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Formula Nutrition

nutritional content of baby formula Formula nutrition is something that every parent should consider before they decide to breastfeed or formula feed. Even if you do decide to breastfeed, you should know what is in baby formulas because:

  • later, you may use it to mix with baby cereal;
  • you may choose to supplement with an occasional bottle; or
  • breastfeeding may not work for you. Would you express breast milk or go straight to formula?

Formula manufactures have been very responsible and try to make formulas that are nutritious and healthy for babies. They have even developed special recipes that are suitable for babies with metabolic deficiencies. That's something a lactating mother cannot do: there's a definite place for baby formulas in this world. Click here to see a comparison of breast milk, cow's milk, goat's milk, and baby formula.


Formula Nutrition Requirements

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict regulations regarding formula nutrition. Table is from the FDA web site.

nutritional content of baby formula table


When baby formula nutrition does not meet the requirements recommended by the FDA are not "FDA approved" and cannot be sold in the USA. Exceptions to this are the exempt infant formulas which are made for babies with:
 baby infant formulas book     - inborn errors in metabolism,
    - low birth weigh, and/or
    - with other metabolic and/or dietary defects.

If you want a detailed discussion about the contents in baby formulas, you may try Infant Formulas - A Medical Dictionary .
This resource book is designed for physicians and medical researchers. I have not read it, but it would be the place to get more information.


  • it is recommended that you do NOT purchase formulas imported from other countries because they may not adhere to the FDA standards.
  • it is recommended that you do NOT make your own home-made formula since it may not contain the proper ingredients.
  • when buying formulas, be sure that it has NOT been tampered with. A tampered batch of formula may be formula which does not conform to the FDA regulations but have had their labels switched with a formula which has been approved by the FDA.



Formula Nutrition vs. Breast Milk

nutritional content of baby formula vs breastmilk How does the ingredients in formulas compare to the ingredients found in breast milk? Well, it doesn't.

There are over 100 components in breast milk and they are not all in formula. Researchers do not know what all of those components do so, manufacturers do not add them into their baby formulas.

Antibodies (for immunity) and enzymes (for digestion & healthy gut) are active proteins found in breast milk but are not found to baby formulas. Although people know why antibodies and enzymes are important, manufacturers cannot add them to baby formulas because they would be inactivated by the commercial processing methods. Even if they did survive the sterilization process, these proteins would not have a very long shelf life.

When new research emerges indicating the importance of factors found in breast milk, formula manufactures will try to include those factors. For example, it has been known for a long time that DHA and ARA (long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids) accumulate in the brain and in the eyes of developing babies. As well, human breast milk contains DHA and ARA. It is not clear whether eating DHA and ARA will benefit babies. But given that it is found in the brain and eyes and that it is in breast milk, manufactures have added DHA & ARA in some of their formulas. Parents can choose a formula with DHA & ARA or choose a formula without it.