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Nutr Clin Pract. 2016 Dec;31(6):723-729. doi: 10.1177/0884533616669362. Epub 2016 Sep 25.

What's in the Bottle? A Review of Infant Formulas.

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1 Department of Nutrition Therapy, LeBonheur Children's Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.


Infant formulas are designed to be a substitute for breast milk. Since they are sole source of nutrition for growing and developing infants, they are highly regulated by the government. All ingredients in infant formulas must be considered "generally recognized as safe." Manufacturers are continually modifying their products to make them more like breast milk. Functional ingredients added to infant formula include long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, nucleotides, prebiotics, and probiotics. The most common breast milk substitutes are standard cow's milk-based term infant formulas, which include subcategories of organic and breast milk supplementation, and come in standard dilutions of 19 or 20 calories per ounce. In addition to standard cow's milk-based term infant formulas, there is a line of term infant formulas marketed for signs and symptoms of intolerance. These products include modifications in lactose content, partially hydrolyzed protein, added probiotics, or added rice starch. There are also specialized formulas for medical conditions such as prematurity, gastrointestinal disorders, allergy, disorders of fat metabolism, and renal insufficiency. Infants on specialty formulas should be monitored closely by medical professionals. Formulas come in ready-to-feed, liquid concentrate, and powder forms. Each offers advantages and disadvantages. Each step in the formula mixing process or each manipulation required for the feeding is another opportunity to introduce bacteria to the formula. There are guidelines for preparing formula in institutions. Standard dilution and mixing instructions are different for each formula, so individual recipes are needed. Caregivers should also be educated on proper hygiene when preparing formula at home.


enteral nutrition; infant formulas; infant nutrition; pediatric nutrition

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