What is infant formula?

You may have decided to feed your child with formula.  While we know this isn’t an easy decision, it’s reassuring to know that all formulas available in New Zealand intended for infants and young children are tightly regulated by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. This means they contain adequate amounts of the right nutrients that your baby needs to support growth and development.

Formula is the only safe alternative for babies up to one year of age if breast feeding is not an option. However, infant formula cannot duplicate breast milk as it lacks some of the components found only in breast milk such as immune and growth factors, and a number of other bioactive substances. Breast milk is dynamic in composition, changing in composition over the course of a feed and the course of lactation, whereas infant formula has a fixed composition.

The majority of formula’s available are based on cow’s milk.  Alternatives based on goat’s milk or soy milk are also available and may be appropriate if your baby cannot tolerate cow’s milk or is allergic to cow’s milk. 

Formulas are developed to meet the specific needs of a child at a particular age.  Products are identified by labelling for Stage 1 or Infant Formula (for babies aged 0 – 6 months) and Stage 2 or Follow-On Formula (for babies aged 6 – 12 months).  Stage 1 and 2 formulas must be developed according to strict guidance to ensure the quality of infant and follow on formulas in the market is consistent and suitable for infants.  Some formulas may include additional (non-mandatory) nutrients and ingredients to their formula that go above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Some examples of mandatory and additionally permitted nutrients and ingredients that would be included in a formula are:



  • Protein
  • Fat - including the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
  • Vitamins: A, D, C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, Pantothenic acid, B12, Biotin, E and K
  • Minerals: Chloride, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Iodine, Copper, Zinc, Manganese and Selenium
  • Electrolytes: Sodium and Potassium

 Additionally permitted components    

  • Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) which include Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) an Omega-3  fatty acid, and Arachidonic acid (ARA) an Omega-6 fatty acid
  • Prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides or galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Probiotics such as Bifidobacterium lactis DR10TM or Lactobacillus acidophillus
  • Nucleotides
  • Lutein
  • Taurine
  • Choline
  • Carnitine