Breastmilk is the best source of nutrients for your baby. When, for whatever reason, your baby cannot be fed with breastmilk, infant formula is the best alternative. Infant formula contains all the required nutrients for a growing baby.
Proper storage and preparation of infant formula are important to reduce the risk of infections for your baby.
Health experts recommend breast milk as the best source of nutrition for infants. However, where breastmilk is unavailable, infant formula is the best alternative. When choosing infant formula, make sure that you choose the correct age range for the baby, that you choose a reputable brand and that the product has not passed its expiry date. Using infant formula is an option in the following circumstances:
- When you are unable to produce (enough) breastmilk or when you have a breast infection.
- When you are unable to breastfeed due to a medical condition.
- When you are unwilling to breastfeed your baby for personal reasons.
Advantages of using infant formula are:
- Anyone can prepare infant formula with ease by following the manufacturer's instructions. This reduces the burden of feeding on the mother and allows for her partner or someone else to help with feeding.
- Infant formula feed reduces the pressure on the mother to fit her schedule around feeding her baby.
- Women who choose to use infant formula do not have to worry about their diet, as the formula contains the nutrients required by the baby.
Disadvantages of infant formula are:
- Infant formula feed costly and breast milk is free.
- Infant formal does not contain the antibodies that are found in breastmilk. These antibodies protect the baby from infections.
- The baby's digestive system needs time to break down infant formula. Breastmilk is easier to digest for babies.
- Using infant formula requires planning, preparation and utensils (e.g. bottle, warmer), while breastmilk is readily available.
- If not appropriately prepared or stored, infant formula may be contaminated and cause infections to the baby.
Safety is vital when using infant formula. It must be stored at the right temperature and prepared under sterile conditions to prevent contaminations and subsequent infections. Take the following steps to prepare infant formula safely:
- Check the expiry date. Do not use the infant formula of the product has passed the expiry date.
- Make sure that the formula's colour and consistency have not changed.
- Wash your hands with water and soap before preparing infant formula.
- Make sure that the area where you prepare the infant formula is clean.
- Ensure the bottle and teat that you use has been sterilized. If possible, boil the bottle and teat for five minutes before preparing the formula.
- Boil the water that you use to prepare the infant formula and let it cool until it is lukewarm.
- Read instructions that come with the infant to see how much formula and water are required.
- When done mixing the formula and water, shake the bottle vigorously.
- If the contents of the bottle are still hot, cool to feeding temperature by putting the bottle in cold water. Make sure to check the temperature before feeding the infant. Put a few drops from the bottle on the back of your hand to test.
- Once you have finished feeding your baby, throw away whatever infant formula is left in the bottle. Do not reuse it.
You may choose to use infant formula to feed your baby. It is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages before staring to use infant formula. Make sure that you choose the right infant formula for your baby and take precautions when storing and preparing infant formula. If you have any questions or concerns about using infant formula, talk to your healthcare provider or midwife.