The Best Baby Formulas, According to a Prenatal Dietitian

Our experts agree, Gerber Good Start GentlePro is the best

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Best Infant Formulas

Verywell Family / Chloe Jeong

Baby formulas are an easy and convenient way to ensure your baby is getting the nutrients they need if you cannot or choose not to use breast milk. The best baby formulas are modeled after breastmilk, contain 20 calories per ounce, and should be iron-fortified to prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Reviewed & Approved

Gerber Good Start GentlePro is our top infant formula pick because it contains easy-to-digest proteins, all necessary vitamins and minerals, and added DHA and AA, which may support brain health. For a nutritionally complete dairy-free option, try Mama Bear Soy-Based Powder Infant Formula, which is a great option for babies with a cow's milk allergy or families following a vegan diet.

If you are feeding your baby with a formula, the FDA regulates all commercially available infant formulas. So you can rest assured that you are giving your baby a product that meets minimum nutrition and safety requirements.

There are dozens of infant formulas on the market, which might make it difficult to choose. Our experts agree it's best to take note of the protein and carbohydrate sources, be sure they contain the right amount of added iron for your baby, and decide if you want a formula that is powdered, liquid concentrate, or liquid ready-to-feed. If your baby was born prematurely, they will likely benefit from an enriched preterm formula that contains more calories and protein and higher levels of some vitamins and minerals. A number of formulas are also specially designed to account for allergies or digestive differences in babies.

Based on our reviews, these are the best baby formulas on the market today.

Best Overall: Gerber Good Start GentlePro

4.6
Gerber Good Start GentlePro

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Easy-to-digest proteins

  • Prebiotics and probiotics to mimic breastmilk

  • No GMO ingredients

  • Added DHA and AA

Cons
  • Contains palm olein, which may not be ideal

The Gerber name is synonymous with all things baby, and it’s a brand you can trust to provide your little one with top-notch nutrition. Gerber Good Start GentlePro gets our overall top pick. It is well-tolerated by many babies Nicole Lattanzio RD, CNSC, CSP, a pediatric dietitian and the owner of The Baby Dietitian PLLC, works with.

Cow’s milk-based infant formulas usually contain a mixture of casein and whey proteins, but casein can be difficult for some babies' new digestive systems. Gerber's GentlePro formula is free from casein and contains easy-to-digest partially broken down whey proteins, which Gerber calls “Comfort Proteins.”

The GentlePro formula also contains the probiotic B.lactis and a prebiotic called 2’-FL HMO, which is modeled after the completeness of breastmilk. For fat, this formula uses a blend of palm olein, soy, coconut, and safflower oil; it also adds DHA and AA for brain health. Our one hesitation is the inclusion of palm olein, as some research suggests that palm olein may be associated with lower fat and calcium absorption and decreased growth and bone mineralization. All necessary vitamins and minerals are also present in this powdered, ready-to-mix baby formula. Although it does not contain GMO ingredients, this formula is not organic.

Carbohydrate Source: 70% lactose | Protein Source: 100% whey partially hydrolyzed | Added Nutrients: Pre and probiotics, DHA, AA | Form: Powdered

Best Budget: Kirkland Signature ProCare Non-GMO Infant Formula

Kirkland Signature ProCare Non-GMO Infant Formula

Costco

Pros
  • Contains DHA, lutein, and 2'-FL HMO

  • Certified Kosher and Halal

  • Quality that matches leading brands

Cons
  • Must be a Costco member

You may enjoy wandering the aisles of Costco and trying food samples, so why not pick up a budget-friendly baby formula while you’re there? The Costco store brand, Kirkland, provides a product that has a similar nutrition profile to leading brands. Standout nutrient features of this formula include DHA for babies’ brain development, lutein for their eyes, and 2’-FL HMO as a prebiotic for gut health and immune system.

Kirkland is an inclusive brand and produced a product that is certified Kosher and Halal, so parents with cultural dietary considerations can comfortably use this formula. It does not contain palm oil, is easy to digest, and is available at an affordable price. The one catch is that you have to be a Costco member to have access to this brand.

Carbohydrate Source: Lactose | Protein Source: Whey protein concentrate | Added Nutrients: DHA lutein, prebiotics | Form: Powdered

Best Organic: Earth's Best Organic Dairy Infant Powder Formula with Iron

Earth's Best Organic Dairy Infant Powder Formula with Iron

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • USDA Organic

  • Prebiotics, DHA and AA, and lutein

  • All-lactose formula to more closely mimic breastmilk

Cons
  • More expensive than non-organic formula

If your family values certified organic products, then look no further than Earth’s Best Organic Dairy Infant Powder with Iron. This product is made with organic milk from grass and grain-fed cows that have never been given artificial growth hormones. As far as organic formulas go, Earth’s Best is the most affordable; however, it is still more expensive than non-organic varieties.

