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Types of Baby Formula

drinking formula

Once you've made the decision to formula feed your baby, it's important to consider several factors before choosing one brand or type. Take a step back and consider the various types of formula, as well as the brands and their associated relative costs. With a little research, you'll find the right formula for you and for your baby.

Types of Baby Formula

There are three types of formula: soybean based formula, cow's milk based formula, or protein hydrolsysate formula. If you have just given birth to or adopted an infant, your pediatrician will suggest what type of formula is best for your baby. According to the Cleveland Clinic, formula from cow's milk is the best choice unless there is a reason to go with another type.

In addition, special blends are made for premature babies and for babies who are born with, or develop, a medical condition that requires a different mixture of nutrients.

Forms of Formula

Formula comes in a variety of forms, including liquid concentrate, powder, and ready-to-use liquid. The ready-to-use version is typically the most expensive, while the powder is the least expensive. Ready-to-use formula must be kept in the refrigerator once the package has been opened.

All forms of formula must be thrown away when the baby has drunk part of a bottle. Whether there is one ounce left in the bottle or your baby only took one sip and then fell asleep, formula that has been in the bottle and in your baby's mouth must be thrown away within one hour. Powder-format formula should also be thrown away 24 hours after you mixed it, even if your baby has not drunk from the bottle.

While powder formula is least expensive, ready-to-use formula creates less mess and requires fewer steps for preparation. Liquid concentrate is not as messy as powder, but also not as user-friendly as the ready-to-use versions. For every family lifestyle and budget a different type of formula is ideal.

Baby Formula Brands

The following brands of baby formula lead the American market and conduct extensive research on the elements that baby formula should include, and in what amounts, in order for babies to grow and develop in a healthy way. The ongoing research of these two brands is on the cutting edge of baby nutritional needs and baby development. Both of these brands are available in all grocery stores, some pharmacies, and shops like Target and Wal-Mart. For best pricing, look at bulk stores for oversized packages, or clip coupons for shopping at your local grocery shop. You can also shop online and have these formulas sent to your home.

Store brands are also offered in many types of shops, from pharmacies to major department and grocery stores. Talk with your pediatrician about your baby's health needs before choosing a brand of formula as many of the specialty formulas are not available in store brands. Premature babies, for instance, can greatly benefit from having specialized formula for preemies.

All formula brands, including store, organics, and generics, must meet FDA guidelines for nutrition; however, different brands contain different amounts of various ingredients.


Similac: The parent-company of Similac was the first American company to make milk-based formula for babies, back in the 1920s. Since that time, Similac has engaged in extensive clinical research in order to offer the very best in infant formula. The latest development is Similac Advance, which contains several elements found in breast milk. The special ingredients include the following: lutein (for eye health), DHA/ARA for brain development, immune-supporting nucleotides, probiotics (for digestion), fat blend to support calcium absorption. According to Dr. Greene, DHA and ARA (fatty acids found in breast milk) are critically important for baby development.

Similac is sold in plastic containers convenient for countertop storage and features a snap-lock cover for freshness. The price of Similac ranges from $15 to $30+, depending on the type of formula (standard or a special blend), and whether you choose for powder in bulk, single-serving powder sticks, or ready-to-use liquid. The cheapest option is bulk powder Similac Advance (sold in 34 ounce bin).


Enfamil: Another well-known name in formula, Enfamil has tested and put several different types of baby formula on the market. Whether you need standard formula for your baby or a special mix, such as one for babies allergic to cow's milk or babies who have frequent colic, Enfamil has a formula option just right for your baby.

The price of this brand, for powder versions, is between $20 and $30 for about 24 ounces of powder, depending on the exact formula you choose. For example, formula for babies under one year of age is a bit more expensive than formula for babies older than one year. Enfamil comes in a sturdy plastic box with a scoop in the top; you can save lots of money by purchasing refill packs instead of repurchasing the specialized box with scoop.

Organic Baby Formula

In addition to the market leaders, a few organic brands are gaining in popularity.

  • Earth's Best: One of the leading brands in organics for babies, Earth's Best offers a milk-based as well as a soy-based formula option. For those who strive for superior health for both their family as well as the earth, this formula brand is a good option.
  • Nature's One: A leader in medical nutrition, Nature's One offers three types of organic formula: dairy, soy, and lactose-free. According to their website, this brand of organic formula is not only organic, but also the healthiest option when formula-feeding a baby.

Formula Allergies

Babies can develop allergies to certain formulas, especially those that are cow's milk based. If your baby develops continuous diarrhea, abnormal vomiting or spitting up, a skin rash, or shows unusual tiredness, he may have a formula allergy. You will need to contact your pediatrician for advice. You should not, however, switch your infant's formula without discussing this with your doctor first.

Using Whole Milk

Finally, most pediatricians believe that it is perfectly fine to give your baby whole cow's milk once he has turned one year, but not earlier. For infants up to one year of age, breast milk and a baby-appropriate formula are the only two options.

Keep discussing your baby's needs after the one-year mark. Depending on your baby's height and weight, your doctor may recommend 2% or skim milk. Always seek advice on this question, as the answer will depend on your baby's size, growth rate, and development.

If you were using a soy-based formula, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning on cow's milk at one year of age. According to the Baby Center, true milk allergies are rare (only two or three percent of children), but your child could be among them.

Choosing Nutrition

Ultimately, parents are most concerned about one aspect when it comes to feeding their babies: nutrition. While the convenience factor may weigh heavily, always keep the nutritional value of your baby's food at center stage. Follow the directions for storage, preparation, and leftovers of formula that are on the package to ensure that bottle feeding your baby lives up to your nutritional expectations.

Types of Baby Formula