Breastfeeding your baby remains the healthiest choice when deciding what to feed him/her. Sometimes, however, mothers are unable to nurse their infants for as long as they would like. Unfortunately, finding a formula to use in place of breast milk, is not as easy as picking a random one from the grocery aisle.
The Case for Formulas Based on Cow’s Milk
Most pediatricians recommend that infants be given a formula that is based on cow’s milk to ensure that baby gets enough protein and other nutrients. Most babies can tolerate these types of formulas very well. Sometimes, however, your infant may have a food intolerance, allergy or other special health condition that makes it necessary to choose a formula that uses a different protein, other than cow’s milk, as its base.
Evidence That Soy-Based Formulas are Well Tolerated by Babies
Infant formulas based on soy plant protein have become a popular choice when it comes time to feeding a baby. Soy formulas are also normally well tolerated by infants, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that these formulas may help reduce gas, colic, and fussiness in babies that have a true intolerance to cow’s milk. Despite this, some parents and pediatricians alike have concerns that soy formulas may not be a healthy substitute for either breast milk or cow milk based formulas.
Why Some Question Safety of Soy-Based Formulas
In 2004, a study conducted at Arkansas Children’s Research Center indicated that soy-based formulas are generally considered safe for infants to use. However, a study carried out in 2010, and published in the journal Early Childhood Development, found that electrical activity in the brain is different for babies that are fed breast milk rather than formula. While no definitive proof exists, some believe that the reason for the difference is because soy-based formulas lack lactose, which breaks down into a simple sugar that can be easily used by the brain for energy.
Other healthcare professionals have voiced concerns that the phytoestrogens, in the form of isoflavones, naturally present in soy might affect the development of baby’s reproductive organs. A study conducted in 2010 and published in the Journal of Pediatrics, did find that there were some deviations in the size of the ovaries and testicles at four months of age. While definitive proof remains elusive due to the scale of these studies, based on current evidence, it is likely that soy formulas are a safe alternative for your baby when they are recommended by your doctor.
What if I Can’t Breast Feed and My Baby Can’t Tolerate Formulas Based on Cow’s Milk or Soy?
Of course, there are other infant formulas on the market that obtain protein from other sources besides cow’s milk or the soy plant. These recipes include elemental formulas that are Amino Acid based and extensively hydrolyzed.
Where to Turn for the Best Baby Formula Advice
Regardless of which infant formula that you choose, you should start with the one that your baby’s doctor recommends. Since there is some evidence that suggests switching formula can increase fussiness and might make it more difficult for your baby to feed, you should only change it when the doctor approves switching protein bases, or brands.