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What is infant formula?

Infant formula definition and why it is needed

Infant formula definition

Infant formula is a substitute for human breast milk and is the only food consumed by a newborn in the first months of life. As such, it is the sole source of energy and nutrients essential for growth and development. In situations when breastfeeding is not possible, infant formula is the safest, best, and only choice for parents and their beloved children.

Infant milk is a complex, branded product consisting of dozens of different ingredients combined in such a way to make it as close and similar as possible to human breast milk. There are plenty of different infant formulas in markets worldwide. There are no two formulas from different manufacturers that are exactly the same. Different countries can have different regulations and opinions on how infant formula should be produced and what nutrients it should provide.

Infant formula is ultra-processed food, but it is unique among ultra-processed foods in the sense that it is an essential food [...]. People have a right to use it, and should have the freedom to use it.

Chris van Tulleken: Ultra-Processed People

What is the difference between infant formula and cow's milk?

Infant formula is a completely different and much more complex product than regular cow's milk. The main differences are as follows:

The protein structure in infant formula is completely different from the one found in cow's or goat's milk. In infant formula, there are more whey proteins than casein (in cow's milk it is the opposite). Additionally, manufacturers develop recipes with different whey/casein proportions for different age groups to mimic the development of the protein structure in breast milk over time.
The fatty acid composition in infant formula is completely different from that in cow's milk. In particular, infant formulas have a much higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids: linoleic (LA) and alpha-linolenic (ALA). This is because the fat found in human breast milk differs significantly from the fat found in cow's milk.
Vitamins and minerals
Infant formula contains much more vitamins and minerals compared to regular cow's milk. In particular, iron is added to infant and follow-on milk to ensure appropriate development of infants.
Other functional ingredients
Finally, many other functional ingredients such as prebiotics, probiotics, nucleotides, DHA, ARA, lactoferrin, MFGM, and others are added to infant formulas to make them as close as possible to human milk. These ingredients do not exist in cow's or goat's milk.

Infant formula stages

At Geo-Poland, we have developed the recipes, and we're perfectly capable of producing different baby formulas as required in different countries.

When looking at the baby food market, one may get confused about why there are so many different types of formulas even under the same brand. To make things more complicated, due to regulatory reasons or market habits, slightly different formulas are consumed in different parts of the world.

Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia

Most often, and in the vast majority of countries in the European Union, Africa, Australia, most of South America, and Asia (including China), infant formula comes in three main stages:

  • stage 1 Infant milk for infants 0-6 months
  • stage 2 Follow-on milk for infants 6-12 months
  • stage 3 Growing-up milk for children over 1 year

This split is based on the scientific fact that human breast milk composition and nutritional profile changes over time and infant formula should change as well as a child grows.

Geo-Poland can supply you with all the formula stages

Some producers add stages 4 & 5 on top for older children (for example, for children who are above 2 and 3 years old respectively). This is not necessary from a nutritional point of view to feed older children with any formula or a formula different from stage 3 growing-up milk. However, if needed, Geo-Poland can supply you with such products as well.

North America

In North America (particularly in the US market), baby formulas generally come in only two stages:

  • infant formula for infants 0-12 months
  • toddler formula for children 1 year+

Geo-Poland can supply you with such formulas as well.

Did you know?

Breast milk composition varies

Human breast milk composition and nutritional profile changes over time. It depends on the mother's diet, environment, and the age of an infant - nature provides slightly different nutrients as the child gets older.

We do the same when it comes to infant formula and offer different formulas for different age groups of infants.

Do I need all types of formula?

Distribution of full range of formulas

It is very important to offer infant formula for all age groups as every infant grows and develops and eventually needs the next formula stage.

Not being able to satisfy this need and failing to supply all the formulas required forces the infant's mother to switch at some point to another brand. This may not be pleasant for an infant, as babies generally prefer to be fed with the same formula throughout the time. This is additionally destructive for the brand and often leads to losses.