Types Baby Formula
The first time I walked down the baby formula aisle in the grocery store, I was amazed at the number of choices there were! Why so many choices? What’s the difference between them? I read the labels but it wasn’t obvious which formula was best.
Three kids later, I’ve finally figured it out. You can take all those formulas and sort them into different piles:
The form that they come in
– liquid concentrate
what they are made of:
– based on cow’s milk
– based on soybeans
Powder, Liquid Concentrate, or Ready-to-Serve?
All things being equal, the type of formula you choose depends on how much money you have and how much time you have. Parents who have money but no time will use ready-to-feed formulas since they are the most convenient.
Parents who wish to save money will use powdered baby formula because it is, by far, the cheapest.
When prepared properly, the nutritional content of powdered, concentrate, or ready-to-feed formulas will be the same because the content of baby formula is regulated by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).
Powdered formulas are the cheapest. They are flexible in that you can make as much or as little formula as you need. Compared to liquid formulas, powdered formula are lighter in weight and may be easier to travel with. Once a can is opened, it is good for a month (compared to liquid formulas which can only be kept for 48 hours).
Ready to serve formulas are the most expensive but they are also the most convenient. Here, you only need to open a can, pour it into a baby bottle, and then feed it to Baby immediately. Ready to feed formulas can stay fresh in a refrigerator for up to 48 hours; after that, it should be thrown away because bacteria may grow in it.
Concentrated baby formulas are intermediate in price and convenience. Here, water needs to be added to the formula concentrate before it is ready to use. Since the concentrate is already in liquid form, it is easy to mix with water (powder take a while before it completely dissolves). When opened, concentrated formula can be kept in the refrigerator and must be used within 48 hours. Beyond that, it should be discarded.
Some baby formula manufactures will give you free samples. This will allow you to try the formula without having to pay for a large container (which your baby may subsequently reject). Some people argue that “free” samples are just a marketing strategy: once Baby has drank some of the formula and seems happy, parents will continue to buy that same brand.
Cow’s-Milk Based Formulas
Cow’s milk does not have the same components as breast milk, however, manufactures try to correct for this by adding and removing components so that it parallels human breast milk as best as possible. The top brands of baby formula are:
- Enfamil with Iron
This is the basic or standard formula that Enfamil offers for normal babies born with no special dietary needs. It has 40% casein and 60% whey which is the proportion found in human breast milk. Formula-fed babies usually have a hard time absorbing iron, so most formulas are fortified with iron so that Baby won’t be iron deficient.
- Enfamil LIPIL
The major difference with Enfamil LIPIL is that it contains DHA and ARA, two long-chain fatty acids that may help in the development of eyes and brains. Research on the effects of DHA and ARA is non conclusive so some parents choose to use formula with DHA and ARA whereas some parents choose to use formula without it. Read more about DHA & ARA from Enfamil or from the FDA
- Similac with Iron
For a normal baby with no special dietary needs, this is the basic or standard formula offered by Similac
- Similac Advanced Infant Formula with Iron
This advanced formula contains DHA and ARA. As well, it boasts of having fewer air bubbles and allowing for 50% more absorption of calcium compared to Enfamil.
- Good Start Supreme
Good Start is different than Enfamil and Similac in that their formulas are made with 100% whey protein (easier to digest). Good Start uses a two-part process which makes the proteins easier for baby to digest.
- Good Start Supreme DHA & ARA:
Like Enfamil and Similac, Good Start also offers a formula which includes DHA & ARA.
If your baby is particularly gassy, colicky, or vomits after formula feeding, your pediatrician may recommend a soy-based formula. Baby may be:
– allergic to something in the cow’s-milk;
– he may be lactose intolerant (very rare);
– or, he may have difficulty digesting the protein in the cow’s milk.
Some strict vegetarians will choose a soy-based baby formula so that Baby can follow in their footsteps and avoid eating animal products.
The main ingredients used in soy-based formulas are from plants and not from cow’s milk. In particular, there is no casein (has soy protein instead) and no lactose (has glucose-polymers instead). Some examples of soy-based formulas are:
– Enfamil ProSobee LIPIL (see all Enfamil products)
– Similac Isomil Advance Soy Formula (see all Similac products)
– Good Start Supreme Soy DHR & ARA (see all Good Start products)
Some babies are born with a metabolic condition and the pediatrician will recommend a specialty formula which is designed for Baby’s dietary needs. There is a battery of specialty formulas:
- Lactose–free formulas:
these formulas are made for babies who are lactose intolerant. Here, cow’s milk is used but the lactose (the sugar normally found in breast milk) is replaced with glucose, sucrose, or corn syrup.
Lactose intolerance is rare in full-term babies – though it is not impossible. Some pre-mature babies do not produce enough lactase and this makes them lactose intolerant. These babies may benefit from a lactose-free formula.
– Enfamil LactoFree
– Enfamil Gentlease LIPIL (has 75% less lactose)
– Similac Sensitive (Similac Lactose Free)
- Pre-mature formulas:
some formulas are designed for low-birth infants and premature babies. These formulas contain more proteins, vitamins, and minerals to encourage the rapid growth of low-weight and pre-term babies. Here are some examples of pre-mature formulas:
– Enfamil Premature
– Enfamil EnfaCare
– Similac NeoSure
- Hypoallergenic formulas:
designed for sensitive babies who may react poorly to cow’s milk- and soy-based formulas. Here, the proteins are broken down to very small pieces so that it does not cause an allergic reaction. Some examples of hypoallergenic formulas are:
– Nutramigen LIPIL
– Pregestimil Infant – Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Formula
- Enfamil also offers a baby formula with added rice starch (Enfamil A.R. LIPIL). This thickens the formula and allows baby to keep the food down better.
- Enfamil LIPIL Low is a baby formula with low levels of iron.
- Similac Organic is made with organic cow’s milk and other organic components.
- Good Start Natural Cultures is a new baby formula which includes Bifidus BL. This bacterial culture helps Baby keep a healthy intestinal environment and have been shown to increase Baby’s level of antibodies
In addition to all of the above formulas, there is another series of formulas that are designed for older babies. These “second step” formulas may have higher levels of proteins and/or calcium to parallel the needs of a toddler. Some are designed for babies 4 months and older while other are for babies who are 6 months or older.