The faecal flora of a baby receiving a modern infant formula is substantially different from that of a breast fed baby. This difference is a little less when whey based formulas are used. The addition of bovine lactoferrin has no effect and there is some evidence that the presence of added iron in a formula moved the faecal flora further away from that of a breast fed baby. the iron content of currently used infant formulas is much higher than that of breast milk. The effect of the addition of iron to both whey and casein based formulas on the faecal flora was examined in further detail. Faecal flora were examined at 14 days of age in 33 babies receiving a whey formula fortified with iron, 29 babies receiving a whey formula without iron, 29 babies receiving a casein formula fortified with iron, and 24 babies receiving casein formula without iron. Subsequently fewer babies in each group were examined at week 7, 11, and 15. The addition of iron to both casein and whey formulas discouraged colonisation and growth of staphylococci and bacteroids but encouraged the colonisation and growth of clostridia and enterococci. The type of protein and not the iron content had more effect upon the growth of bifidobacteria; both whey formulas, fortified or not, encouraged the colonisation by bifidobacteria. If an infant formula, for use in the first few months, is to mimic the physiological effects of breast milk, there may be microbiological arguments for not fortifying it with iron. However, large empirical trials would be necessary before advocating such a policy.
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