Earth’s Best claims this is the closest formula to breastmilk as it is an all-lactose product (meaning no corn syrup or other carbohydrates). It also includes added whey protein alongside casein, prebiotics for immunity, DHA and AA for brain and eye development, and lutein which is a carotenoid important for eye health.

Carbohydrate Source: Lactose | Protein Source: Whey and casein | Added Nutrients: DHA, AA, lutein, prebiotic | Form: Powdered

Best for Gassy/Fussy Baby: Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Infant Formula

Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Infant Formula

Amazon

Pros
  • Easy-to-digest proteins

  • Reduces fussiness, crying, gas, and spit-up within 24 hours

  • Contains MFGM

Cons
  • Expensive

While we would like to think that all formulas are created equally and should be well tolerated by all babies, sometimes that’s not the case. If your baby seems uncomfortable or cries loudly, expressing discomfort after a feed, it might be time to investigate a different formula. Enter Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Infant Formula—a formula that has been clinically proven to reduce fussiness, crying, gas, and spit up within 24 hours of starting.

The proteins in this product are partially hydrolyzed (broken down) and easy for a sensitive tummy to handle. NeuroPro Gentlease also contains MFGM, which stands for milk fat globule membrane. This is a substance naturally found in breastmilk important for brain structure and development and is also added to certain Enfamil products to help with digestive issues.

While this product is high quality, made with non-GMO ingredients, and can be purchased in various forms, it does run a touch higher in price than your standard, non-specialized formulas.

Carbohydrate Source: Corn syrup solids | Protein Source: Partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk and whey protein concentrate solids (soy) | Added Nutrients: MFGM, DHA, AA | Form: Powdered and liquid

Best for Milk Allergies: Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Infant Formula

Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Infant Formula

Abbott

Pros
  • Broken-down proteins

  • Lactose-free

  • Contains 2’-FL HMO

Cons
  • Expensive

A Note on Similac Recalls

In February 2022, Abbott recalled several powder formulas produced at a manufacturing plant in Sturgis, MI, following bacterial infections and infant hospitalizations linked to the products.

If you use a formula from Abbott's Alimentum, Similac, or EleCare brands, look out for the following to see if your product is affected by the recall: The first two digits of the code are 22 through 37; the code on the container has K8, SH, or Z2; the expiration date is April 1, 2022, or later. You can also check the lot number on the bottom of the package on Abbott's recall page.

Currently, the recall only applies to powder formulas and does not include pre-made, liquid formulas like the one recommended here.

You can find more information about the recall on the Food and Drug Administration's recall page.

Gas is one thing, but if your baby starts to exhibit signs of extreme discomfort, develops a rash, is constantly vomiting, or has blood in their stool, these could be signs of a more serious milk protein allergy. Since even a small amount of cow’s milk can cause this immune reaction, it’s best to switch formulas.

Similac Alimentum is clinically shown to reduce symptoms of colic from a milk protein allergy within 24 hours. The source of protein still comes from cow’s milk but in the form of casein hydrolysate, which means that the large protein molecules are already broken down and made digestive-friendly for baby. Additionally, rather than using lactose, which can cause further tummy troubles, this product uses corn maltodextrin.

As an added boost, Alimentum includes 2’-FL HMO, an immune-nourishing ingredient that may also contribute to a happier gut. This product is also free of palm olein oil to help encourage softer stools since babies with cow’s milk allergies can be more prone to constipation. With all of these benefits, Similac Alimentum's hypoallergenic infant formula is on the pricier side when it comes to baby formulas. Yet, many parents’ reviews note that it was immensely helpful for their child and well worth the cost. It’s always worth scouting out coupons or asking a pediatric healthcare provider if they can provide financial assistance.

