If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your infant. Infant formulas contain adequate amounts of protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula does not contain the immune factors that are in breast milk. The immune factors that are found in breast milk can help prevent infections.
Infants who take enough iron-fortified infant formula usually do not need vitamin and mineral supplements. Fluoride is sometimes needed after 6 months of age if the water supply does not have enough fluoride. Check with your baby's physician about fluoride supplements. Types of infant formula include the following:
- cow's milk-based formula
Most infants should be able to tolerate a standard cow's milk formula such as Enfamil® with iron, Similac® with iron, or Nestlé® Carnation® Good Start®. These formulas use cow's milk as a base, but have been modeled after breast milk. These formulas have lactose as the carbohydrate (sugar) source. They are available in ready-to-feed cans, liquid concentrate, and powder.
- soy-based formulas
Soy-based infant formulas can provide adequate nutrition for your infant. Soy-based infant formulas can be used if an infant is not tolerating the sugar (lactose) found in cow's milk-based formulas. Soy formulas do not contain lactose as the sugar source. Sometimes, soy formulas are used if your infant is not tolerating cow's milk protein. However, infants who are allergic to cow's milk formula can also be allergic to soy-based formulas. Consult your baby's physician before changing your his/her formula.
- protein hydrolysates
These are special formulas usually used if your baby is unable to tolerate standard infant formula. These formulas are more expensive than standard formulas. Often these formulas are used if your baby has a cow's milk protein allergy, or if he/she is unable to digest a standard infant formula. Consult your baby's physician before using these formulas.
- low-iron formulas
Standard cow's milk-based formulas are also available in low-iron forms. Iron is a very important mineral for growth and development. A lack of iron in the diet can cause iron deficiency anemia. Many people think that the iron in formula can cause constipation. This is not true. Low-iron formulas should not be used unless recommended by your baby's physician.
Keep your baby on breast milk or infant formula until he/she is 1 year old. After this time, you may change over to whole milk. Children under 2 years should not drink skim or low-fat milk.
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