What is the best milk for your baby?
17 Oct 2011
Once upon a time, the great baby milk debate was as simple as "Breastmilk vs baby formula." But while that argument rages on, things are made even more confusing by the wide range of formulas on the market. Here are a few tips to help parents who've decided to go for formula to decide which type is right for your baby.
There are two main factors in picking the right formula. The first is the age of your baby. The second is whether your baby has any allergies or intolerances.
As far as age goes, your options increase once your baby is around six months old and starts to need more complex sustenance to help grow and develop. One of the most common is marketed as follow-on milk, which is widely available in several different brands such as Aptamil Follow On milk at Lloyds Pharmacy.
They key to follow-on milk is that it has higher protein and mineral content, which is ideal for babies that are weaning. The smartest feature of follow-on milk is that it contains these nutrients in a smaller "serving" size, meaning the baby is left with plenty of room for solid foods. The precise formulas vary, but some of the added nutrients in Follow-On milk include what's known as long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids: that may sound bad, but these are actually very beneficial and help develop eyesight, nerve tissue and even brain activity.
Follow-on milk also often contains added iron: in theory your baby should get this from foods, but of course that assumes every solid meal goes down and stays down, which can be something of a lottery at times.
There are a couple of other variants of formula. One type, marketed as goodnight milk, has added cereal. The theory, which has been disputed, is that these take longer to digest but help babies sleep. Make sure not to give these to babies that are under six months old or underweight. Another type, growing-up milk, is aimed at babies over one year old and contains even more iron and minerals. Whether these are necessary is also disputed: many medical experts believe ordinary cow milk and a solid diet should provide all the necessary nutrients at this stage.
Speaking of cow milk, not every baby can handle it. Some babies have an allergy to the protein, while others are lactose intolerant, meaning they struggle to digest the sugars in the milk. Babies with allergies can have a special formula where the protein as been hydrolysed, meaning it's broken down to reduce the chances of an adverse reaction. There are also lactose-free formulas available.
As with adult milk, there are special soya-based milk formulas for babies. Medical experts are often sceptical that these offer any benefits, and they could even damage teeth. Because of this you should not give soya milk to a baby until the age of six months, and even then do so only on the strict advice of a doctor or health visitor.