Baby formula vs. breast milk. The debate has raged ever since baby formula became an option for mothers. For many moms, however, there simply isn’t a choice. Whether they can’t produce breast milk, or they are on medications that are harmful for their baby, formula is the only option.
There are other reasons many moms choose formula, and because of that, it’s a good thing that baby formula is so much better than it once was. The ingredients, the science behind making formula, and its availability, have certainly come a long way since the late 19thcentury. This is when a German chemist by the name of Justus Von Liebig created and patented the first brands of infant formula.
Baby Formula in Its Earliest Stages
Upon making some of the first baby food in 1867, Liebig claimed that it was nearly identical to breast milk. Made of cow’s milk, potassium carbonate, wheat flour, and malt flour, it didn’t take long before people realized it did not meet the high standards of breast milk.
Liebig’s concoction failed to meet the digestive needs of babies, resulting in many of them dying from malnourishment.
The Evolution of Baby Formula
In desperation, physicians and mothers began experimenting with homemade formulas made with cow’s milk, water, cream, and sugar. Still, babies continued to die from lack of proper nutrition. In 1910, evaporated milk came upon the scene with the medical community touting it to be just as good as breast milk. By 1950, over half of the babies in the country were being raised on formula with evaporated milk as the main ingredient.
During the 1960s, a variety of commercial baby formulas began replacing ones made with evaporated milk. After discovering babies could not easily digest the protein found in cow’s milk, baby food manufacturers began producing improved formulas that contained easy-to-digest proteins with the appropriate whey/casein ratios.
Modern Day Baby Formula
According to regulations put in place by the FDA, manufacturers of baby formula are required to include certain nutrients and ingredients including protein, fat, calcium, niacin, potassium chloride, carbohydrates, and specific vitamins and minerals. The formula must also contain nucleotides, which are natural compounds found in breast milk.
Today, there are a wide variety of baby formulas that parents can choose from. Some of the most common ones include formulas with added rice, which help babies who struggle with reflux, lactose-free formulas for babies who are lactose intolerant, formulas made with soy, and specially made formulas for premature babies.
Organic baby formula is also becoming an extremely popular option. These types of formulas are made with all-natural ingredients and don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, or artificial preservatives. Also, the cows and goats from which the milk of organic baby food is made don’t receive any growth hormones or antibiotics, and eat only organically-grown food.