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Finding a Formula

Q. My sister gave up breastfeeding after only a few weeks, and she had to switch formulas several times to find one that agreed with her baby. One of my vegetarian friends feeds her infant soy formula, while my neighbor's baby drinks a special hypoallergenic preparation. I've also noticed lactose-free formula on the supermarket shelf --the choices are overwhelming! How can I figure out which kind is right for my baby?

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 12 months, many women choose not to breastfeed at all, encounter problems with it, or quit early for personal reasons. In these situations, infant formula is the only appropriate substitute for breast milk during the first year of a child's life.

Since commercial formula first became available more than 70 years ago, it has continually undergone modifications and improvements so that it provides the calories and nutrients a baby needs in as close an approximation to breast milk as possible. Formula preparations do differ, however: While the Food and Drug Administration regulates nutrient content, each manufacturer adds its own ingredients and uses its own processing methods. While I can't endorse a specific brand, I can give you an overview of the different types of formula that are available so that you -- together with your baby's doctor -- can choose one that's best for your child.