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On Nutrition: Infant formula do’s and don’ts

Baby holding a bottle.
In a real pinch, the AAP recently (and cautiously) approved cow’s milk for a brief period of time (not more than one week) in babies who are 7 to 12 months of age. Because cow’s milk does not contain as much iron as infant formula, make sure to feed your infant plenty of iron-containing foods such as meat or iron-fortified cereals, say these experts.
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With the recent recall and subsequent shortage of certain infant formulas, parents are scrambling to find appropriate alternatives. Are there any?

For moms who breastfeed their babies, keep on nursing. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life provides the best nutrition and health protection for babies.

From 6 to 12 months, mom’s milk should be complemented with the slow addition of solid foods. Youngsters are then ready for cow’s milk by 1 year of age.

For various reasons, however, many babies from birth to 12 months require infant formula to meet their nutritional needs during this critical time of life. What are these parents to do if no formula is available?

One thing is clear, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Do not make or feed your infant homemade formula. There is too much chance for homemade varieties to lack essential nutrients or contain the wrong balance of important substances that could cause serious consequences.

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You also don’t want to dilute formula with water to make it last longer, experts say. An imbalance of too much water and too few essential nutrients can lead to dangerous seizures and other complications in infants.

Although many infant formulas are made with cow’s milk that has been specially processed to resemble breast milk, it’s not a good idea to substitute regular cow’s milk for formula, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Before 1 year of age, cow’s milk is too high in protein and can be hard on young kidneys. That’s why they recommend formula instead of cow’s milk for the first 12 months of life.

So what are the alternatives when formula is in short supply? Here are some ideas:

Contact your child’s pediatrician. They may have spare formula on hand or can advise you on a safe alternative formula for the time being.

Contact your local food bank, public health department, or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office for assistance.

If your infant is close to a year of age, formulas made for toddlers may be a safe alternative. Check with your pediatrician first, however.

In a real pinch, the AAP recently (and cautiously) approved cow’s milk for a brief period of time (not more than one week) in babies who are 7 to 12 months of age. Because cow’s milk does not contain as much iron as infant formula, make sure to feed your infant plenty of iron-containing foods such as meat or iron-fortified cereals, say these experts.

Soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D might be another option for infants close to 1 year of age but again, not for more than one week. Do avoid almond and other plant-based milks, however; they are too low in protein and other nutrients essential for baby’s health.

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Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at to  barbara@quinnessentialnutrition.com  . ©2021 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at  montereyherald.com  . Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Related Topics: NUTRITIONFOOD
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