What’s the Formula? A Practical Guide to Navigating the World of Baby Formula

by Brood

Welcome to the world of baby formula – a topic that might seem overwhelming at first glance. If you’re a parent-to-be or someone interested in or needing to formula feed, we’re here to break it down for you. Let’s dive into the facts about baby formula, decode things like the  ‘Gold’ and ‘Gentle’ labels, and compare North American and European brands and pricing.
The Basics of Formula Feeding

Baby formula is designed to mimic human milk as closely as possible, providing essential nutrients for infants under 12 months old. The Codex Alimentarius, a set of food standards governed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, oversees the international regulation of baby formula. Additional country-specific guidelines can influence formula composition, but it’s important to note that baby formula is one of the most rigorously regulated food products globally, having undergone significant improvements in recent decades.

Decoding the Formula

The Codex mandates 30 essential nutrients in all baby formulas, including vitamins and minerals. These requirements ensure that every formula contains the right proportions of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for your baby’s growth. Typically, cow’s milk protein forms the base, with a mix of whey and casein. While cow’s milk protein comes in two variants, A1 and A2, A1 milk contains an extra amino acid that produces a peptide called BCM7, which can cause digestive issues for some individuals. A2 milk, found in goats and select cow breeds, lacks this problematic amino acid, making it a more digestion-friendly choice.

Fats and Carbohydrates

Fats in baby formulas are often a blend of vegetable oils and naturally occurring fats found in animal milks. Some formulas now include long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), both found in human milk.

Carbohydrates in most formulas mirror lactose, the primary carbohydrate in human milk. Some U.S. brands may use alternative sugars, but European formulas consistently rely on lactose. Lactose intolerance in babies is rare, and any digestive issues are usually linked to milk protein.

Vitamins and More

Baby formulas are fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals, including A, B, C, D, and E, to support your baby’s growth. Additionally, iron, calcium, and phosphorus are included to bolster bone and teeth development. Prebiotics in formulas mimic those in human milk, promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.

Price Points and Options

The diversity in formula types, including organic, non-organic, hypoallergenic, A2, and soy formulas, explains the variation in price points. Each caters to specific needs and preferences, from organic enthusiasts to budget-conscious parents. With anything, and especially with non-dairy or vegan options, we suggest you speak to your pediatrician or healthcare provider to discuss what’s best for you and your baby. 

‘Gentle’ and ‘Gold’ Labels

Labels like ‘Gentle’ denote formulas with partially hydrolyzed milk, suitable for babies with sensitive stomachs, colic, or milk allergies. ‘Gold’ signifies formulas enriched with additional nutrients, such as omega-3 oils, supporting brain development and nutrition.

Choosing between powder and liquid baby formula

The decision between powder and liquid infant formula primarily hinges on individual preferences, considering factors such as affordability, convenience, and your baby’s specific health considerations. Powdered formula tends to be the most budget-friendly choice, whereas ready-to-use liquid formula is typically the costliest. It’s important to note that powdered formula is not sterile, making liquid formula a potentially safer choice for infants under 2 months old, premature infants, or those with compromised immune systems. Read more about this in this article. 

North American vs. European Formulas: Key Differences

European brands adhere to stricter regulations compared to the Codex. They exclusively use lactose, avoid corn syrup, and set specific DHA levels while prohibiting starch and pesticides. European formulas also categorize their products into Stage 1 (0-6 months) and Stage 2 (6-12 months), adjusting the whey and casein ratios for baby’s evolving needs.

In Summary: A Nutritional Win for Babies

In conclusion, all baby formulas are carefully designed to provide essential nutrients for your baby’s healthy development. Whether you prioritize cost, specific nutrients, or personal choice, you can rest assured that your baby is in good hands. Say goodbye to the formula maze, and embark on your feeding journey with confidence! 

For more information on bottle feeding, nursing and more, check out our online course Feeding & Your Baby where we deep dive into all the amazing ways we connect with our babies, our bodies, and food.



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