Most babies under a year old consume their mothers’ milk. There’s no question about its quality: humanity has yet to create infant foods equal to human milk, leave alone make something better. But when a mother’s milk isn’t enough or breastfeeding is impossible for some reason, parents must choose a substitute. There’s no denying that it must be of the highest quality. This is why all infant nutrition you can see on the shelves at the stores must meet the most stringent standards.
Why is establishing high quality requirements for baby foods important?
Today, infant foods are getting a lot of attention from parents, and it’s no surprise at all. The quality of what children eat should be watched closely. The extreme vulnerability of babies’ bodies to harmful external factors is one of the reasons for this. They need quality nutrients, and their liver and kidneys aren’t yet able to fully remove toxins and harmful substances. The metabolism in a baby’s body works at an accelerated rate, and this also becomes a risk factor.
All this means that at the very least, baby food should be:
- devoid of preservatives and concentrates
- with a specified expiry date
- composed of ingredients that are not harmful.
Only when all these factors are taken into account, as well as a number of others, you can say that a product is truly suitable for infants and will not cause any side effects.
European standards for infant nutrition
The EU rules and regulations define special requirements for baby food. In particular, they prohibit using the following ingredients:
- non-natural flavors
- synthetic colors and sweeteners (except products for special medical purposes and weight gain) preservatives
- flavor or aroma enhancers
- palm stearin
- margarine and spreads
- cotton and sesame oils
- raw milk, if it doesn’t meet certain requirements
- spices and mixtures that contain unapproved food additives
- GMO-based products
Baby food manufacturers are not allowed to use mechanically deboned meat, hydrated soy protein, as well as animal and poultry meat or fish that have been repeatedly defrosted. Using raw products that contain gluten is prohibited too.
1. Product information
All information regarding composition, nutritional value, and benefits of infant formula should be indicated by the manufacturer on the packaging. So, the call to read labels carefully remains valid. Any parent reading an infant formula label must have a clear idea of the percentage of the main nutrients (fats, carbs, and proteins) and other ingredients. Thus, any food product intended for infants must come with the following information on its packaging:
- The age this product is appropriate for. The majority of European baby milks come in stages 1,2,3 (for newborns, babies from 6 to 12 months old, and toddlers respectively).
- A comprehensive list of all ingredients.
- Information on the caloric content and nutritional value (the quantitative content of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals).
- Exact expiry date.
- Storage conditions to ensure the product’s safety and quality.
- Method of preparation, in case that’s what it requires before consumption.
- The recommended amount of product per one feeding taking into account a baby’s age.
- Special dietary needs, conditions, and diseases this product is intended for if any.
Baby foods must be produced only at specialized facilities or separate processing lines from raw materials obtained from areas recognized as environmentally clean.
3. Baby food brands
The main criterion for choosing a baby food brand is its safety. The undisputed leaders among infant formula producers are Hipp, Holle, Kendamil, Loulouka, and some others. Their products might seem costly but they are in complete compliance with the highest quality standards. There are sufficient doses of vitamins and practically no harmful ingredients. The credibility of these brands isn’t in doubt, so having the necessary budget you can safely choose them. In case they aren’t available at your local stores, you can easily buy them at online stores like organicsbestshop.com.
Infant food classification
Infant formula you can find on the market is divided into three groups:
- human milk substitutes
- complementary foods
- dietary and therapeutic foods.
Each product category differs in composition and has certain age restrictions. The most popular are complementary foods, which occupy about 80% of the total baby food market share. These are baby purees and formulae used from birth to three years of age.
Different types of infant foods are made based on the following products:
- Milk. These formulae are available in powder and liquid form. The majority of products on the market are powdered and packaged in cardboard boxes or tin cans. Most of them are first milks that are as close as possible to mother’s milk in terms of composition. This category includes baby foods for infants up to 12 months of age.
- Fruit and vegetables. This category includes canned juices, purees, and mixtures of vegetables (zucchini, pumpkin, potatoes), berries, and fruits (apple, blackcurrant, cherry, pear, citrus). Vegetable-based blends are for babies from 6 months to one year of age and older.
- Grain. These foods are based on oat, wheat, and buckwheat flour. The product range includes baby pasta, milk porridge, and instant cookies. These are for little ones from five months and older.
- Meat and fish. Meat-based products are differentiated according to the degree of mincing – coarsely minced, puréed, and homogenized. The degree of fineness must be in accordance with a baby’s age. Meat-based baby foods contain cereals, milk protein, and starch.
All of these products must be chosen in strict accordance with your child’s needs at a certain stage of development.
Don’t forget to analyze the composition of every infant food product you are choosing. Even the best quality formula can contain unnecessary or harmful ingredients that your child may be allergic to. Soy, starch, maltodextrin, palm oil are some of them. Besides, your child has to like the taste of the food.
Another important thing to remember is whenever you have to choose baby foods, consult with your pediatrician first. This is especially important when you are picking new brands and types of products.