Although breast milk is the best form of nutrition for babies, there are times when breast feeding is not an option and many parents and caregivers turn to baby formula. Formula comes in liquid, liquid concentrate, or powder form, and can serve as the primary source of nutrition, vitamins, and iron in the first months and sometimes years of a child’s life. It is a safe, healthy substitute for breast milk and, contrary to some reports, feeding an infant with formula does not have to take away from the bonding process between mother and child.
Baby formula was invented in the mid-1800s by Swiss chemist Henri Nestle. When Nestle encountered a mother who was unable to breast feed her premature baby, he created a mixture to feed the child. He called his baby formula Farine Lactee Nestle. Today, there are a large variety of companies that make and distribute formula. All that is sold in the United States must meet the strict standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Many types of baby formula are available and the choice can be daunting to the new parents of a tiny infant. It is available with or without iron, with or without cow’s milk, and there is formula that is soy-based. Sometimes, it is labeled to have specific vitamins added. As if this weren’t enough, there are countless brands from which to choose. Every baby is unique in his or her needs, so parents and caregivers should check with their baby’s pediatrician to find out which type is best for their baby.
When preparing baby formula, parents should sterilize the bottles and nipples thoroughly. If a concentrated formula is being used, water should be boiled for at least one minute before mixing it in with the concentrate. Babies normally nurse until they have had enough. Parents should begin by putting 3-4 ounces (89-118 ml) of baby formula into a bottle; most likely the baby will not finish the bottle. If the baby does empty the bottle, parents should prepare a larger amount for the next feeding.
While there are many homemade baby formula recipes, the FDA, as well as most health care professionals, does not recommend that parents make it at home.