Expert Advice

The Baby Formula Recommended by This Pediatrician Dad

Today, Daddy’s Digest is chatting with Dr. Anthony Porto, Pediatrician, Gastroenterologist, AAP Spokesperson, Co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers and Bobbie Medical Advisor.

DD: Great to meet you Dr. Porto. Can you tell us a bit about how you approach baby feeding both personally and professionally?

Dr. Porto: As a pediatrician, I often chat with parents about the best way to feed their infant. Parents, including dads, want to make sure that their kids are getting the best nutrition from the start. Though breast milk is considered the gold standard when feeding an infant, it is not always an option for all parents. As a gay dad, though we did temporarily use donor breast milk, it was not a viable option for us in the long-term. When we had to choose an infant formula to feed our infants, we sifted through the many options to make the best decision for us.

DD: Do you recommend baby formula? In what scenarios is baby formula the recommended choice?

Dr. Porto: There are many reasons why parents may choose a formula. Parents often ask if it is ok to supplement or use good quality infant formula. Yes, it is absolutely ok to supplement breast milk with formula or to solely use formula to feed your infant. Some parents decide to bottle feed with formula for one or more feeds to allow another caregiver the opportunity to feed, bond and give the breastfeeding mom a break. Others, like me, exclusively used formula to feed my children. There is no right way as it is a personal choice and it’s important to know that whatever choice you make, your child will get the nutrients they need.

How do you help new parents choose the right baby formula for their family?

There are so many different formulas on the market. Most children will do well with traditional formula that contains intact cow protein. A few things parents should know as they consider what formula is right for them.

  • What is the carbohydrate source in your infant formula? Most formulas contain lactose, which is the sugar also found in breast milk. Some broken down protein formulas, sensitive formulas and added rice formulas contain alternative sugars like corn syrup solids and maltodextrin. Read the labels to undersatnd what the source is.
  • I am a vegetarian, what formula can I feed my child?  If you're a vegan and want your infant to drink a formula, soy formula is a great option!
  • Is DHA important in baby formula? Though it's not a required ingredient in US formulas, it is found in many US brands. More recent studies have shown potential cognitive benefits in children fed formula with high levels of DHA. 
  • Can I use toddler formula for my infant? No. Toddler formula contains varying amounts of nutrients that may not be sufficient for your child. It also does not have to meet the standards of The Infant Formula Act including infection standards.

So, are infant formulas FDA approved? The FDA regulates, but does not “approve” formulas. Infant formula needs to be registered with the US FDA which ensures that it contains adequate nutrition to ensure adequate growth. All formulas in the US must meet the nutrition and labeling requirements of The Infant Formula Act and also must meet standards to prevent infection.

Why are US made formulas safer than European formulas?

US made baby formulas are highly regulated and follow FDA guidelines for nutrition, labeling and processing to ensure that formula contains all of the nutrients an infant needs as the sole source of nutrition. The FDA also ensures strict processes are in place if a recall of a formula occurs. 

Why do parents and babies love Bobbie infant formula?

Bobbie infant formula is a great option for families who want to feed their infants formula that is modeled after European formula. It is organic, grass fed, has lower levels of iron than most US formulas while still meeting the recommendations of the US FDA and contains high levels of DHA. It’s main carbohydrate source is lactose which is similar to breast milk. 

Why do we hear that so many babies are sensitive to formula? Is this true?

The majority of children will be able to tolerate formulas that contain cow’s milk. A smaller number may have cow’s milk protein intolerance and require formulas that contain broken down protein known as amino acid based and extensively hydrolyzed formulas. Though there are sensitive and gentle formulas available that contain lower lactose, nearly all infants are able to digest and tolerate lactose and do not require these formulas.

Why is Bobbie baby formula good for easy digestion and children with sensitivity?

There are two main proteins in cow’s milk – whey and casein. Formulas may have different percentages of these proteins to better mirror the ratio found in breast milk. The protein ratio of Bobbie closely resembles that of breast milk with 60% coming from whey and 40% coming from casein. Whey protein is felt to be more easily digestible.

Formula is expensive. Can you mix formula brands and or mix formula with milk to stretch it out?

I would not recommend mixing formulas as the mixing instructions may be different and using a combination of formulas can lead to mixing errors and subsequent electrolyte abnormalities, vomiting, and poor weight gain. 

Mixing formula with milk is also problematic as children are not able to tolerate whole milk as their gut is still maturing. Consuming milk can lead to nutritional deficiencies and microscopic intestinal blood loss. 

This has been really informative – thanks Dr. Porto.

Ready to make your first bottle? Follow Bobbie’s bottle making guide here. Want to give Bobbie Baby Formula a try for your little one?