Infant formula

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Infant formula is a food manufactured to support adequate growth of infants under six months of age when fed as a sole source of nutrition.[1]

The composition of infant formula is roughly based on a mother's milk at approximately one to three months postpartum.[2] The most commonly used infant formulas contain purified cow's milk whey and casein as a protein source, a blend of vegetable oils as a fat source, lactose as a carbohydrate source, a vitamin-mineral mix, and other ingredients depending on the manufacturer.[3] In addition, there are infant formulas using soybean as a protein source in place of cow's milk (mostly in the United States and Great Britain) and formulas using protein reduced (hydrolysed) into its component amino acids for infants who are allergic to other proteins. An upswing in breastfeeding has been accompanied by a deferment in the average age of introduction of other foods (such as cow's milk), resulting in increased use of both breastfeeding and infant formula between the ages of 3–12 months.[4][5]

A 2001 WHO report found that infant formula prepared in accord with applicable Codex Alimentarius standards is a nutritionally adequate and safe complementary food and a suitable breast milk substitute. Nonetheless, with few exceptions, the WHO report recommended exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life for all babies.[6]

Infant formula is necessarily an imperfect approximation of breast milk because:

  • The exact chemical properties of breast milk are not fully understood.[7]
  • A mother's breast milk changes in response to the feeding habits of her baby and over time, thus adjusting to the infant's individual growth and development.[8]
  • Breast milk includes the mothers' antibodies that help the babies avoid or fight off infections and give their immature immune systems the benefit of their mothers' immune system that has many years of experience with the germs common in their environments.

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