Best Baby Formula

image001Shopping for a baby formula has become one of the most difficult choices for parents. The aisles of today’s supermarkets are stocked with dozens of different formulas, each promising to meet the needs of a growing infant.

There are powdered formulas, proteins, carbohydrates and many others. Most of these will meet your baby’s needs, but which is the best option? Here are a few guidelines that can help you choose the best baby formula.

5 Best Baby Formulas for You

If your baby is healthy and normal, all of these formulas should meet his or her needs. All of these formulas are available at most grocery, drug, discount stores and online outlets such as eBay and Amazon.com.

Products

Description

Similac Go & Grow

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This is designed for nine- to 24-month-old children and contains 25 vitamins and the essential fats: DHA and ARA. Each serving is formulated to provide 30% of a toddler’s requirements for Vitamins A & E, calcium, and iron. A lactose-free variety is available.

Enfamil Pregestimil

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This completely lactose-free formula is designed specifically for infants. It also contains an oil with high levels of MCT, so it is good for babies that have trouble digesting milk. Pediatricians recommend that parents check with them before using this formula. It is designed for babies under one year old.

Gerber Good Start Gentle

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An easy to digest formula for newborns and infants, it contains special proteins that are easier to digest. Gerber claims it can reduce bloating. It also contains a probiotic fiber designed to boost a baby’s immune system.

Elecare Hypoallergenic Infant Formula

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This is an amino acid-based formula that is similar to Pregestimil. The idea is to create a high protein formula that is easy to digest. Among other things, it can be digested by babies that are allergic to milk and soy products and those with digestive problems.

Enfamil Premium Infant

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This formula is supposedly based on the components in breast milk. It contains special probiotic enzymes designed to mimic those in an infant’s digestive tract. The idea there is to strengthen the baby’s immune system. This would be a good product for a non-breast feeding baby.

How to Choose the Best Baby Formula

1. Choose a Form of Baby Formula

The key to finding the best baby formula is to understand the difference between the products on the market. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common options and what makes them different.

  • Powdered formula: This is the cheapest option and the most environmentally friendly. The big advantage here is that it has a long shelf life as long as the container is unopened. The drawbacks include artificial chemicals that are added to the formula and lack of some nutrients.
  • Liquid formula: This is actually a concentrate that you mix with water to create a formula. The big advantage is that it is cheaper than ready to use formula. It also takes up less storage space, but, like powdered formulas, it can contain artificial chemicals and have limited amounts of nutrients.
  • Ready-to-use formula: This is the most convenient option. All you have to do is open it and pour it into the baby’s bottle. Drawbacks include price, and it can cost up to 20% more than liquid or powdered. It takes up more storage space, and it spoils quickly once opened. Some mothers complain that it also leaves stains on clothes.

2. Pick a Type of Baby Formula

When you go to the supermarket, you will probably see several varieties of each of the formula options listed above made from one of the ingredients listed below. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages.

 TYPES OF FORMULA

DESCRIPTION

Cow’s milk-based formula

This formula is made from processed cow’s milk. The protein in the milk is treated so babies can digest it. Most babies do well on it because it is similar to breast milk.

Lactose-free formula

This is a processed cow’s milk that the lactose has been removed from. This should be given to babies that are lactose intolerant. Mothers of Asian or African descent may use this because their babies are more likely to be lactose intolerant. Try it if milk-based formulas make the baby sick.

Soy-based formula

As a vegetarian alternative made from soy, vegan parents often turn to it. Parents might also try it if babies cannot digest milk-based formulas. Doctors sometimes recommend it for babies with certain health problems.

Extensively-hydrolyzed formula

A special formula designed for babies that have a hard time digesting proteins, it is often prescribed for premature babies and babies with food allergies. It should only be used at a doctor’s recommendation.

Formula for premature and low-birth-weight babies

These formulas contain extra ingredients that those babies need. Most of these formulas contain extra protein and calories and sometimes a special fat called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCT. This is another formula that should only be used when a doctor says so.

Human milk fortifier

This is a supplement for breastfed babies that are not getting proper nutrition from mother’s milk. It might be added to breast milk or consumed separately like a regular formula. It is usually only used at a doctor’s recommendation.

Metabolic formula

A special formula designed for babies with a specific health problem, it might be tailored for a specific baby or for a certain health condition. These will only be used when prescribed by a physician. It may have to be made by a pharmacist.

Other formulas

New formulas are constantly coming on the market. Some recent arrivals on the formula shelves include formulas designed to relieve digestive problems. There are also products that claim to mimic breast milk. Parents should examine them carefully and consult a pediatrician before using them.

3. Know the Main Ingredients in Baby Formula

The main ingredients in most formulas are a source of protein and fat such as cow’s milk or soy and water. Many formulas have other nutrients added to them such as vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. A few of them may have flavoring, coloring or preservative agents added.

Here’s a breakdown of the key nutrients in formulas and what they do.

 NUTRIENT

DESCRIPTION

Carbohydrate

Most formulas contain a carbohydrate, usually lactose. This is a source of energy and a flavoring agent. Some of the most common carbohydrates include corn milk, soy, corn syrup, corn starch and sugar (sucrose).

Protein

The most important nutrient in formula is sugar which babies need large amounts of. Breast milk contains 80% protein. Many formulas have a vegetable protein such as soy or whey added to provide a similar protein level.

Fat

To mimic breast milk, a formula must contain high levels of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Coconut, soy, palm and sunflower oils are usually added to formulas to achieve the necessary level of fats. Recent research has shown that formulas may not contain sufficient amounts of fat, so supplements are recommended.

Vitamins and minerals

Most of the formulas on the shelves today are fortified with a number of vitamins and minerals, including iron, Vitamin B5, Vitamin C and calcium. The idea here is to give the baby the nutrients he or she gets from breast milk. Pediatricians recommend that all non-breastfed babies receive an iron-fortified formula.

Other nutrients

A cocktail of ingredients that can include nucleotides, rice starch, dietary fiber and amino acids are often added to formulas. This is done to mimic breast milk and cow’s milk. Some of these nutrients are beneficial, while others are nothing but a marketing gimmick.

4. The Right Formula for Your Baby

Not surprisingly, many parents walk away from the formula aisle in total confusion. They should not, because formulas sold in the United States meet strict Food and Drug Administration guidelines for nutrition, so they will meet the needs of most babies. The way to choose the best baby formula is to ask your doctor for recommendations. If the doctor has no criteria, choose the one that best fits your lifestyle and your budget.