Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kabrita. All opinions are my own.
I am writing this post within weeks of our third child being born. It feels so strange to be over two years past when I went through the experiences shared in this very personal post. Now, I am going into this next postpartum season with so much hope and yet so much unknown over some of the issues we faced then, like:
Will my son be able to breastfeed, especially if we catch a potential tongue and lip-tie early enough this time?
If I can’t successfully nurse, is exclusively pumping realistic a THIRD time around?
If I need to supplement with formula, do I know what options are currently on the market that the dietitian-mom in me can feel confident offering my own child?
As I know almost every mom in history can attest to, this season comes with some anxieties over what we can and can’t control. One thing I have come to embrace more now than when we had our first child though is that, as moms, we can only control the controllables.
When it comes to breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination to the two, my dietitian mom pride has already been shot down, heart torn, and body ravaged over what I just couldn’t control (read more here). That’s why I am entering into my third postpartum season with more understanding, resources, and proactive approaches to promote the chances that things will go smoother with feeding our son than it did with either of our daughters.
Even still, I know that supplementing with formula might still be necessary.
This article will help to highlight three key considerations to evaluate if/when there is a need to supplement with infant formula.
In this post, I will share how personally and professionally I scrutinize the choice of which infant formula(s) might be best for my family. Specifically, there are three main arms I focus on when looking for an infant formula:
The nutritional attributes and how it models those of breastmilk
The quality and safety of the options available on the market
The company’s transparency and mission to supporting both moms and babies with making the best informed decision available
Nutritional Attributes - what to look for!
As addressed in a post I previously wrote, “What is the Best Infant Formula” (shared here in January 2017), there are different ingredients in infant formula to compare and contrast. All baby formula is modeled after the nutrition delivered in breast milk but you want to be sure that your formula uses ingredients also modeled after important breast milk attributes.
Lactose is the primary carbohydrate found in breastmilk and the optimal carbohydrate source used in infant formulas. In some formulas, parents may notice use of other less-expensive carbohydrate sources like corn syrup or glucose solids (used instead of, or in addition to lactose). Ideally, parents want to select a formula (like Kabrita) that uses lactose as the primary (and preferably only) carbohydrate.
Breastmilk has two main forms of protein: whey and casein. While breastmilk has a whey:casein ratio of 60:40 (more whey), cow and goat milk both have less whey than casein proteins. In order to best simulate the proteins naturally occuring in breastmilk, parents should consider a formula with added whey. Kabrita, for example, uses a goat milk protein as the base with added goat whey to make it closer to breastmilk and even easier to digest.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are fatty acids critical for an infant’s brain, eye, and neurological development. Both are abundant in breastmilk and are added to many US baby formulas. While there is some controversy around the process by which they are extracted, a good article and video from Baby Formula Expert can be found here for families who might have questions or concerns about the fatty acids in formula. Given their importance for brain health, I look for a baby formula with DHA and ARA.
In the post “What is the Best Infant Formula,” I spoke at length about the digestibility of different infant formulas. One type of formula I did not include at the time was goat milk formula, like Kabrita. In a recent study, goat milk formula digested at a rate closer to breast milk (when compared to cow’s milk formulas). Unlike most formulas made with cow’s milk, those made with goat milk do not need to be treated/hydrolyzed in order to be “easier to digest”.
Safety and Quality
In terms of quality, many parents are opting to use European Infant formulas here in the United States (like HiPP or Holle). While European formulas do often using higher standards than many of those in the US. the concern is that they do not have their ingredients, vitamin content, nor shipping standards regulated by the FDA. Parents should heed extra caution when ordering such products from Europe, or consider a product like Kabrita that offers a European-quality product and is sold legally in the US.
Safety is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a formula for your little one. For safety reasons, I strongly advise against homemade baby formula. Breastmilk or a regulated infant formula are the best options during your child's first year of life. If you are curious about my recommendations for safe cow milk alternatives for toddlers, you can review them here.
A Company’s Transparency and Mission
Whichever formula you choose, be sure to research the company so that you can feel confident in your choice. Ideally, parents should feel that a brand is transparent about the ingredients and manufacturing processes they utilize, while also aiming to educate and empower parents in their decision of which formula to use.
Parents can find out a lot of information about a formula by searching their website, particularly for their About and FAQ pages, as well as information on the ingredients and research that the company has conducted. I find the FAQ page on Kabrita’s site particularly informative and a good resource for comparison's sake when evaluating what other formula companies are sharing (or not) on their websites. I also value that Kabrita is a women-run company, led by Moms!
We already have standing appointments with a pediatric dentist (for a frenectomy evaluation), lactation consultant (who specializes in post-frenectomies, should that be needed), and a wildly-recommended breast pump (courtesy of our insurance company). Even still, it helps me to welcome this coming season of feeding a newborn with more ease to know that I am both educated and empowered about what options I have when it comes to infant formula - should I need to utilize it. I hope this post will also provide you with the same peace of mind over such a decision.