By Dan Galka, MD, Pediatric Partners at Valley View
Today I want to continue our conversation on feeding your baby. Last time we talked about breast milk and breastfeeding and its benefits. If you would like to breastfeed, then you should try. However, if you decide to feed your baby formula, THAT’S OK!
There are many reasons that a family would want to feed their baby formula. One main reason is that sometimes a mom’s body doesn’t produce the milk, whether due to hormones, surgery, nutrition or simply patience, especially in those first few days.
Before we dive into formula, let’s review a little about breast milk. Breast milk comes, on average, 72 hours after your baby is born. In the first 72 hours, a mom’s body generally doesn’t produce milk, only colostrum. I remind moms, whether this is their first or fifteenth baby, that this is normal. It is important to remember that breast milk is supply and demand; if there is no demand – meaning putting the baby to the breast – there will be no supply.
Now back to formula. If you decide to feed your baby formula, walking through the formula aisle at the store can be an overwhelming experience. There are many choices which can be expensive. So which one is the best? The answer is they all are. Formula tries to replicate breast milk as best that it can. Every year they are getting closer to that goal. From a calorie, nutrient and even from an immune system standpoint, it continues to get better. Sometimes a baby will not like a particular formula. This can be for a number of reasons; you may find a similar formula in another brand that works just fine. This is the big reason why I generally recommend a family stay on the same formula for the entire first year.
While there are many different brand choices, the two most popular brands are Enfamil and Similac. They both offer similar products and are very reputable. All companies offer a baseline formula similar to Enfamil NeuroPro or Similac Pro Advance that will be good for almost all babies. These baseline formulas have a special protein – abbreviated MGFM – that helps support brain development.
Different formulas try to address different needs. For babies who are extra fussy, or spitty, or irritable while eating, a formula with the same proteins that is modified to be easier to digest, like Enfamil’s Gentlease and Similac’s Pro-Sensitive, may be beneficial. Both are marketed to “fix” spit-up and fussy infants and may improve gassiness and spit up. Keep in mind there are different reasons for a baby to spit-up or be fussy; do not expect this to stop all spit-up or fussiness, but it may be worth a try.
The last formula that I want to discuss is hydrolyzed formulas. In these formulas, the proteins are broken up into the individual building blocks called amino acids. Enfamil’s Neutramogen and Similac’s Alimentum can be used for milk protein intolerance. I’ve seen it used for colic (this is a whole other topic that I will cover in a future blog), gastroesophageal reflux, and even in severe cases for eczema. Do not start this formula without talking to your pediatrician first. There may be other treatments or recommendations to try before switching to an expensive formula that your baby may not need.
There are many formulas out there. Some brands focus on gas or reflux, others focus on colic, while others focus on constipation. The further you stray from the basic formula, the less like breast milk they get. The main goal with all formulas is to mimic breast milk as close as possible. As always, if there are any questions regarding formula selection – talk about it with your pediatrician.
General Rules of Thumb
- Once you find a formula that works, don’t change!
- More expensive/fancier packaging does not mean better
- Formula changes poops – generally more sticky and thicker, sometimes less often
- Follow mixing instructions – sounds silly, but too much water or too much powder change the formula
- Gas is normal – don’t necessarily expect a change in formula to eliminate gas
Dan Galka, MD is a board-certified pediatrician at Valley View’s Pediatric Partners. Born and raised in upstate New York, he earned his medical degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) and its Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook. He completed a pediatric residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. After eight years’ active duty in the Navy as a lieutenant commander and primary care physician, he moved his family from North Carolina to Glenwood Springs. Dr. Galka’s patient care philosophy is to put the kids first. He enjoys getting to know both his patients and families equally and enjoys running into them at the grocery store in this small community. Outside of work, aside from being a Star Wars nerd, he enjoys family time, cycling and competing in triathlons. He is currently welcoming new patients of all ages, birth to 18, in Glenwood Springs, Silt and Willits in Basalt.
To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 970.947.9999.