Medical organizations worldwide recommend breastfeeding as the gold standard for babies. If the mother decides to stop breastfeeding or supplement it with mixtures, she has to consult the doctor who will advise an infant formula, designed by specialists to support the healthy growth and development of the child.
How to Choose the Best Formula for an Infant?
When choosing an infant formula women tend to try a wide range of products. Scientists note that mothers should pay particular attention to the composition of the infant formula in order to ensure that the child receives optimal nutrition, which provides its normal growth and development.
Calcium & Vitamin D
When the baby develops, new soft tissues are formed, which require proteins, energy and other nutrients. Its skeleton grows also grows, and it requires special nutrients. Thus, calcium and phosphorus should be constantly on the diet. For good absorption of calcium, babies need vitamin D.
Iron is necessary for the formation of healthy blood cells. It is part of hemoglobin, a protein involved in the oxygen transport and storage. Despite the fact that breast milk contains a small amount of iron, it is well absorbed. In the first six months of life, before the introduction of additional foods, breastfed infants consume iron produced from the mother during the prenatal period. Therefore, iron-rich complementary foods must be introduced no later than at six months (iron deficiency can cause cognitive impairment).
Zinc is a vital mineral substance that performs a variety of functions throughout the body. Many enzymes simply cannot work without zinc. It is important both during pregnancy – for growth of the fetus, when cells are actively dividing – and after the baby’s birth. Zinc is essential for a child’s development, as it promotes growth, weight gain, and the musculoskeletal system formation. Besides, it plays an important role in maintaining the immune system.
Equally important is vitamin A (retinol). It has a positive effect on eyesight. Retinol is a molecule that “catches” the light and transmits the signal to the brain. The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness: baby normally sees when it is light, but its eyes can hardly adapt to twilight or darkness. Retinol can get into the body by itself or in the form of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is transformed into retinol in the body.
Iodine deficiency in infants can lead to severe mental retardation called cretinism. If it is stored for a long time, it often leads to irreversible consequences. It is therefore important to choose infant formula enriched with iodine. Iodine is particularly important at the age of six months, when the mixtures are replaced by solid food. If the child is breastfed, the mother should make sure her diet is rich in iodine.
Lutein is a new ingredient contained in modern infant formulas. Breast milk contains large amounts of lutein. It is a natural antioxidant synthesized by plants. People get lutein exclusively with food: the human body cannot produce it. During the prenatal period, the fetus gets lutein through the placenta, and then – with breast milk. After birth, the level of lutein in the blood of breastfed infants gets much higher. Lutein protects the retina. It selectively absorbs the most aggressive – dark blue – light spectrum and restores the lipids of the retina when exposed to oxidation. Also, lutein is a strong natural antioxidant.
Recently, the infant formula manufacturers have presented new baby food ingredients that promote a healthy digestive system. Both probiotics and prebiotics form infant intestinal microflora. These substances are contained in breast milk.
The Difference between Probiotics & Prebiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, which are similar to the bacteria of a healthy baby’s intestinal tract. They are resistant to gastric acid and get into the body with food. Prebiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that support the development of the baby’s immune system. Previously infant formulas contained either probiotics or prebiotics. Now, there are new mixtures containing breast milk and both ingredients.