There is such a wide variety of milks on the market that it can be very confusing. Below is an overview of some different types you may find.
Most of the different types of milk described below are simply ways for formula manufacturers to charge you more money for infant formula. The best alternative to breastmilk is first infant milk only.
If you would like more detail, the First Steps Nutrition Trust offers independent information about infant milk and nutrition and they produce several downloads.
First infant milk
This is closest in composition to breastmilk and should be used for all babies under one year of age who do not receive breastmilk. This is usually based on cows’ milk or goats’ milk.
Hungry baby milk
This milk has ingredients that make it more difficult for babies to digest. There is no evidence that these offer any advantage. Young babies have very small stomachs and need feeding little and often.
These are marketed to help soothe fussy babies, but there is no strong evidence to support their effectiveness for improving wind, colic, constipation or fussiness. It is common for babies to have periods of fussiness and these improve as the baby gets older and their digestive system develops. If you are concerned about your babies’ symptoms speak to your health visitor or GP.
Follow On Milk
These are targeted at infants over the age of 6 months. However, they offer no nutritional advantage over first infant milks. Advertising of formula milk for babies under 6 months of age is not allowed in the UK. Follow on milks were created to allow companies to market their milk brands. The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend continuing breastfeeding or first infant milks until your child’s first birthday.
These are marketed as ‘especially satisfying’ but there is no evidence that they help your baby to sleep any better than other milks.
Toddler milks are relatively new to the market. They do contain some added nutrients such as vitamin D but they are also much higher in sugar than cow’s milk. This can contribute to poor dental health and encourage toddlers to become used to sweetened foods and drinks which could contribute to obesity in later life. After the age of one toddlers milk feeds can be cow’s milk (full fat) or breastmilk.
Special milks/milks for babies with allergies
There are a number of different milks on the market that are marketed to prevent or reduce allergic reactions to cow’s milk. These include lactose free, soya-based milks or ‘partially hydrolysed’. Allergies to cow’s milk are rare, and your baby will show strong symptoms of allergy to cow’s based milks. If you are concerned about this then please speak to your GP before changing milks as there are risks to using some of these alternative options.