As a new parent, you must have wondered whether soy based formula is good for your baby. Here, we have furnished all the information you require on soy based baby formula.
Infant formulas are available in many types, mainly cow milk protein-based formulas, predigested protein formulas, low-sodium formulas, lactose-free formulas, elemental formulas, and soy protein-based formulas. Soy-based formulas have been in use in America for over a century. They are available in powdered form, as a concentrated liquid, and as ready-to-use formulas.
Composition of the Formula
Soy-based formulas are made from soy proteins and do not contain animal proteins and lactose. They contain isoflavones, a class of naturally occurring compounds found in green beans, peanuts, soy beans, and chickpeas. They also contain ARA (arachidonic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These acids are naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids present in human milk. All soy formulas are iron-fortified and meet established FDA regulations for added vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
The proteins used are soy isolates which are derived from soy flakes. These flakes are obtained from a pulp, which is in turn obtained from harvested soy beans after their outer covering has been removed. L-methionine, L-carnitine, and taurine are added to these soy protein isolates. Addition of methionine aids in weight gain. Carnitine and taurine are added as per the levels found in human milk. Carnitine is added for the oxidation of fatty acids, and taurine is added because it is an amino acid and possesses antioxidant properties. Fats obtained from vegetable oils are added to soy formula.
The oils usually used are sunflower, coconut, palm or soy. Soy formula contains lactose-free carbohydrates, which are derived from sucrose, tapioca starch, cornstarch, and corn syrup solids. The phosphorus and calcium content in soy formula is almost 20% more than cow milk-based formulas. A health concern about soy formulas is that because they contain isoflavones, which are a group of phytoestrogens, their use may lead to reproductive health problems on maturation. But as per the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no conclusive evidence suggesting the same because there is very limited research conducted in this field and hence, not much data available.
Nowadays organic soy-based formulas are also available, which are free of harmful chemicals and growth hormones.
Reasons for Using Soy-based Formula
- Doctors recommend soy formula for infants who exhibit lactose intolerance.
- Babies who suffer from hereditary lactase deficiency, also called galactosemia are fed soy formulas. Galactosemia is a condition where the body is unable to digest galactose (a sugar component in milk) properly.
- Parents who strictly want to abstain from using any animal products also prefer giving their babies soy formulas.
- If adequate growth and nutritional needs are not met from human milk and/or cow milk protein-based formulas, doctors may suggest soy-based formula as an alternative.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Use soy-based baby formula only if the doctor has advised you to do so. Do not switch to soy formula if you feel your baby has gas, is colicky, and is unusually fussy at feeding times, without consulting the pediatrician.
- In rare cases, babies allergic to cow milk protein can also develop an allergy to soy protein. In such cases it is advisable to use “extensively hydrolyzed formula”. This formula contains smaller protein molecules than the other types, which can be easily digested by a baby.
- Do not give soy formula to prevent your baby from food allergies.
- Soy-based formula is not recommended for premature infants. It contains high levels of aluminum as compared to cow milk protein-based formula. In premature babies, soy formula can lead to reduced bone mineralization (which can result in weak, brittle bones) and less weight gain as compared to those who have cow-milk protein formula or human milk.
- Like any other formula, soy-based formula is sterile, and does not change in composition as per the baby’s dietary requirements, like breast milk. It does not contain cholesterol, which is essential for the development of brain and nerve cells.
- Follow formula preparation instructions carefully and discard any formula that is left in the bottle.
Breast milk is the best and healthiest food for your little one in the initial stages, but if that is not possible and cow milk protein is unsuitable for his or her dietary needs, go for soy-protein based formula, but only on the advice of the pediatrician.