A very good question
Which formula brand and type did you feed your baby during the newborn phase? Which is best to supplement breastmilk?
Depending upon your baby, preemie, lactose intolerant, serious reflux or a term baby, there are many types of formula to chose from. However, in my experience I looked for two things. One, the formula was iron fortified and secondly containing a protein found in a mother's breast milk. I know that breastfeeding is a must, but sometimes it doesn't work for everyone, and it is helpful to be able to top up and wean off the breast when you feel it is time to.
Being a first time mom, breastfeeding did not come naturally for me. The first week I had very sore nipples from breastfeeding and upon arriving home from the hospital, I rushed to express my milk into a bottle, which I did for nearly a month and I was all healed. However, babies go through growth spurts. I was breastfeeding relatively well after two bouts of mastitis, when I had issues with my milk supply. I chose not to try and increase my milk supply by feeding around the clock (I had an extremely hungry youngster, today, 17 months later he has eaten 3 chicken drumsticks on top of his lunch!!!) so instead I began to top up with formula at around 18 weeks and solids at 19 weeks, because of my many issues.
The formula that I fed my baby was S-26 Gold (Alpha Pro). Why? The formula is iron fortified and is enriched with a protein that is actually found in breastmilk. The protein is called "alpha-lactalbumin". Quoted from the Wyeth Nutrition website..."Alpha-protein's inclusion has allowed us to reduce another protein called beta-lactoglobulin, important for baby cows but not human babies as it is not found in breast milk. Other Whey dominant formulas on the market have high levels of beta-lactoglobulin."
Iron fortified milk is useful, as iron is "an essential mineral necessary for hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and myoglobin, which carries oxygen in muscle tissue. It helps regulate cell growth and differentiation." Iron keeps you hungry, without getting enough iron, your body thinks it isn't hungry and a bad cycle can begin, and sometimes pediatricians suggest for non-thriving babies or toddlers, an iron supplement (three of my friends children had this issue). So as well as the breast milk protein, iron fortified milk is just as important for growing babies and their body development.
It seems that formula companies are aiming to develop a closer version of milk to breast milk, which is great news. My advice would be to look for formula brands that contain more of the breastmilk proteins than baby cow's milk protein, as well as additional iron. I also used to compare the ingredients between formula brands, and in future I will also make special attention to looking out for this new protein as well.
My son had a bit of reflux, however I ruled out any lactose intolerance, trying soy based formula and the like for taste as well. I settled with S-26 Alpha Pro, as it seemed that my son handled this formula better and preferred the taste of this formula when topped up with my breast milk. When he eventually weaned himself off the breast, he enjoyed downing his formula milk like there was no tomorrow!
After 6 months
I continued with follow on formula of the same brand. By the time he was 12 months old I began slowly introducing cow's milk in cooking his meals, as well as foods high in iron and slowly increased the amount of cow's milk he had. Up until now, were he has milk in the morning before breakfast and milk after his nap in the day. Codi is now 19 months old. I say it will only be a matter of time that a version of a reduced 'beta-lactoglobulin' in regular cow's milk will be introduced for toddlers 12 months and onwards. I will be looking out for this one too. For my next child I have a rough plan to try and breast feed to 6 months at least, weaning and introducing S-26 Gold Alpha Pro, topping up at around 5 months so that the weaming process is not so abrupt and is more of a transition. If this happened later I plan to do the same thing with follow on formula instead of the baby formula.
In short, this had been my experience. I would also suggest talking to your doctor, other moms and make sure you feel comfortable that you are fully informed to make the choices about how and when you decide to introduce formula. Some babies are easily breastfed up to 12 months and even more!!! but if you are like me, formula helps to give your baby the much needed nutrients if breastmilk is in short supply or breastfeeding itself was difficult. In the end, my objective was to make sure baby is healthy as much as possible and thriving, if topping up with formula achieve's this then I will opt for some help in the milk area for sure!