Our post title is kind of misleading. There’s no way on earth to determine the best formula for newborns (or indeed any baby) and we all know that – in the UK especially, the contents of them are largely the same, heavily regulated and they all taste rank. No seriously, have you ever tried formula milk as an adult? Yuck. This guide is more about the best baby formula for your circumstances and needs, if this is how you choose to feed your child.
I posted on this subject last week and frankly it took a lot out of me. This post, however, is more of an informative piece about what to look out for when choosing baby formula. Every newborn and every parent is totally different and it can be a bit daunting that when you’ve decided to formula feed your newborn, there are still a tonne of different brands and products to choose from.
My post comes on the back of an announcement that Glasgow MP, Alison Thewliss, has raised a Private Members Bill that tackles the advertising of baby formula, and states that the adverts out there present “questionable statements as scientific fact” amongst other things. You can take from this what you will… I personally haven’t really seen any properly scientific jargon being thrown out in formula adverts. It’s all babies laughing and sympathy for night feeding parents rather than cold hard facts about formula ingredients. However, I do agree that there isn’t a great deal of information out there, because all of the NHS literature is so focused on breastfeeding.
So what do you look out for when deciding on your formula of choice?
Organic or not?
In the UK at least, we do have organic formula. However, the standards are so tight with baby milk that the label of “organic” makes very little difference. To be certified organic, a producer must avoid man-made fertilisers, pesticides and additives and must avoid the use of genetically modified organisms.
However, UK standards state that baby formula contains up to 0.01mg of pesticides in every kilo of product. That’s the maximum. So whilst only one formula can be certified organic here in the UK (that I know of), all of them have basically no nasties in them. If it’s super important to you, then there’s only one way you can go. In this instance though, the difference between what’s on offer is very, very little.
Any point buying the premium brand with “extra ingredients”?
At this stage, there is just one additional ingredient in formula that has been proven to help with a newborn’s visual development. It’s called DHA, it’s an omega-3 fatty acid and it promotes healthy brain development. Probably because it’s actually a core structural component of every human brain.
Apart from DHA, there has been no solid evidence that the additional ingredients are any better than normal formula. So unless you really want to, you may as well stick with the regular version of your chosen formula, rather than splash out on the premium version.
Does more expensive mean better?
No. It’s easy to assume that the most expensive baby formula is the best one, but actually subtle differences in packaging and instructions actually mean that over a year, the cost of formula is roughly the same for your newborn. Often more expensive brands will have smaller scoops or require less of them, meaning the tub lasts longer. Less expensive formula often requires more powder to water to make up the formula properly. So in the long run, price makes very little difference to how much you will eventually spend.
Do you need specialised baby formula?
Unless your child has specific digestive issues, you don’t need this. The make-up of hungry milk is more similar to cow’s milk than it is breastmilk, and whilst it can be used from newborns onwards, there’s no sound scientific benefits to doing it. As far as the experts can tell, there’s no real benefit to this type of milk. That said, it will not harm either. If you’re having trouble satisfying your little one, try it. It might just do the trick.
Good Night Milk
There are some formulas that are marketed as “extra satisfying” and aiming to stop night feeds. Generally marketed for six months and onwards, this is something we tried when Short Rib decided sleep wasn’t for him. What it actually is, is normal formula with cereal added to it. You don’t need to spend your money on this – just add a rusk to the normal formula for the same effect.
Comfort Milk (For babies with colic)
There are some brands that market comfort formulas to help reduce the symptoms of colic. Whilst mercifully, Short Rib didn’t suffer with it, I know of a couple of babies who did and it was awful. Sadly, the research and clinical evidence for this comfort milk is just non-existent. These formulas cost more than normal ones too, so unless you’re really struggling and want to try something new, all roads point to this being a bit of a waste of money.
These formulas have added ingredients in them, such as corn starch, aimed at tackling the symptoms of reflux. The extra ingredients in it help thicken the milk, which apparently makes it stay in your newborn’s tummy. I say apparently, because it doesn’t seem to be backed up with research. There’s no evidence on how the extra ingredients might affect the nutrients in the baby formula itself. Your best option here is to head to your GP or health visitor to get advice on dealing with reflux. Luckily, most babies will grow out of it!
One last thing
It is worth noting that despite the additions and tweaks in all of the formulas, they conform to the same strict guidelines. That means that whilst there are differences in what’s in them, none of them are going to be harmful to your baby. None of them will be detrimental to your child. That said, all babies are different – some may take to one brand better than another. Some might just eat whatever is put in front of them without any hesitation.
Hopefully, this guide has dispelled some of the myths surrounding baby formula. It’s important to make an informed choice about which brand to go with. The bottom line is that they are all on sale because they all stand up to rigorous testing regulation. All of them do the job they were created to do.
Most importantly; whatever choice you make will be the right one for you and your little one.
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