How to Choose the Right Infant Formula

There are so many infant formulas to choose from it can be an overwhelming decision. But if you follow some simple guidelines choosing a formula can be made much simpler.

There are five different kinds of formula

  • Cow's milk formula
  • Soy formula
  • Hydrolyzed formula
  • Hypoallergenic formula
  • Specialty formula

Cow's Milk Formula

Cow's milk formula is made from cow's milk but treated to make it digestible for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that most babies should be started on cow‘s milk formula and that most babies digest lactose well.

Cow's milk formulas have additional iron added. The AAP recommends that all baby's who are formula fed be given iron fortified formula. Some parents become concerned that iron can cause constipation in infants but it actually does not cause constipation. Added iron is essential for infancy to reduce the risk of anemia.

Soy Formula

Soy formula consists of soy protein and a sugar, either glucose or sucrose. Soy is often suggested as an alternative to cow‘s milk formula for babies that are lactose intolerant.


Hydrolyzed Formula

Hydrolyzed formula is known as predigested formula as the protein in the formula is broken down into more easily digestible proteins. Doctors often prescribe this type of formula for babies whose family has a history of allergies, particularly eczema. The formula has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies and skin conditions.

Hypoallergenic Formula

Hypoallergenic formulas give parents a formula option for babies with allergies to other formulas.

Specialty Formula

There are many specialized formulas that can be prescribed by your baby's pediatrician for some disorders and diseases. Premature babies can also be prescribed specialty formulas.

These are just the five types of formula. But beyond these specific types there are varying brands. You can also choose between organic and regular formulas. There are also formula additives to consider.


There are many different formula brands to choose from. You can choose between name brand and generics. According to U.S. News and World Report choosing a brand name formula is better than choosing generic when possible. Brand name companies do significant studies on their formulas while generic companies do not.

When deciding between brands take a look at the ingredients, either in-store or online and decide which brand would be best for your baby.


Organic vs. Regular

U.S. News also suggests skipping organic formula, saying there has been no data to show any difference between regular formula and organic.


Many formulas have docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) added to them. These fatty acids are said to help baby‘s brain and eye development. Some formulas, like Honest Co. formula, do not add DHA in their formula but rather have a supplement to add to the formula when mixing it.

Formulas may also have probiotics and probiotics to improve digestion. You can also add these as a supplement.


Powdered vs. Prepared

You can choose between a powdered formula, which you mix with water or a prepared formula which is already in a liquid state. Prepared formula is particularly helpful if your baby has a nanny or you send your baby to daycare. Since there is no measuring with prepared formula it is easier for caregivers. However, powdered formula is much cheaper and still quite easy to prepare.



Take all these formula types and options into account, along with the advice of your pediatrician, and choose what formula will be best for your baby. When your baby is ready to try formula make sure you only buy one to two weeks worth of formula. That way you don‘t have too much if the formula ends up not agreeing with your baby.

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