The choice whether to breastfeed or formula feed an infant is one of many decisions that mothers are faced with after they have a baby. According to health experts, breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. However, breastfeeding may not be possible for some women for several reasons, including medical conditions, postpartum depression, and work situations. Formula companies have tried hard to mimic the beneficial compounds in breastmilk with targeted ingredients.
The most common type of formula is made from cow’s milk. However, infants that are sensitive or allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk may require an alternative; soy milk formulas are touted as an alternative for babies that don’t tolerate dairy. Hydrolyzed formulas and those made from amino acids are also options.
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Baby formulas come in a few different forms. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that powder must be mixed with water before giving it to your baby. Liquid concentrate must also be blended with water, but it’s more expensive than powder. Another option that is ready-to-feed formula, which requires no mixing. Although it’s convenient, it’s often the most expensive option.
Best Value Infant Formula
Powdered formula is generally the least expensive. According to Consumer Reports, the powdered version of Enfamil Premium Infant Formula is up to 35 percent cheaper than the same Enfamil formula in ready-to-eat form.
Gerber Good Start is one of the best infant formulas for people on a tight budget. It uses hydrolyzed whey as the main protein. Although it’s derived from cow’s milk, it is significantly broken down so that it is gentle on a baby’s digestion. Gerber also adds probiotics and prebiotics to the formula to create an optimal balance of microbes within an infant’s gut. Although corn sweetener is used, Gerber doesn’t include GMO ingredients in the product.
Gerber Good Start powdered formula costs about $29 for 32 ounces.
Best Powdered Formula Overall
Although it’s not the cheapest option, Enfamil Enspire powdered formula is a high-quality product that blends into a creamy liquid. The manufacturer claims that it’s the closest formula to breastmilk than any other Enfamil formula.
It contains valuable nutrients to support developing children up to 12 months old, including:
- MFGM: A beneficial fat that is also found in breastmilk and protects against inflammation
- Lactoferrin: An ingredient found in human milk that aids in nutrient absorption and has antimicrobial properties
- DHA: A man-made version of an essential fatty acid that may help with visual and brain development and is found in most modern formulas
- Choline: An important nutrient and is vital for brain and cell health
- Prebiotics: Help improve the microbial balance in the intestines, leading to better stool consistency
Enspire is one of the only formulas that use lactose as its only sweetener. This increases the price tag, but it may have some benefits. The Baby Formula Expert explains that lactose helps the body absorb calcium and feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestines. A 20.50 oz tub will cost you about $40.
Best Organic Formula
Earth’s Best offers a lactose-only organic baby formula that’s made with milk from cows fed organic grains and grasses. That means that no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals are used in the cows’ feed.
Like Enfamil Enspire, this formula contains DHA, prebiotics, and no corn syrup solids. It also has lutein, which enhances eye health, and iron, which is crucial for a child’s development.
One thing to note about organic formulas is that only the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are organic. All formulas contain vitamins and minerals, some of which are made in a lab. Those cannot be certified as organic.
Also, the DHA that is added to infant formulas is often extracted from algae in a laboratory using hexane, a toxic chemical, according to The Cornucopia Institute. The DHA in Earth’s Best Organic Formula is extracted using water. A 23.2 container will cost you about $24.
Best Formula for Sensitive Stomachs
Finding a formula for babies with sensitive digestive systems can be challenging because infants can have digestive distress for a variety of reasons. Most parents believe that their infants’ fussiness or gassiness may come from lactose.
Therefore, a low-lactose formula may be easier to digest. Similac Sensitive Lactose Sensitivity may give babies less discomfort than traditional formulas. It’s nutritionally complete and may reduce gas in babies that don’t tolerate lactose well. A 638-gram container retails for about $33.
Best Soy Formula
Soy formula may also be used for babies that are sensitive to lactose or have digestive issues. However, true lactose intolerance in babies is rare. Moreover, infants with cow’s milk protein allergies are likely to be allergic to soy. Health experts recommend checking with a doctor before giving your infant soy formula.
If you decide to use this option, Enfamil ProSoBee is a good choice. It’s designed to reduce irritability and gas because it’s easy on the digestive system. Like Enfamil Enspire, this product contains DHA and choline. It’s also available in powdered, liquid, or ready-to-feed form. A 12.9 oz will cost you about $19.
Best Hypoallergenic Baby Formula
According to KellyMom.com, cow’s milk proteins are the most commonly researched ingredient that causes sensitivity. However, other common problem ingredients include:
You won’t find a formula with peanuts or eggs in it, but you might want to avoid soy for babies with sensitive tummies. You may have to experiment with a few different types of formula. Keep in mind, however, that babies need time to adjust to new ingredients; sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether the new formula is truly causing problems, or the infant just needs time to get used to it.
Therefore, a hypoallergenic formula might be the best option if your child has digestive problems. The best hypoallergenic formula may be EleCare. It’s made with amino acids instead of milk solids or soy. It has been developed to minimize the potential of allergic reactions in children with multiple allergies. Babies who can’t tolerate lactose, hydrolyzed milk proteins, or soy might benefit from this type of formula. A 14.1 oz will cost you about $36. EleCare is not available in liquid or ready-to-feed form.
It’s important to talk to your child’s pediatrician before switching to any brand of formula.