LIMELIGHT – 5 tips for formula fed babies (and eczema tips)

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I recently wrote about my breastfeeding experience that wasn’t and wanted to share some tips on how to make the best of a situation you may not have expected yourself to be in. Perhaps you’ve breastfed for awhile but want/need to make the switch to formula for whatever reason. Or maybe you are a gay parent who recently adopted a little baby. Women have the option of going on domperidone but it doesn’t work for everyone, and obviously men can’t breastfeed. Health Canada states that 25% of moms (in 2009-2010) exclusively breastfed up to 6 months, and that most stopped due to a decline in milk production. 

So what did the other 75% of moms do? Enter formula. We are all aware that commercial formula isn’t the ideal health food for babies. Unfortunately a lot of the top ingredients are what we nutritionists steer very far away from. I won’t go through it all here since I think most of us are savvy enough to know what I’m talking about, but if not, there are tonnes of articles out there that break down the ingredient lists. I don’t want to do this here because as a mom who couldn’t breastfeed and had to make the switch to formula, the last thing I needed was yet another person telling me how bad it is. Instead what I wanted was someone to tell me how to make the best of a bad situation. As a nutritionist I’ve studied about whole foods so used that knowledge to help modify my son’s formula feeds. These tips have been approved by my ND who I have been working closely with to help clear my son’s eczema. As a mom and a nutritionist, my first advice to any mom is obviously to give breastfeeding a go, and apparently 87.3% of Canadian mothers do, but sometimes it just can’t happen and those moms should not be made to feel guilty for that, and there should be options for us.

I hope that you find this information helpful, and if you have any tips, please share in the comments below!

1) Choosing the right formula 

Home made: There are only a couple “reliable” formula recipes online. The Weston Price Foundation has recipes online and in their book, Nourishing Traditions. They have a goats milk and raw cow’s milk version. The only issue with this is that raw milk is hard to find in some places, and the ingredient list is a little daunting. Goats milk is deficient in folic acid, iron and B12 – important vitamins for neural health of the baby. (Weston Price recognizes this and adds dessicated liver to its goats milk formula).

People who have made it claim issues their child had went away almost immediately, and that it’s really not that hard to make. If you chose to go this route, please make it when you’ve had enough sleep so that you don’t accidentally mess up the ingredients, that you make sure the area is pretty clean and as sterile as possible (no pet hair or other food that may cross contaminate) and that you monitor your baby’s progress and milestones carefully with your child’s healthcare provider. Having said this, some people have had tremendous success with home-made formula, so please talk to your healthcare provider and use that powerful mommy instinct of yours to be sure this is right for your family.

Organic: Organic formula is a close second option, it’s expensive, but at least it’s organic. However, it still contains questionable ingredients and the vitamins are synthetic and thus may not be fully absorbed. In addition organic formula only comes in milk or soy (although a popular brand has come out with a “sensitive” formulation but I have not yet seen it in stores), and even the milk versions contain soy. I have heard of this brand, but have not yet tried it…seems almost too good to be true. It says it’s for toddlers but I think that’s a packaging law. Please share if you have experience with it.

Commercial: Commercial formula comes in so many varieties, you’ll have to find the one that works for your baby. Speak to your doctor/care provider for what works best for your baby. Yes, the ingredients aren’t the best (GMO’s, corn syrup, synthetic vitamins, palm oil etc…) but there is a lot of research and stringent Federal level testing that takes place with commercial formula so you know that it is safe for your baby if all else fails. 

Soy formula: The jury is still out on whether soy affects estrogen levels in infants, and of course for vegan or vegetarian families this may the way to go. Please, please, please only buy organic since commercial soy is genetically modified (GMO).

Donor Milk: In Ontario (where I live) there is a milk donor bank, however to receive the milk your baby must meet eligibility criteria such as very low weight babies in the hospital and can only receive it for 4 weeks, at which time they must switch to formula. There are also other buy and sell websites but they are not regulated.

2) Formula Enhancements – please speak to your healthcare provider first before administering the dosages I recommend.

Liquid Vitamins/minerals: I’ve been adding liquid Kindervital to my son’s formula since he was about 4 months old. The vitamins in the formula are synthetic (meaning harder to absorb) so by adding food-grade vitamins it helps give the nutrient content a boost. I only add around 1-2ml – not the recommended dosage on the bottle since that’s for ages 1+. I add this to one bottle a day.

Probiotics: I add powdered infant probiotics to his formula from the outset. This helps restore good gut flora, aids the immune system, helps to heal the gut, and helps with digestion. There are several infant probiotic brands out there that are totally safe for babies from newborn up. Even breastfed infants should get their daily dose. I add this to one bottle a day, in the same bottle as the vitamins.

Aloe: Aloe vera gel (food grade) is also added to one bottle a day to help cool down his system since eczema is a heat producing condition. Aloe is also very good at healing the gut. I started to add this around 6 months. Aloe would also be a great remedy for babies with reflux – nutritionists recommend it for heartburn all the time.

3) Food (from 6 months onwards)

Organic: Everything my baby gets is organic (lucky kid). He’s already being exposed to toxins and pesticides from the formula, I didn’t want to overwhelm his system. If all organic is out of reach, try buying the foods your babe eats most often organic, or check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen list – pay special note to the section of the summary about baby food. I feed him mostly vegetables and fruit. And for grains we use oatmeal, millet, kamut, quinoa and rice. Omega 3 rich foods like fish, flax, chia, hemp seeds are always part of the rotation since they are important for skin and brain health. Tahini (sesame seed spread) is also used on occasion since it’s very high in calcium. Avocado is high in good fats and protein.  Babies on formula need extra water, so make sure your babe gets enough throughout the day.

4) Milks once you get the go ahead from your ND/doctor, you can start to supplement alternative milks like coconut, almond, goats, hemp, rice etc. They all have different nutrition values and some milks like almond won’t be allowed at daycares since it’s a nut milk (potential allergen). If you are to go with cow’s milk, I recommend un-homogenized organic whole milk. This article does a good job of summarizing alternative milks. However, cow’s milk isn’t for everyone since it can be allergenic for some people (and cause eczema, as is the case with my son), and isn’t suitable for vegetarian/vegan families.

5) Supplements In addition to the vitamins, probiotics and aloe, I also give him essential fatty acid oils to help his skin from the inside out. Evening primrose oil has been used to help with eczema, and I give him flax oil. Apple cider vinegar is also great for digestion but it’s such a hard taste to mask and he does not like it. 

6) Glass bottles I use glass bottles to once again reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals in plastic. BPA free is a really good start, but something else has to replace it to make it, well, plastic. There are several good glass bottles on the market. 

For more information on how to deal with eczema, click here.

I hope these tips have helped. Please share your experience or tips below!

Krisha Young, CoconutLime Nutrition

 Every family, child, mom, dad and situation is unique. This advice is completely generic in nature and should be followed along with advice from your midwife/pediatrician/doctor/ND/Nutritionist etc…newborns will require a different set of dosages and care than older babies. This information is not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease, illness or condition. 



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