Infant formula

From Academic Kids

Missing image
An infant being fed by bottle.

Infant formula is an industrially produced milk product designed for infant consumption. Usually based on either cow or soy milk, infant formula strives to duplicate the nutrient content of natural human breast milk. Since the exact chemical properties of breast milk are still unknown, 'formula' is necessarily an imperfect approximation. Its use, particularly in the third world, is somewhat contentious.

Besides breast milk, infant formula is the only other infant milk which the medical community considers nutritionally acceptable for infants under the age of one year. Cow's milk is not recommended because of its high protein and electrolyte (salt) content which may put a strain on an infant's immature kidneys. Evaporated milk, although perhaps easier to digest due to the processing of the protein, is still nutritionally inadequate.


Nutrient content

Most of the world's supply of infant formula is produced in the United States. The nutrient content is regulated by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. The following must be included in all formulas produced in the U.S.:

In addition, formulas not made with cow's milk must include:


Infant formula is available in powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed forms, which are prepared in small batches and fed to the infant with either a baby bottle or cup. It is very important to measure powders or concentrates accurately to achieve the intended final product. It is advisable that all equipment that comes into contact with the infant formula be cleaned and sterilized before each use. Proper refrigeration is essential for any infant formula which is prepared in advance, since milk is especially susceptible to bacterial growth. Powdered, cow's milk-based infant formulas are not recommended for premature or sick infants, or for infants under one month of age. Powdered infant formulas are not sterile and may be contaminated with Enterobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that may lead to neonatal meningitis, sepsis and necrotizing entercolitis in infants with weak or compromised immune systems.


The first infant formula was developed by Henri Nestlé in the 1860s in response to the high mortality rate among infants in Switzerland in foundling homes. It was a combination of cow's milk and cereals and was called Farine Lactee. Infant formula became increasingly popular in developed countries during the 20th century as an alternative to breastfeeding. The medical community supported the use of infant formula because it erroneously believed that artificial feeding could be more easily monitored and the nutrient content of the milk ensured.

The post World War II "Baby Boom" provided a market for the expanding infant formula industry. Between the years of 1946 and 1956, the incidence of breastfeeding was halved in the United States, leaving only 25% of infants still being breastfed at the time of hospital discharge. During the 1960s, when birth rates tapered off, some infant formula companies began marketing campaigns in non-industrialized countries. Unfortunately, poor sanitation led to increased mortality rates among infants fed formula prepared with contaminated (drinking) water. Organized protests, the most famous of which was the Nestlé boycott of 1977, called for the end to unethical marketing. The boycott is still in effect due to unethical marketing in the United States and many other nations.

In more recent years the use of infant formula, even in developed countries, has come under scrutiny. Infant formula use has been shown to instigate and aggravate several infant conditions including allergies, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, middle ear infections, and several bacterial infections. It has also been linked to decreased cognitive development. Infant formulas, like other food products, are the subject of recalls, usually due to bacterial contamination. Though infant formula is available without a prescription, it is generally recommended that its use be under the supervision of a medical professional and only after a complete consultation with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to correct any breastfeeding difficulties and misperceptions.

Recent trends

Initiatives have begun to encourage a resurgence of breastfeeding mothers. As a result of the WHO Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substances, infant formula companies are now required to preface their product information with statements such as the following from Nestlé: "Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use an infant formula consult your doctor or clinic for advice". [1] (

Infant formula remains an infant feeding option. The baby bottle has become a very visible part of Western culture, and increasingly, of other developed and developing nations. Unfortunately, this ubiquitious image leads many people to believe that bottles and infant formula are necessary to parenting an infant, regardless of the fact that they are not.

Recently in China, children died of malnutrition after being fed fake infant formula. The authorities are investigating.


Major infant formula manufacturers include:

See also

External links


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