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Infant and baby formulas can replace breast milk. They can also supplement it, extending the breastfeeding relationship or making nursing possible to begin with.
Every baby is different, and it is a good idea to consult a pediatrician for help choosing the right formula, especially if a baby has special needs, including dietary restrictions.
Some caregivers believe that homemade infant formulas are safe, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that they may not contain the right nutrients and could harbor dangerous contaminants.
Commercial formulas must pass rigorous tests, making them a safer option.
These tips can help with choosing the right formula:
- Know when formula is a good idea. All babies under 1 year need breast milk, formula, or a combination.
- Plan strategically. A formula-fed infant needs around 25–30 ounces of formula per day.
- Try combination feeding. This involves supplementing formula feeds with breast milk, as some breast milk is more healthful for a baby than none.
Also, consider choosing a liquid formula, especially for infants under 2 months. This is because dangerous Cronobacter bacteria can grow in powdered formula.
However, powdered formula is usually less expensive, and when a person prepares it correctly, it is a safe choice for most babies.
For a person who prepares any baby formula, washing the hands frequently and thoroughly, and having good overall hygiene is key.
Anyone concerned about the risks should consult the baby’s pediatrician. This is especially important if the baby was born prematurely or has a compromised immune system.
The following versatile baby formulas may be good starter options for babies with typical needs.
Enfamil Infant Formula
This basic formula may be more affordable.
It is suitable for babies up to 12 months of age.
It is also available at many stores, and it comes as a liquid concentrate.
This formula may be useful when parents and caregivers cannot breastfeed.
It contains human milk oligosaccharide, which is a prebiotic also found in breast milk.
It also provides a range of nutrients, as well as lutein, which may aid eye development, and an omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Liquid formulas may be a safer choice for newborns. Some top options include:
The makers market this as a good choice for very young babies, including those who also have breast milk.
This formula is made with non-GMO ingredients.
It contains probiotics, which may benefit digestion in adults, though the benefits in children and babies are unknown, and the research is limited.
When combination feeding, a person might consider the following options:
Similac For Supplementation
This formula contains no genetically modified ingredients.
It has nutrients that may support brain development and health, its makers say.
The prebiotics in this formula, they note, may help produce softer stools, and the product may represent an easy, stomach-friendly introduction to formula.
This formula contains milk thickened with rice starch, which the makers say may help reduce reflux and spitting up.
The company also advertise it as safe for babies younger than 1 year.
The makers’ data suggest that the formula reduces spitting up by half in the first week of use.
The organic classification is not well regulated, so it is important to read labels carefully to distinguish what “organic” means in the context of each formula. Some good options include:
Happy Baby Organic
This formula contains lactose and is rich in iron.
It also contains more prebiotics than many other options.
The makers highlight that this product is free from gluten, GMOs, and corn syrup solids.
The milk is from cows in organic farms.
Earth’s Best Organic Dairy
This formula is rich in omega fatty acids and has no corn syrup additives.
It is kosher, non-GMO, and contains no artificial growth hormones.
The formula contains lutein, which may support eye development.
It also contains a prebiotic that can aid digestion, the makers say.
Babies with lactose intolerance and vegan babies need lactose-free formulas.
Anyone who thinks that their infant may have an allergy should speak with a pediatrician about testing.
If a baby has a diagnosed medical condition, a pediatrician may recommend a specialized formula. These may be expensive, however, and the baby may not take to them easily. The doctor can provide guidance, including information about financial support and potential alternatives.
Parent’s Choice Soy
This lactose-free formula features DHA, which is an omega-3, as well as lutein and vitamin E.
It is kosher and gluten-free but does contain corn syrup.
It is safe for babies younger than 1 year, the company say, reporting that it may also reduce fussiness in children with lactose sensitivity.
The makers say that this formula has been designed for babies with food allergies, colic, and lactose intolerance.
It is hypoallergenic and can reduce crying and stomach issues, they also report.
The milk protein in this product is predigested, making it easier for babies with sensitive systems to metabolize.
When trying to find the safest formula for each baby, a person should:
- Use soy and lactose alternatives only if there is a medical reason.
- Never use a formula that has expired, comes having been opened, or smells bad.
- Never use a formula that has been recalled.
- Avoid switching formulas frequently, if possible, as babies can react badly to sudden changes.
- Use clean water. This may require boiling the water first or filtering it.
- When supplementing, try to breastfeed first, then offer formula. Only give formula supplements if there is a medical reason.
- Rather than relying on marketing, check the ingredients carefully. This can help a person learn why a baby reacts differently to different formulas.
No single formula is right for every baby. All commercially available formulas meet most babies’ basic nutritional needs, so parents and caregivers should focus on their child’s specific needs.
If a baby has a bad reaction to a formula, contact a pediatrician for advice about the best alternative.