Hello there, if you have landed on this article it means you are probably trying to decide whether to buy a gold or standard baby formula. Quite simply you want to know which is best for your baby.
As I have mentioned a number of times in my earlier article “The best baby formula : A guide for New Zealand” due to the robustness of the infant formula regulations and food code in New Zealand, all infant formula available to purchase will be a good baby formula.
What is the difference between standard baby formula and gold baby formula
Standard baby formula
Standard infant formulas contain all the nutrients in the amounts that the Australia and New Zealand Food Safety Authority (ANZFSA) specify they MUST have. Therefore standard infant formula will be nutritionally complete and balanced and will contain everything a baby requires to grow and thrive.
Gold baby formula
Gold infant formulas contain all the nutrients in the amounts that the infant formula regulations specify that they MUST have. They also contain ingredients that the formula regulations state MAY be added to infant formula. Therefore gold infant formula will be nutritionally complete and balanced and will contain everything a baby requires to grow and thrive, but they will also contain additional ingredients which MAY provide additional benefits.
I will go on to describe what these additional ingredients are and what benefits they may provide below.
Iron content of gold or standard baby formula
I just want to clear up this misconception. I have heard it many times from both mums and some Healthcare Professionals. Gold infant formula do not contain more iron than standard infant formulas. I checked in my supermarket again recently, just to make doubly sure. Gold and standard infant formulas from the same manufacturer contained the same amount of iron. There is some small variation between manufacturer to manufacturer, but gold baby formula do not contain more iron than standard formula. Both gold and standard infant formulas contain the right amount of iron for your baby. The amount of iron an infant formula contains is regulated by ANZFSA.
Omega Fats in baby formula
There are 2 types of omega fats, Omega-3 and Omega-6. Both have important health benefits. When it comes to babies there are two omega fats which receive quite a bit of research attention. They have long names, but don’t let that put you off. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fat which occurs naturally in breast milk. Arachidonic Acid (ARA) is an omega-6 fat which also occurs naturally in breast milk.
What we know about DHA and ARA and babies
- The addition of DHA and ARA to infant formula has been found to be safe
- DHA and ARA are the major fatty acids found in the brain and retina (eyes) of babies
- The amounts of DHA and ARA in the brain and eye increase rapidly in the last months of pregnancy and the first few months after birth
- The human body can make DHA and ARA through processes of metabolism, so even if you are not eating DHA and ARA your body can still make it.
- In babies that are born preterm there is evidence to suggest that their body’s metabolic processes are not enough to meet their needs for DHA and ARA.
- Breastfed preterm babies get the DHA and ARA they need through breast milk.
- Evidence shows preterm infants benefit from formulas supplemented with DHA and ARA in the short term compared to infants fed formula without DHA and ARA.
- Long term follow up studies of preterm and term children that were fed formula supplemented with DHA and ARA as babies do not conclusively show they have better mental or visual outcomes than children who did not receive supplemented formula.
- There is some evidence that term infants fed formula with DHA and ARA may gain some immune benefits compared to infants fed formula unsupplemented formula. (fewer respiratory illnesses).
Prebiotics and Probiotics in baby formula
Both prebiotics and probiotics can now be found in a number of infant formulas. Prebiotics and probiotics often get confused by people, partly I think as their names are so similar. I think we are now all pretty familiar with the idea that our gut is populated by ‘good’ bacteria, these bacteria have a number of benefits related to health.
Probiotic is the name given to these live bacteria when they are contained in foods.
Prebiotic on the other hand are a type of carbohydrate (Oligosachharides, if you want to be more specific) that occur naturally, or are added to foods. These carbohydrates act as a food source for the ‘good’ bacteria and therefore promote the growth of good bacteria in our gut. A bit like adding fertiliser to your garden to help your plants grow.
Breast milk naturally contains both prebiotics and probiotics. The digestive tract of breast fed infants is typically well populated with ‘good’ bacteria which is important for optimum gut function and for the development of a strong immune system.
Things to know about prebiotics in infant formula
- The addition of prebiotics to infant formula has been found to be safe
- When you compare babies fed infant formula with and without prebiotics;
- Babies receiving prebiotics in their formula have gut bacteria more similar to breast fed babies.
- Babies receiving prebiotics in their formula have softer poo, and poo more frequently than babies on standard formula, i.e. their poo may be considered to be more similar to breast fed babies than to standard formula fed babies
- At this stage it is not certain if infant formula supplemented with prebiotics improves immune function
- It is generally regarded by experts that more research should be done in the area of prebiotics in formula as it is assumed that there could be a number of benefits
Things to know about probiotics in infant formula
- The addition of probiotics to infant formula has been found to be safe
- Probiotics are being researched for many reasons including:
- Improved gut health
- improved immunity
- Protectivity against developing allergy
- At this stage the research is not conclusive as it seems it may be quite dependent on the strain (type of bacteria used) and the dosage (amount given). It remains an area that most experts in the area see as exciting.
Nucleotides in infant formula
If you think back to your biology class you might recall the word nucleotide. Nucleotides are the building blocks to our DNA and they can be found in breast milk. Within breast milk they are thought to provide many benefits, promoting: growth, gut health, immune function and perhaps most interesting to sleep deprived mums, sleep. Although from my reading, it would seem little is known about ‘how’ nucleotides provide these benefits. There do not seem to be a huge number of clinical studies on nucleotides in infant formula, but below is a summary of what I did find.
Things to know about nucleotides in infant formula
- The addition of nucleotides to infant formula has been found to be safe.
- Nucleotides have been added to infant formulas for a number of years.
- There are some clinical studies that demonstrate babies fed formula supplemented with nucleotides have enhanced growth and immune function compared to babies fed non-supplemented formula
- There are some clinical studies that show babies fed formula supplemented with nucleotides have a stronger immunological response to some vaccines.
- Nucleotides in infant formula appear have a prebiotic effect, increasing the number of ‘good’ bacteria in formula fed babies bowels
- Unfortunately I could not locate any studies looking at nucleotides in formula and sleep.
So there you go a summary of gold infant formula compared to standard infant formula.
Summary points of gold vs. standard baby formula in New Zealand
- Both Gold and standard infant formula are safe
- Both Gold and standard infant formula are complete and balanced and contain all the nutrients a healthy term baby needs to grow and thrive
- Gold infant formula contain additional ingredients/nutrients that MAY provide additional benefits