Are certain formula milk brands better for baby?

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital experts address pressing questions on whether some formula milk brands offer more benefits than others.

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One huge decision new parents must make early in their parenting journey is what type of milk to feed their newborn.

What are the benefits of breastmilk versus formula milk? Is one formula milk brand better than another?

Natalie Goh, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital’s chief dietitian, and Loh Lee Lian, lactation consultant at Mount Elizabeth Hospital answer your questions.

Is breastfeeding or formula milk feeding better for my baby?
Breastmilk is the best for babies. It is uniquely tailored to the needs of the infant and the nutrients in breastmilk are constantly changing to meet the baby’s developing needs. It also contains factors that promote the development of the baby’s immune system, helping to protect the baby against infection and inflammation. Breastmilk is also easier to digest.

In addition, breastfeeding helps to promote bonding between the mother and child. It is also economical and convenient. However, if breastfeeding is not possible, for instance, due to medical reasons, infant formula milk is a reasonable alternative.

Formula milk has the known nutrients of breastmilk added to its contents. However, its overall composition is not the same as breastmilk. But it is enough to meet the normal nutritional needs of a non-breastfed infant.

How long are mothers encouraged to breastfeed exclusively?
Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed babies exclusively for at least 6 months, and longer if possible. Only when breastfeeding is not possible due to medical reasons, would mothers be advised to supplement with formula milk.

Formula milk has the known nutrients of breastmilk added to its contents. However, its overall composition is not the same as breastmilk.

Mothers experiencing difficulty breastfeeding are encouraged to consult a lactation consultant or a doctor for advice. This also helps to determine whether there is a need to introduce formula milk.

Parents should monitor their baby’s growth and consult their doctor or dietitian for advice on feeding.

Does spending more on a particular brand of formula milk mean that your child is getting better nutrition? Click through!

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Are there differences between formula milk brands?
The contents in regular milk infant formula are similar among major brands. However, in certain brands, some nutrients may be present in greater amounts. For example, most brands contain the nutrients docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA or ARA), which are thought to be important for brain development ― although the amount of these nutrients may vary across brands. There are no scientifically-proven benefits of one brand over another, or any scientific studies to show that certain milk formula brands are better for the child’s development than others.

All infant formula sold in Singapore must meet the standards and requirements of the AVA Sale of Food Act and Food Regulation guidelines. This includes the minimum and maximum nutrient composition in an infant formula. This ensures that all infant formula sold are safe and nutritionally adequate to meet the normal requirements of infants who are not breastfed.

If I switch baby formula brands, will my baby suffer any side effects during the transition?
It depends on the baby’s individual tolerance. If there are side effects, it is usually due to particular ingredients in the new milk formula that the baby is unable to tolerate or digest, and not likely because of the transition.

In certain brands, some nutrients may be present in greater amounts.


Is there a difference between infant formula versus fresh cow’s milk for babies?
Infant formula is made to suit the physiological needs of infants. Infants should not be fed fresh cow's milk as the nutritional composition has not been modified to suit infants’ needs. Fresh cow's milk should only be introduced after 1 year of age.

Must infants take different formulas for different development stages?
The nutrient requirements may vary depending on the age of the infants. Mothers are advised to use products according to their age-specific recommendations, unless they have been advised otherwise. The marketing of different formulas specific to development stages may be part of advertisement strategies by milk formula companies. Scientific evidence should be supplied by the manufacturers.

To sum up, how can parents pick the right milk for their babies?
The growth and development of a child depends on many factors. Breastmilk is always best for babies, but if breastfeeding is not possible, formula feeding is the next best alternative to breast milk. There is no scientific evidence for the benefits of one milk formula brand over another. Whichever way you choose to feed your baby, the most important thing is to give your child adequate feeding, care and love.

Photos: iStock

This article was from Health Plus, an online health and wellness web resource developed by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.

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