A Healthy Option

By Sandra Gordon

As you may know, "breast is best" for infants. Compared to infant formula, human milk is ideal for babies because it contains natural components that can't be replicated, such as growth hormones and other factors that decrease inflammation and help build your baby's naturally-immature immune system. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend breastfeeding exclusively (that means only breast milk—no solids, water or other liquids) for at least the first six months of your baby's life and to continue to breast feed non-exclusively for at least a year.

Breast milk protects your baby against a host of infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, ear and urinary tract infections, bacteremia (a serious bacterial infection), necrotizing enterocolitis (an intestinal infection), type 1 and type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer—lymphoma, leukemia and Hodgkin disease--and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding is good for you, too. It reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum bleeding. You're also likely to return to your pre-pregnancy weight faster. Still, there are many reasons why you may find yourself using infant formula, which simulates human milk. These reasons may include the following:

  • Your baby cannot be breastfed for medical reasons.
  • Your doctor advises you not to breastfeed or feed your baby expressed breast milk because you have a medical condition that could be passed to your baby through breast milk.
  • Your baby isn't thriving with breast milk alone and your pediatrician recommends supplementing with infant formula.
  • Breastfeeding just isn't working, despite everything you've tried and all the expert advice you've received.
  • You're going back to work and logistically, you feel formula is necessary.
  • You're not a mom. You're a dad who will be taking care of the baby because mom is going back to work and she's not interested in pumping.

The list goes on. So what's the upside? If you want or need to use infant formula, you can feel good about this option. While it's true that infant formula isn't human milk and lacks the immune and other biological factors only Mother Nature can provide, it is a nutritious food made just for infants under 12 months old.

"When you're breastfeeding or formula feeding, babies are getting complete meals, probably better than they can get any time in their life. So do whatever you're doing for as long as you can," says Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor in pediatrics at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and the mom of three.

There's lots of support for breastfeeding these days. The U.S. government and many state and city governments are promoting breastfeeding. So are prenatal educators, hospitals, pediatricians, lactation consultants, family members and other moms. As a result, breastfeeding rates are on the rise; nearly 75 percent of moms start out breastfeeding and over 47 percent continue to do so until their baby is six months old. That's excellent news. So what's the downside? Breastfeeding has become so accepted as the thing to do that moms and dads who want or need to use infant formula for whatever reason might feel uneasy about their decision, even if infant formula is their only alternative for medical reasons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even picked up on the vibe, emphasizing: "The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and a mother should not be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed."

If you want or need to supplement your baby's feedings with formula or use formula exclusively, you've come to the right place. This formula guide is designed to inform you about infant formula, specifically Store Brand Infant Formula, because it's the best value and must be offer the same complete nutrition as name-brand formula. According to federal law governing infant formulas, all Store Brand Infant Formulas and name-brand formulas sold in the United States must be manufactured to meet the same exacting quality standards to support the healthy growth and development of newborn and young infants. All infant formula must meet the specific and mandated nutrient levels. In other words, Store Brand Formula and name-brand infant formula has to offer the same complete nutrition. This resource provides facts about infant formula and the support you may need to feel comfortable with choosing Store Brand Formula if you choose to use formula.

About the Author

Sandra Gordon is a consumer products expert, a writer, and a mother of two. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show and as a baby safety expert on The Discovery Health Channel's "Make Room for Baby." A Consumer Reports author, her latest book is Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear.

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