Carbohydrate Source: Corn maltodextrin | Protein Source: Casein hydrolysate | Added Nutrients: 2’-FL HMO | Form: Liquid

Best Alternative Milk Formula: Mama Bear Soy-Based Powder Infant Formula with Iron

Mama Bear Soy-Based Powder Infant Formula with Iron

Amazon

Pros
  • Suitable for cow’s milk allergies and vegans

  • Kosher certified

  • Less expensive than leading brands

Cons
  • May be clumpy when mixed

If you’ve identified that your baby does indeed have a cow’s milk protein allergy, but the price of specialty hypoallergenic formulas feels overwhelming, consider this Mama Bear Soy-Based Powder instead. Soy-based formulas are 100% free of dairy, so no lactose, no cow’s milk protein, and no worries for parent and baby. Aside from an allergy, families who follow a vegan diet and wish to raise their child in the same custom will find soy formula perfectly acceptable and nutritionally complete. This Mama Bear Soy formula is also certified Kosher as well as gluten-free.

Mama Bear is an Amazon private label brand, so it is significantly less expensive than other leading brands’ (Enfamil, Similac, Earth’s Best) soy formulas while maintaining top-quality nutrition. This formula contains DHA and AA, no artificial growth hormones, and no GMOs. The reviews from parents are glowing. Not only is the price comfortable, but it has soothed their baby’s symptoms and has a pleasant taste. One downside is that the powder can remain a little clumpy even after mixing, but it was not a dealbreaker.

Carbohydrate Source: Corn syrup | Protein Source: Soy protein isolate | Added Nutrients: DHA, lutein, vitamin E | Form: Powdered

Final Verdict

Gerber Good Start GentlePro earned our top pick because it offers well-rounded nutrition and is easy to digest and widely available. For a nutritionally complete dairy-free option, try Mama Bear Soy-Based Powder Infant Formula, which is a reasonably priced option if your baby has a cow's milk allergy or if your family follows a vegan diet.

The Allure of European Infant Formula

In recent years, there has been an increase in consumers purchasing European infant formulas. While you can certainly choose this option for your infant, be mindful of a few key features. All infant formulas sold and manufactured in the United States must meet the nutrient requirements laid out by the FDA. However, it is important to note that the FDA standards for iron are lower than the recommended intake for infants. While, for the most part, all US formulas provide adequate iron, many European formulas do not. 

When purchasing infant formulas that are sold or prepared outside of the United States, pay special attention to iron content. This includes both European formulas, such as Holle and Hipp, as well as FDA-approved European-style formulas such as Bobbie. If you choose a formula that provides less than 1.5mg of iron per 100 calories, speak to a healthcare provider about supplementing with iron prior to six months. 

The other major concern is mixing. Formulas sold in the United States typically have mixing instructions of 1 scoop per 2 ounces. Standard European formula is one scoop to 1 ounce–and those instructions will likely be in Dutch or German. Do your research and, of course, reach out to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian with any questions.

How We Selected

Choosing a baby formula can feel overwhelming. Ingredient lists read like another language, and there are a dizzying number of choices for tired, new parents to choose from. We spent hours doing research on the nutrient profile of baby formulas, paying special attention to the types of carbohydrates and proteins and how they mimic breast milk.

We investigated the statistics and science surrounding infant allergies and intolerances and used those as considerations when comparing products. We also evaluated how ingredients were sourced and looked at their price and availability. The Top Pick was chosen based on these factors, as well as recommendations from parents and our pediatric dietitian expert.

Nicole Lattanzio RD, CNSC, CSP, pediatric dietitian and owner of The Baby Dietitian PLLC, was immensely helpful to inform our knowledge of the nutrient profile of baby formulas and navigate the dozens of choices on store shelves. Nicole has worked exclusively with babies and families for the past five years and is well versed in formulas on the market today. She shared with us which ones work well for her clients and which ones she personally endorses as a dietitian and mother.

What to Look for in a Baby Formula

Protein Sources

Nicole acknowledges that there are loads of different formulas on the market, and there are many pieces to consider. “I look for the protein source first as this is one of the biggest factors in terms of tolerability,” she says. Cow’s milk whey protein is the most commonly found form of protein that more closely mimics the protein found in breast milk.

If your baby suffers from gas, colic, or a cow’s milk allergy, they may benefit from a gentler and more easily absorbed protein, such as hydrolyzed (broken down) casein or whey protein. True milk protein intolerance only impacts about 2-5% of infants under 1 year old.

Carbohydrate Sources

After protein, Nicole looks at the carbohydrate source. “I prefer formulas that have lactose as a primary carbohydrate source as this mimics breast milk. When lactose is not used, alternative carbohydrate sources are used such as corn syrup or maltodextrin.”

