How to Choose the Best Baby Formula

Decades ago, selecting an infant formula was not nearly as complex as it is today. While there were different brands of formula, most of them were fairly similar. Today, there are many types of formulas and different additives in each. Most families begin with the standard cow’s milk formula and adapt if an issue arises. If you have concerns about which formula to choose, ask the advice of a pediatrician and consider the points below.


All Formula in US Is FDA Approved

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You can be encouraged that in the United States, all infant formula is manufactured according to Food and Drug Administration standards. These standards are guided by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. While some formulas may boast "something special" about their product, every formula sold in the US is made to nutritional standards set and informed by the FDA.


Powdered, Concentrated, or Ready to Feed?

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When buying formula, you'll want to consider what form it comes in. Essentially, there are three types of formula: powdered, liquid concentrate, and ready-to-feed. Each type has pros and cons.

Pros of each type:

  • Powdered: most economical, most environmentally-friendly, doesn't take up much room when storing, great for breastfeeding moms who only supplement on occasion, shelf-stable 1 month after opening.
  • Concentrate: Less expensive and less storage space than ready-to-use. Slightly easier to prepare than powdered.
  • Ready-to-use: Most convenient. Hygienic, especially if you have concerns about water safety.

Cons of each type:

  • Powdered: Most effort to prepare. Must follow mixing directions precisely. More difficult to use when out and about. Must be mindful of the quality of drinking water used.
  • Concentrate: Also not as convenient when on-the-go. Must be mindful of the quality of drinking water used.
  • Ready-to-use: Least economical and least environmentally-friendly. Has a shelf life of 48 hours after opening. Due to its darker color compared to powdered and concentrate, can cause more stubborn stains.

Types of Formula

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There are four main types of formulas: cow’s milk based, soy based, lactose-free formula, and elemental formula (hypoallergenic formula).

As for name brand vs. generic formula, you should know that most brands are virtually the same. Rest assured, that though each manufacturer may have slight variations in their formula, there has been no study that shows that one brand is better than any other brand. Generic labels are similar to name brand formulas and cost much less.


Added Ingredients

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Some formulas will add certain ingredients to their formulas. For example, there are "Acid Reflux" formulas, often denoted with "AR." These formulas add a rice thickening into the formulation. Don't start using AR formulas without first consulting your doctor.

Formulas may also have additives like DHA and ARA. However, be sure to understand what these additives and whether your doctor feels they are necessary. Read more on DHA and ARA.


How Long to Use Formula

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 Avoid switching formulas unless a health issue arises. Some signs that there may be a problem with the formula may include diarrhea, constipation, excessive spit up or vomiting, excessive fussiness, and/or rash. You should also continue using formula until your little one is at least one years old.


How Much Baby Formula?

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Newborns generally only drink one to two ounces per feeding. From birth to six months, the rule of the thumb is that babies need two to two and a half ounces of formula per pound per day. So a 10-pound baby would need roughly 20 – 25 ounces in a day. Most pediatricians suggest that babies not exceed 32 ounces in a day. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about the amount of formula your baby needs.

Signs that baby is not getting enough formula may include diminished urine output, slow weight gain, continued crying, and/or skin appearing loose and wrinkly.

Signs that baby is getting too much formula may include excessive weight gain, intensive spitting up or vomiting, colicky abdominal pain, and/or pulling the legs up to the chest.

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