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Infant formula
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Infant formula

Infant formula is an industrially produced milk product designed for infant consumption. Usually based on either cow or soy milk, infant formula strives to duplicate the nutrient content of natural human breast milk. Since the exact chemical properties of breast milk are still unknown, 'formula' is necessarily an imperfect approximation. Its use, particularly in the third world, is somewhat contentious.

Besides breast milk, infant formula is the only other infant milk which the medical community considers nutritionally acceptable for infants under the age of one year. Cow's milk is not recommended because of its high protein and electrolyte (salt) content which may put a strain on an infant's immature kidneys. Evaporated milk, although perhaps easier to digest due to the processing of the protein, is still nutritionally inadequate.

Most of the world's supply of infant formula is produced in the United States. The nutrient content is regulated by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. The following must be included in all formulas produced in the U.S.:

'' protein, fat, linoleic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, sodium chloride, potassium chloride ''

In addition, formulas not made with cow's milk must include biotin, choline and inositol.

Infant formula is available in powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed forms, which are prepared in small batches and fed to the infant with either a bottle or cup. It is very important to measure powders or concentrates accurately to achieve the intended final product. It is advisable that all equipment that comes into contact with the infant formula be cleaned and sterilized before each use. Proper refrigeration is essential for any infant formula which is prepared in advance, since milk is especially susceptible to bacterial growth.

The first infant formula was developed by Henri Nestlé in the 1860s in response to the high mortality rate among infants born to working class women in Switzerland who had no time to nurse. It was a combination of cow's milk and cereals and was called Farine Lactee. Infant formula became increasingly popular in developed countries during the 20th century as an alternative to breastfeeding. The medical community supported the use of infant formula since it believed that artificial feeding could be more easily monitored and the nutrient content of the milk ensured.

The post World War II "Baby Boom" provided a market for the expanding infant formula industry. Between the years of 1946 and 1956, the incidence of breastfeeding was halved in the United States, leaving only 25% of infants still being breastfed at the time of hospital discharge. During the 1960s, when birth rates tapered off, some infant formula companies began marketing campaigns in non-industrialized countries. Unfortunately, poor sanitation led to increased mortality rates among infants fed formula prepared with contaminated (drinking) water. Organized protests, the most famous of which was the Nestlé Boycott of 1977, called for the end of what was felt to be unethical marketing.

In more recent years the use of infant formula, even in developed countries, has come under scrutiny. Infant formula use has been shown to instigate and aggravate several infant conditions including allergies, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, middle ear infections, and several bacterial infections. It has also been linked to decreased cognitive development. Infant formulas, like other food products, are the subject of recalls, usually due to bacterial contamination. Though infant formula is available without a prescription, it is generally recommended that its use be under the supervision of a medical professional.

Initiatives have begun to encourage a resurgence of breastfeeding mothers. As a result, infant formula companies are now required to preface their product information with statements such as the following from Nestlé: "Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use an infant formula consult your doctor or clinic for advice". [1]

Major infant formula manufacturers include:

Infant formula remains a popular infant feeding option. The baby bottle has become a very visible part of Western culture, and increasingly, of other developed and developing nations.

Recently in China, children died of malnutrition after being fed fake infant formula. The authorities are investigating.

See Also

Appropriate technology, Development, Infrastructure

External links