Infant formula is a nutritional product that is made from processed cow's
milk or soybean products. Special processing makes cow's-milk formula more
digestible and less likely to cause an
allergic reaction than regular cow's milk.
Many day cares and preschools in the U.S. have prominently posted signs
asking parents not to pack food for their kids containing peanuts, because so
many children are allergic. It seems like special dietary needs are an
Food allergies affect as many as 8% of children in the U.S., leaving a
challenge for parents: What can you pack for lunch? How can you be sure your
kids don't trade snacks with a friend? How should you handle occasions like
To find answers...
minerals are added to infant formula. Formula can be
used to provide all of a baby's nutritional needs before the age of 4 to 6
Commercial formulas are
made to be as similar to breast milk
as possible. The safety and nutrient content of infant
formula is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
About half the calories
in formula come from vegetable oils or a mixture of vegetable and
animal fats. A baby's body requires fat for the production and
growth of new cells and for high energy needs.
Milk sugar (lactose) is the main source of
carbohydrate in most cow's-milk
formula, just as in breast milk.
What types of formulas are there?
Several types of infant formulas are
available. Usually, cow's-milk formulas are tried first. Examples of
brand names include Enfamil, Good Start, and Similac. Babies absorb minerals
and nutrients better from cow's-milk formulas than other types of
Babies need iron in addition to other vitamins and minerals. The iron in
human milk is much more easily absorbed by infants than the iron in cow's milk.
(But even breast-fed babies need iron added to their diet.) Formula-fed babies can become iron-deficient if iron-fortified formulas
are not used.
Iron deficiency may cause severe complications in
babies, such as weakness, abnormal digestion, and permanently reduced learning
abilities. In the United States, a formula with an iron concentration of 6.7
mg/L or higher is considered iron-fortified. And the
label must say that.1 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing for anemia in babies at 12 months of age.
Some caregivers may be hesitant to feed an infant iron-fortified formula
because of concern about side effects, such as gas or constipation. But these
concerns have not been proved by research, and low-iron formulas are not
recommended as a remedy for such symptoms. Although low-iron formulas are
available, they should only be used in extremely rare situations on the advice
of your doctor.
Other types of formulas are available for babies
who have trouble digesting cow's-milk formulas. Talk to your doctor
before giving your baby one of these formulas.
Soy formulas may be recommended for babies who are unable to tolerate
cow's-milk formulas or for vegetarian parents who don't want to feed their baby
Lactose-free formulas are
used for babies who are
lactose-intolerant. This is a rare condition in
Hypoallergenic or protein hydrolysate formulas are used for babies who cannot
tolerate formulas made from cow's milk or soy.