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Baby Formula – How to Choose the Best One for Your Infant

Baby Formula – How to Choose the Best One for Your Infant

Many new mothers struggle in deciding which infant formula is the right one to feed their babies.

Breast feeding is, of course, the first choice for feeding babies, but there are many reasons some are unable to do it and others choose not to do so.

Manufactured baby formula is the next best thing, but which one should you use with so many choices on the market. Does it really matter which you choose?

Does your baby suffer from spitting up frequently, constipation, or diarrhea?

Does the baby have excessive gas or seem to be not tolerating his feedings?

I spoke with one new mom who reported that her baby started to spit up a few minutes into the bottle when she used a store brand formula instead of a name brand one but this didn’t happen with a national brand.

Could baby formula be that different and when should you seek advice from the doctor about feeding issues?

Infant Formulas

Infant formulas are manufactured to mimic breast milk but will not be totally equal to human milk.

Infant formula is designed to meet baby’s needs for normal growth and development until the age of 1 when you can switch your child to cow’s milk.

A typical intake is 25 to 30 ounces a day. This amount naturally begins slowly and increases as the baby grows. The amount will also decline once solid foods are introduced.

Infant formula can be purchased in powder (least expensive), concentrated liquid or ready to feed versions.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates baby formula, which must all meet minimum standards for nutrient requirements. Each brand has a proprietary mix, however.

While a store brand may be cheaper, it might also have a different mix of ingredients, which could lead to stomach upset in your child, as the mother who contacted me learned the hard way.

Baby Formula Additives

formula ingredientsThere are standard additives most formula manufacturers use, including DHA/ARA which are essential fatty acids benefitting eye and brain development.

Iron fortification is important for babies. formula ingredients2Unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise, your baby formula should be fortified with iron.

Many formulas are also adding probiotics and prebiotics to aid with digestion especially if your child has been given antibiotics. Be sure there are 100 million lives cultures if you want to see any benefit.

Types of Formula

There are a number of types of formula from which to choose, which can make it harder to decide what to feed your baby.

  • Cow’s milk based
  • Lactose free
  • Soy based, for those allergic to cow’s milk protein
  • Protein hydrolysate, for those allergic to milk or soy, partially hydrolyzed
  • Special formulas to reduce spit-up, diarrhea, gas and colic
  • Specialty formulas for pre-term and low birth weight babies
  • Organic formulas

Which formula works best may be a matter of trial and error but you should discuss it with the pediatrician and let the doctor guide your choice if problems arise.

It is typically best for your baby to stick with the brand you normally use and not switch based on sales.

Nutritional Differences

Most baby formulas have a similar nutritional content based on government regulations. However, different brands have different types of carbohydrate, fat and protein sources.


Standard formulas (made from cow’s milk) have differing whey/casein ratios. Some are 60/40, 70/30 or 100% whey (whose curds are predigested to avoid constipation issues). One product contains a 48/52 blend, however, 70/30 is closer to breast milk.


All baby formula fat comes from some type of vegetable oil – palm olein, soy, coconut, safflower or sunflower or a blend of these. There is no cholesterol in baby formula, unlike breast milk which does have some cholesterol. Essential fatty acids are added (DHA/ARA).


Most come from lactose in milk but some have added malto-dextrin which is a form of table sugar.


There are a few things of which to be aware in order to prevent feeding issues when using infant formulas.

  1. Mix the formula carefully according to the package directions.
  2. You can use tap water to mix unless you are worried about the safety of your tap water and may choose to use bottled water. If you are on a well, you might want to boil the water first before mixing, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can also filter your tap water if you feel there are contaminants in the water you don’t want your baby to ingest.
  3. Carefully warm the bottle, as microwaving is not suggested. Note: the formula doesn’t have to be heated to provide proper nutrition.
  4. If you use a concentrated liquid, be sure to thoroughly clean the can lid before opening.
  5. Always refrigerate leftover formula immediately. If a bottle is not finished, throw away any mixed formula if not refrigerated in one hour.
  6. Throw out any reheated feeding that baby does not finish; don’t refrigerate again.
  7. Always check the use-by date before you buy and then again at home before you feed the baby. Don’t stock up with formula that may expire before you can use it.
  8. Don’t put baby to bed with a bottle because this can lead to tooth decay.


Doctors advise parents not to switch baby formula frequently, especially if feeding issues like spitting up or diarrhea occur. This could make the problem worse.

The best course of action is to select one formula and stick with it unless problems arise. Once a feeding issue develops, contact your pediatrician to discuss the next course of action. She may suggest another brand or another type, such as lactose free or soy based.

If problems continue to persist, your pediatrician may recommend a medical evaluation to rule out a physical cause.

Most babies will ‘grow out’ of spitting up as their stomachs grow, making room for the feeding. Be sure the baby feeds slowly enough, the nipple hole isn’t too big and you burp the baby sufficiently to clear any gas or swallowed air that could result in spitting up. You can also feed smaller amounts more frequently to avoid spitting up until the stomach catches up.

Hopefully, your baby won’t experience any feeding issues in the first year of life but there is always the terrible twos and picky eater status to worry about in the future.

Enjoy each minute in the present – time slips by so quickly with our children.

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