Six Secrets About Infant Formula

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.

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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3 Responses to Six Secrets About Infant Formula

  1. D. L. says:

    You omit Nature’s One which is independent of the major brands and which avoids the inclusion of the Martek Biosciences’ Life’s DHA/ARA which is produced by genetically altered algae and fungus and chemically processed with bleach and hexane (a carcinogenic solvent).

    Excerpts from a Washington Post article (Obama administration bans two additives used in organic baby food) follow:

    The Obama administration announced Tuesday that two synthetic additives will no longer be permitted in infant formula or baby foods certified as organic because the widely used ingredients have not received legal approval for use in organic products.

    The additives — omega-3 fatty acid DHA and omega-6 fatty acid ARA — are present in 90 percent of organic infant formulas and are marketed as promoting brain and eye development in ways that mimic breast milk.

    The fatty acids in formula are often produced using a potential neurotoxin known as hexane, prompting many organics advocates to conclude that the regulatory National Organic Standards Board would not approve their use if it took up the matter.

  2. Debbie says:

    This is great to know. It can get so confusing with so many formulas out there.

  3. Monica Brady says:

    Yes, Breast Milk is most definitely the best choice for baby, but when mothers have to use formula the costs can be outrageous… But they don’t have to be.

    I honestly recommend Parent’s Choice, or really any store brand infant formula. You will save so much money, in some cases up to 50% off the national name brand. All infant formula manufacturers are regulated by the FDA and required to make their formulas following such strict nutritional guidelines. All of the formulas are made nutritionally equal. If you can, do what we did. Take a can of each formula from the shelf and compare the labels. You’ll find that their nutritional facts and ingredients are almost identical.
    In fact, PBM, the makers of many of the store brand infant formulas won a major lawsuit against Mead Johnson, makers of Enfamil. Enfamil had published claims that their formula was the best nutritionally. Based on the FDA’s regulations/requirements, the courts agreed with PBM’s false advertising claim and awarded them $13M. So if you’re concerned about store brands not being as good as the more expensive national name brands, you can rest easy knowing that if you do use the store brands, your baby is getting the best nutrition possible from a formula, and you’re saving a bunch of money that can be used to purchase other baby necessities!

    Breast milk is by far the best option, but if you can’t for whatever reason, you can still be tighter on the budget and not have to worry about your baby not getting what they need from formula.

    Check out Parent’s Choice’s savings calculator and see the price difference!

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