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If a mother is unable to breastfeed for whatever reasons, she could choose a substitute milk that is best suited for her infant. Now here's a surprise: the animal milk that most closely resembles human milk is not cow's or goat's milk. It is donkey's milk - which, unfortunately, is not normally available.
What to look for in formulas
So look for a cow's or goat's milk formula that has the following features:
- No added sugar or fructose;
- Contains zinc, manganese, chromium, selenium, taurine, omega-3 fatty acid(DHA), omega-6 fatty acid (AA), prebiotics and probiotics.
In view of the significant discrepancy in nutrients between human and cow's milk, scientists have added natural nutrients such as DHA, AA, prebiotics, probiotics, nucleotides, and carotenoids like lutein into cow's milk formulation. Such an enriched formula is called functional food and it is now standard preparation in infant milk formula.
How formulas deal with allergies
In recent times, the widespread acceptance of cow's milk formula has generated many medical problems, the most serious being cow's milk protein allergy. To prevent or reduce this complication, scientists have created hypoallergic formulations (that are less likely cause allergic reactions). This is done by a process called hydrolysis, where enzymes are used to predigest the cow's milk protein into smaller fragments called peptides.
There are two grades: partial and extensive. In a partially hydrolysed formula called HA (hypoallergic) formula, the protein is digested into peptides smaller than 20,000 daltons. (Dalton or Da is a unit of atomic mass - and 20,000 Da is actually very miniscule.)
If given to infant at birth, a HA formula may be able to prevent an infant with a strong family history of allergy like eczema and asthma, from expressing its epigenetic program of allergy: HA formula, however, is ineffective for treating infant with cow's milk protein allergy.
The extensively hydrolysed formula has peptides smaller than 6,000 Da, with 20 percent of its protein is in the form of free amino acids (which do not need further digestion). Infant with mild cow's milk protein allergy may be able to tolerate it but not those with severe protein allergy. Such infants must be fed an infant formula comprising 100 percent free amino acids.
Such modified infant formulas are called medical foods. For a more detailed discussion, read Chapter 21 on Functional Foods and Chapter 22 on Medical Foods.
Even as you are feeding your infant with formula through a bottle, the same love and expression must be present to ensure conscious parenting.
This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.