Some babies may be born with or develop a lactase deficiency which means they lack the enzyme to break down lactose. This leads to gas, fussiness, vomiting, or diarrhea, and in this case, babies may benefit from a “gentle” formula with the corn alternatives mentioned. Nicole says, “True lactose intolerance in infants is very rare. If there are concerns about excessive gassiness or not tolerating formulas, choosing a new formula based on the type of protein will lead to the most success.” 

DHA and AA

When it comes to fat, formulas contain a mix of different types of unsaturated fats and are low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Some products include two polyunsaturated fatty acids, arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in breastmilk. These haven’t traditionally been included in the formula as babies can create them using other fats already found in the formula.

These fatty acids are generally known to be beneficial for baby’s brain and eye development. However, research has not yet shown a clear benefit or harm in providing formulas with these fat additions. Formulas that include AA and DHA may be more expensive.

Iron

Pregnant parents are able to pass down iron to their growing baby in the third trimester, and that iron storage will last them through the first four months of life. For formula-fed babies, it is recommended to receive an iron-fortified formula from birth. Most commercially available formulas contain 4-12 mg of iron. If your baby is breastfed or receives a combination of formula and breast milk, check with your pediatrician about iron supplementation.

Form and Preparation

Baby formulas come in powder, liquid concentrate, and ready-to-feed liquid formulas, and there are pros and cons to each kind. Powdered is the most economical. When making a bottle of formula with a powder, be sure to measure out the water ounces first, then add in the powder and shake to prevent concentrating the formula.

Liquid concentrate is a bit less messy and more convenient but may be slightly more expensive. The most expensive option is the ready-to-feed formula, but it is also the most convenient and least messy. Choose the type that works best for your budget and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much is baby formula?

    Baby formula can be found at a wide range of price points—from as little as $0.48 per ounce to upwards of $1.80 per ounce or more. Powder is the least expensive option though it may be slightly less convenient, while liquid ready-to-feed is the most expensive and most convenient option.

    Thankfully, you can purchase baby formula with SNAP benefits. Also, a pediatric healthcare provider may be able to provide you with samples, coupons or even write you a prescription to help with the cost.

  • When do babies stop drinking formula?

    Typically babies are weaned from formula and/or breastmilk as their primary source of nutrition around 1 year of age. At this time, their digestive system is mature enough to handle cow’s milk, and they are consuming plenty of solid foods to meet their nutrient needs.

  • Can babies drink cold formula?

    Yes, babies can drink cold formula, but that doesn’t mean they will! One of the conveniences of formula is that it can be mixed with cold or room temperature water and given to the baby. It’s perfectly safe to prepare and serve this way as long as the water source is safe, but some babies have a preference for warmer formula, especially if they had started off breastfeeding and are used to the breastfeeding parent's warm, freshly expressed breastmilk.

  • How much formula should I feed my baby?

    The amount of formula you will feed your baby will change over time, and, above all, parents should respond to their baby’s hunger and fullness cues. In the first few days of life, a baby’s stomach grows from the size of a cherry to the size of an apricot, and babies are able to tolerate a mere teaspoon to 2 ounces of milk per feed. This amount increases with each week, and babies can consume upwards of 32-40 ounces of milk per day as they grow older than six months. Remember that every baby’s needs are unique!

  • Can you give baby formula and breastmilk?

    Yes, there is no one “right” way to feed your baby, so if you want to provide breastmilk and formula, that is perfectly fine. You may choose to provide formula because you need to return to work, and the demands of pumping breastmilk are too high, or perhaps you are having difficulties with low milk supply.

    You may choose to give your baby formula bottles during the day and bond with your baby during nursing sessions in the morning and evenings. Choosing to supplement with formula when needed or solely provide formula is a personal choice. It is important to ensure that parents feel supported in making the decision that is right for their baby so that baby gets the high-quality nutrition they need.

Why Trust Verywell Family

As a registered dietitian and mom, Casey Seiden MS, RD, CDCES uses her clinical expertise and mama instinct to evaluate products, taking into consideration the demands of parenthood and the unique needs of each family. While Casey was able to breastfeed and did not provide baby formula to her own child, she did extensive research regarding the science of baby formulas, studied available products on the market, spoke with mothers who used formula, and consulted a pediatric dietitian expert.


Lauren Capacete, MS, RD, LDN is a clinical pediatric dietitian with over five years of experience working with children and families. She is also an adjunct nutrition professor and experienced freelance writer. Through her clinical experience, Lauren has helped families navigate the world of infant formulas, ensuring babies are getting the nutrition they need and that parents are aware of the pros and cons of each formula option, including European-inspired and homemade formulas.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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