First time parents are often confused by the many different infant formulas on the market. Infant formula breaks down into three main types: Milk-based, soy-based and specialty formulas for specific infant problems. Many brand-name formulas are also available as store brands, but you should read and compare labels to make sure that the generic brand offers the same nutritional value as the more expensive brand-name formula.
The manufacture of infant formulas was a boon to women who could not, or did not want to breastfeed. Early infant formulas were made at home using milk, corn syrup and other ingredients, but the availability of pre-made formulas ensured that babies got necessary nutrition.
Infant formulas were created to mimic breast milk. They are designed and manufactured to extremely high standards to give babies all the nutrients they need in order to thrive and grow. The specialty formulas are used to address infant digestion problems, such as lactose intolerance, sodium intolerance or to avoid acid reflux. There is even a specific formula developed for premature infants that help the child quickly gain weight.
Milk-based formulas are made from cow milk and are available as basic formula and as a predigested formula for babies that are lactose intolerant. Soy formulas are made as an alternative to milk-based formulas for babies that are lactose intolerant or for children that are raised vegetarian or vegan. The specialty formulas are only proscribed when the child has a specific health condition that neither the regular milk-based or soy formula can address properly.
Most formulas come in two forms: powder or ready-to-drink liquid. The powder form is the most popular and less expensive form. The powder comes with a scoop that allows the caregiver to precisely mix the right amount of powder with the correct amount of water to make each individual bottle.
Infant formulas give babies all the nutrition they need as each formulation has all the vitamin, minerals and other ingredients a child needs to grow. The ease of making a bottle makes the responsibility of feeding a child an experience that both parents can share.
While most babies thrive on milk-based formulas, some babies do have problems. To determine the formula that is correct for an infant, the pediatrician should be consulted before making the decision to formula feed. In some cases, a baby will start out on one type of formula and be changed to a different type several times before the right formula is found to suit the baby's individual needs.
When using powder formula, it should be made exactly according to the directions on the label. Thinning or otherwise altering the ratio of water to formula can create a severe health risk to the infant.