What’s In Baby Formula?
Baby formulas are designed to provide all the essential nutrients to support an infant’s growth and development when breast milk is not available. Infant formula Ingredients list and the Nutrition Information Panel on the tin will give you information you will need to know about what is in the specific baby formula you are using.
Most formulas are based on cow’s milk that has extra nutrients added to meet the specific needs of a human baby. Any type of fresh milk (e.g. cow, soy, goat), or home-made baby formula is NOT recommended for babies under 12 months and can lead to serious nutritional and growth problems. Always speak with your healthcare professional if you have questions on your baby’s feeding.
For formula-fed babies, until they start solid foods they will rely solely on baby formula for their nutrition. A starter stage “1” baby formula provides your baby with necessary nutrients needed to grow and develop. These nutrient levels are set by our government and for those of you who love a bit of jargon – specifically it’s the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC), set out by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), that mandates the levels of nutrients present in baby formula.
What are the ingredients in infant formula?
For baby formula products, FSC - Standard 2.9.1 includes the list of baby formula ingredients required for your baby’s growth and development. In addition to essential nutrients, there may be additional ‘optional ingredients’ that are present in baby formulas that may set one formula apart from another. These ‘optional ingredients’ may offer a nutritional benefit.
Below, is a list of the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals that are required by law as baby formula ingredients, as well as the ‘optional ingredients’ that may be added, and that you may see in some baby formulas on the market in Australia.
- Carbohydrate – Lactose is the natural carbohydrate in breast milk and most baby formulas. For a baby with diagnosed lactose intolerance, a baby formula for lactose intolerance can be used. Consult your health care professional before changing from your current formula.
- Protein – Whey and casein are the two main proteins found in both breast milk and baby formulas. Breast milk contains both whey protein and casein, but the ratio of whey to casein protein varies throughout the feeding, and over the first year of life. Most infant formulas and follow-on formulas in Australia are whey-dominant, with infant formulas usually having higher whey concentrations than follow-on formulas. Partially hydrolysed whey protein is adapted cow’s milk protein that has been chopped up into smaller pieces.
- Fat – An excellent source of energy for growing babies. Low-fat foods should not be used for children under the age of 2 years.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
*Chromium and molybdenum is essential only if an infant formula product has a specific dietary use based on a protein substitute
- Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. Omega 3 fatty acids)
- Probiotic – L(+) lactic acid producing cultures (e.g. Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri)
- Prebiotics – Breastmilk contains Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). Infant formulas may contain some of these oligosaccharides that are identical in structure (e.g. 2’-FL and LNnT). Other permitted oligosaccharides that are not identical to those in breast milk may include inulin-type fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.
If you would like more information about what these nutrients do for your growing baby, a dietitian, or other health care professional with nutrition expertise will be the best person to help you decipher what they do for your baby in relation to their growth and development.