Although the AAP recommends breastfeeding your baby as the first choice for feeding, this may not always be possible. Infant formulas offer an alternative that will provide your baby with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals for growth. With a number of options available, picking a formula can be confusing, but it’s not as complicated as it seems.
The Types of Formula
There are three main types of infant formula, divided by the type of protein that forms the base of the formula:
- Cow’s milk formula: This is the most common type of formula, and the protein comes from cow’s milk, which also provides a number of other nutrients. Most babies will do well on this type of formula, which is why it is the most popular version.
- Soy formula: For babies who have a sensitivity to cow’s milk such as an allergy or lactose intolerance, soy-based formulas are another option. The soy provides a good source of protein and is also friendly to a vegetarian lifestyle if that is what you intend for your baby.
- Hypoallergenic formula: For babies who are allergic to cow’s milk and soy formulas, hypoallergenic, or protein hydrolysate formula is another option. The protein in this type of formula is easier to digest. If there is a family history of milk or soy allergies, you might want to start with this type, which has a lower risk of allergic reactions
There are also other specialized formulas available for medical conditions that might require certain nutrition, such as for premature babies. If your baby requires a special type of formula, your doctor will discuss it with you.
Forms and Brands of Infant Formula
Formula is sold in three basic forms: powdered, liquid concentrate, and ready to use. Powdered formula is generally the most popular because it is the most affordable. It is available in cans and also in single serving pouches that are pre-measured. The powder must be mixed with water before using. The liquid concentrate formula is less popular because it still requires preparation with water but can be a bit messier and not as portable. Ready to use formulas can be fed to baby without additional preparation, but tend to be more expensive. All of these forms provide the same nutrition; the choice is yours based on a balance of budget and convenience.
Formulas come in a number of brands including store brands which may be considerably cheaper. The FDA monitors the manufacture of infant formula, mandating a certain level of nutrition in any formula on the market. Therefore cheaper store brands will contain the same nutrition as the name brands. Each formula has its own unique way of blending ingredients, however, and there are differences. Your baby may tolerate one formula better than the other simply because of the way it has been formulated.
Choosing the correct formula for your baby might require some trial and error and some help from your baby’s doctor. Every baby is a little different, so it can be hard to tell prior to birth which one is going to be right. There is no reason you can’t research formulas prior to having your baby and make a decision as to which one you would like to start with; however, be prepared to change to a different type if your baby does not do well on your first choice.