Although there is a range of baby formula alternatives, finding the suitable one for your infant is very difficult. You will encounter many problems such as allergies or lactose intolerance, and you might want to seek different milk alternatives that you didn’t even think possible.
When your own breast milk is not an option, there are other ways to feed your infant like donated breast milk, or formula feeding. Let’s delve into these options and learn more about alternatives to baby formula.
About baby formula
Baby formula is a manufactured food designed for feeding babies, usually prepared for a bottle or cup feeding. It is a simulation of human milk and it provides similar amounts of fat, protein, calories per ounce as breast milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines it as food that is characterized as a complete or partial substitute for breast milk.
The ingredients can vary depending on the brand and country, but usually, baby formula milk is made of processed cow’s milk. But, if you are looking for different options, there are plenty of other types of baby formula including hypoallergenic or soy-based.
Formulas for lactose-intolerant babies
Although for most babies the cow’s milk-based formula is the best, there are times when parents seek alternatives simply because their child is allergic, needs a non-dairy one, or a formula with a reduced amount of lactose. Some of the symptoms that babies with CMPI (cow’s milk protein intolerance) have are: vomiting, diarrhea, rash, eczema, or constipation. Two of the best non-dairy options would be soy-based milk or hypoallergenic formula.
These formulas are non-dairy which means there is no lactose or milk proteins. Remember that soy-based formulas are just as good as cow’s milk formulas when it comes to nutrition. But, bear in mind that some babies allergic to cow’s milk can also be allergic to soy proteins. So, if you find that this formula doesn’t work for your child, you can always turn to other healthy options like hypoallergenic formulas.
Hypoallergenic formulas might just be one of the safest choices for milk alternatives. What’s interesting about them is that they are made with cow’s milk, but they are processed and the allergy-causing protein is broken down in advance, which makes them easier to digest. And remember to try to choose formulas that are labeled as “hypoallergenic” instead of “partially hydrolyzed.”
Other breast milk substitutes
If you are looking for specific milk types that are great alternatives to mothers milk, especially for those months when you’re trying to wean your baby, take a look at these 3 options.
Goat milk is most often considered to be one of the closest to breast milk. Although it is rich in fat and contains less lactose, it needs to be used with care when feeding infants because it lacks vitamin B12 and folic acid, which are crucial to the growth and development. Remember, it is very important to add vitamin and mineral supplements into your baby’s formula when supplementing with goat milk.
Coconut is a great non-dairy plant-based ingredient that many parents use in their formula recipes. Coconut milk is a great source of iron, various B vitamins, and vitamin A. The milk also has a high content of lauric acid which is the predominant fatty acid found in breast milk. It makes the milk easily digestible and strengthens the immune system. Although coconut milk lacks calcium, parents usually mix liquid calcium into the formula together with other vitamins and minerals.
Hemp milk is a safe and healthy option as an alternative because it is full of minerals, vitamins, fats, and proteins. This type of milk is made by blending water with the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. It does not contain THC which is an ingredient predominantly found in the marijuana plant. Organic hemp milk has all the necessary vitamins and fatty acids that will provide your infant with a variety of health benefits.
Infant formulas to avoid
Of course, there are types of formulas that parents should consider avoiding since they are not safe substitutes. Some of those are:
- Toddler formula – this is a good choice to introduce as an additional source of nutrition, but not as a substitute. They shouldn’t be used before 12 months of age as they are not designed to be a primary source of nutrition for infants.
- Diluted formula – note that adding more water to the formula can be harmful since it reduces the nutrients your baby gets and could lead to water intoxication.
- Homemade formula – there are easy recipes on the internet nowadays, but keep in mind that medical professionals warn against these types of alternatives. There are a lot of mistakes parents make when making their baby formula, which can later cause problems with growth and brain development.
There are plenty of brands and types of baby formula available, but always remember to check the labels carefully to make sure you are purchasing the right milk alternative for your baby. Whether you choose a powdered formula or a ready-to-feed liquid one, know that although formula milk doesn’t share the same benefits as breast milk, it still provides all the healthy nutrients your infant needs to grow and develop.