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    Infant Nutrition: The First 6 Months

    Nutrients in Formula continued...

    Some formulas add other nutrients to make them even more like breast milk, such as:

    Essential fatty acids. ARA and DHA are fatty acids that are important for the baby's brain and vision.

    They're naturally found in breast milk when the mother includes them in her own diet. Many formulas add them. Yet there's not a lot of evidence that formulas supplemented with fatty acids offer kids any real advantages as they grow. 

    Nucleotides. These building blocks of RNA and DNA are also found in breast milk and added to some formulas.

    They are thought to boost the baby's immune system and help the digestive organs develop.

    Prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that might help protect against the "bad" types of bacteria that cause infection. Prebiotics promote the growth of these good bacteria in the gut.

    Formula that's supplemented with probiotics may prevent babies from getting the skin condition eczema, but it doesn't seem to help with diarrhea or colic.

    Babies Who Need Special Nutrition

    Babies who were born early (before 37 weeks) or at a low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) need special nutrition to help them catch up on growth. Breast-fed babies may get a fortifier added to the milk, which contains:

    • Extra calories
    • Extra fat
    • Protein
    • Vitamins
    • Minerals

    Babies who can't breast-feed will need a special formula made for preterm babies. These formulas are higher in calories. They also contain extra protein, vitamins, and minerals.

    What to Avoid

    One thing you don't want to give your baby during the first 12 months is whole cow's milk. It doesn't have enough iron, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids for your baby. Also, it contains too much protein, sodium, and potassium for your child's body to absorb and can cause harm. Wait to introduce cow's milk until your baby is 1 year old.

    You also don't want to give your baby soy milk or homemade formula. These substitutes may not have the balance of nutrition baby needs right now.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on June 16, 2016
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