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Choosing the right formula for your baby

The average supermarket formula section can be intimidating and overwhelming. With many claims and benefits offered by a variety of brands, it can be difficult to discern what type of formula is right for your baby. Making an informed decision about what type of formula to feed your baby involves understanding few basic formula facts.



Commercially prepared baby formulas are highly regulated. To maintain safety standards for infant health and to make sure that babies are provided all of the nutrients they need, the Food and Drug Administration monitors all formulas.

Prepared formula

Prepared formula comes in three forms: Powders, liquid concentrates and ready-to-use.

  • Powders are the least expensive option of the three. They are prepared by mixing with warm water. One scoop of powder is typically used to prepare two ounces of milk.
  • Liquid concentrates are a bit more expensive than powders and are prepared by diluting the concentrate with water. This type of formula is a nice option for grandma’s house or the babysitter, where a large supply of formula isn’t needed.
  • Ready-to-use does not require any preparation, making it the most convenient and the most expensive option of the three. Great for travel, the ready-to-use formula can be a busy mom’s favorite time-saver.

Types of formula

The three types of prepared formula have several ingredient options.

  • Cow’s milk-based formulas are the most commonly used type and are made from cow’s milk (that has been heat-treated to make the milk protein digestible), milk sugar, vegetable oils and other fats.
  • Soy-based formulas are made from soy protein, vegetable oils, corn syrup or sucrose and sometimes iron. Parents may choose to use soy formulas if they are strict vegetarians or if baby has a milk allergy. The decision to offer a soy-based formula to baby instead of a milk-based one should always be discussed with the baby’s pediatrician.
  • Specialized formulas are made for babies with specific disorders or disease, as well as for premature babies, for babies who need a restricted salt intake and for babies with specific allergies or intolerances. Some formulas are also fortified with probiotics and prebiotics to promote healthy intestinal lining, as well as DHA and ARA omega fatty acids to promote brain and nerve development and to improve vision.

Iron fortification

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that iron-fortified formula be used for all infants who are not breastfed exclusively from birth to one year of age. Iron is an essential mineral for normal human growth, and some infants do not have enough natural reserves of iron to meet their needs.

To choose the right formula for your baby, start by asking your child’s pediatrician, your friends and family for recommendations. Also, you can try different types and formulations to find what works best for your baby while maintaining a baseline of proper nutrition because the FDA regulates it. However, if symptoms like extreme fussiness or digestive problems cause you to consider changing formulas, it is extremely important to consult your child’s pediatrician first.

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