We make every attempt to provide our children with the best. Do you know what that means when it comes to infant formula? Here are six nuggets of information to consider if you’re going the formula route.
1. There is a significant monopoly in the infant formula industry, with three companies (Nestle/Gerber Good Start , Abbott/Similac, and Mead Johson/Enfamil) dominating the market.
2. The research and development arms of formula companies are on a quest to replicate breast milk. They’re slowly getting closer, but the recipe is still far from perfect.
3. Many infant formulas now contain DHA and ARA, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are linked to brain and eye development. While research shows a positive role for DHA and ARA, there is not enough information to fully understand exactly how much of or at what ratio these fatty acids should be added to formula. As a result, neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American Dietetic Association has put their stamp of approval on these products. There are also no federal requirements mandating fatty acids in formula.
4. A formula is only as good as the ingredients on its ingredient statement. That said, an examination of the long, science-y ingredient statement on a formula can may leave you confused. Keep in mind that the ingredients are an attempt to supply an infant with the protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins and minerals infants need for proper development; it’s called formula for a reason. If your formula isn’t made by a company you trust (ie, has a good sense of their supply chain), you may want to reconsider your choice.
5. The majority of store brand infant formula is made by one company: PBM Nutritionals. See the chart below for store brand formula made by PBM. PBM Nutritionals also makes Bright Beginnings, Vermont Organics and Earth’s Best formulas. It’s likely that the raw ingredients going into Parent’s Choice (Walmart), Up & Up (Target), MomtoMom (Safeway), and BabyBasics (Jewel-Osco) these formulas come from the same source.
6. All, yes, all infant formula is manufactured to meet nutrient standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritionally speaking, infant formulas aren’t really all that different from each other. They are, however, very different from breast milk, which is by far the best source of nutrition for newborns. A lot of work goes into marketing the quest to replicate breast milk, but that doesn’t make the final product an equivalent alternative.