What is in Breast Milk & Infant Formula?

Breast milk and infant formula are the only safe and recommended methods for infant nutrition as they both allow for healthy growth and development during this critical time. Whether a parent decides to breastfeed exclusively, formula feed, or use a combination of both, they should be supported and have access to the information they need when making their decision.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by a year, or longer (as mutually desired by mother and child), of continued breastfeeding feeding as complementary foods are introduced.

Breast milk is the preferred source of nutrition for infants, containing nutrients and ingredients that support healthy growth and development as well as a healthy immune system. As a child grow’s, a mother’s breast milk changes in composition, from colostrum to transitional milk and finally to mature milk.

AAP and INCA recommend exclusively breastfed infants receive vitamin D supplements which support strong, healthy bones.

[Some of the] Nutritional Components of Breast Milk:

  • Carbohydrates (including Sugar) – Provide calories for energy and are necessary for an infant’s growth and development. Lactose is the main naturally occurring carbohydrate (sugar) in breast milk and accounts for almost half of the total calories provided by breast milk.

    Lactose helps decrease unhealthy stomach bacteria, improving a child’s intake of phosphorous, calcium and magnesium.

  • Fats/Lipids – Certain fats/lipids such as DHA and ARA are essential for brain development and a primary source of calories. DHA is particularly required for the development of the cerebral cortex and plays a vital function in developing visual sharpness. ARA is an important precursor for modulators/mediators of a variety of essential biological processes such as blood pressure regulation and regulation of sleep/wake cycle.

  • Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) – One of the largest components of breast milk, this natural prebiotic help support development of a healthy gut and immune system.

  • Protein – Breast milk contains two types of protein: whey and casein. Although the exact amount may vary, breast milk contains more whey protein than casein, which creates balance that allows for easy digestion. Proteins provide the necessary components to build and repair the body’s tissues.

  • Vitamins and minerals – Essential in the metabolism of energy nutrients. Minerals play an important part in bone structure, regulate certain body functions and, together with water, help maintain the body’s water balance. The types and amount of vitamins in a mother’s breast milk directly reflect a mother’s diet. Essential vitamins and minerals for infants include vitamins A, C, D, E and K, zinc and phosphorous.

All commercial infant formulas are designed to provide babies with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Infant formula is more highly regulated than other foods on the market and must comply with specific labeling requirements that are more comprehensive than the Nutrition Facts label you find on other foods. Infant formula manufacturers must declare total carbohydrates on the product label’s nutrient panel. Individual carbohydrates are provided on the product label’s ingredient list.

For infants who are fed infant formula, manufacturers strive to provide an alternative that is as close as possible in composition and performance to human milk. This includes selecting ingredients for their ability to meet nutritional targets, assure product quality, and support optimal growth and development. U.S. infant formulas are required by law to contain 29 essential nutrients to ensure they support healthy infant growth.

Types Of Ingredients In Infant Formula:

  • Carbohydrates/Sugar – Provide calories for energy and are necessary for an infant’s growth and development. Lactose is a naturally occurring carbohydrate or sugar that is present in milk (including breast milk).Some formulas are manufactured with carbohydrates other than lactose to provide nutritious alternatives when feeding an infant formula containing lactose results in tolerance issues. Because carbohydrates are essential in the diet, in these formulas, other carbohydrates such as maltodextrin or sucrose may be used to replace some or all of the lactose to maintain a carbohydrate level similar to human milk.All of these carbohydrates used in infant formulas have been shown through clinical studies and many years of use to be safe and to support normal growth and development in infants.

  • Fats/Lipids – Certain fats/lipids such as DHA and ARA, both present in breast milk, are essential for brain development and a primary source of calories. DHA is particularly required for the development of the cerebral cortex and plays a vital function in developing visual sharpness. ARA is an important precursor for modulators/mediators of a variety of essential biological processes such as blood pressure regulation and regulation of sleep/wake cycle.

  • Human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) – One of the largest components of breast milk, this natural prebiotic helps improve development of an infant’s gut health and support a healthy immune system.In recent years, breakthroughs in science allow infant formula manufacturers to now replicate HMOs in infant formula.

  • Protein – Provide the necessary components to build and repair the body’s tissues.

  • Vitamins and minerals – Essential in the metabolism of energy nutrients. Minerals play an important part in bone structure, regulate certain body functions and, together with water, help maintain the body’s water balance. Essential vitamins for infants include vitamins A, C, D, E and K, zinc and phosphorous.

Iron Fortification
Numerous research studies demonstrate that iron fortification is critical to prevent iron deficiency anemia in formula fed infants. For infants who do not receive human milk, iron-fortified infant formula is the only alternative that ensures an infant will receive the full range of nutrients needed for healthy growth and development.

DHA and ARA
U.S. infant formulas also contain docosahexanoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), two nutritional fatty acids that are found in breast milk and which are considered “building blocks” for the development of brain and eye tissue. DHA and ARA are added to infant formulas based on the levels present in breast milk. This practice is supported by many government and non-governmental health organizations worldwide.

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