Choosing a formula for your baby used to be easy, with parents having to choose from regular cow's milk based formula, soy formula or an elemental formula. Now, in addition to these basic formula types, you can also find lactose free formula, formula supplemented with DHA and ARA, and formula for preemies.
And there are many different brands, including those made by Mead Johnson, Ross, Nestle and various store brand formulas.
Which brand should you buy?
All infant formulas are prepared according to FDA regulations which 'specify minimum and, in some cases, maximum nutrient level requirements for infant formulas, based on recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. These regulations and the Infant Formula Act help to make sure that all infant formulas are nutritionally complete and safe for your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse or recommend that your infant drink any specific brand of formula if you choose not to breastfeed, except they do say that low iron formula should not be used.
And convincing studies have not been done to show that any one brand is better for your baby than another.
So which brand you choose is something that you will have to decide for yourself.
Which formula is right for your baby?
Once you choose a brand of formula, you will have to decide which type of formula you want for your baby.
It might help you choose if you understand what makes each type of formula different.
Infant formulas mostly differ in the type of sugar and protein that they have.
Regular iron fortified infant formulas, such as Similac Advance, Enfamil Lipil, and Nestle Good Start Supreme are made with lactose and cow's milk based proteins. Most infants who are not breastfeeding exclusively should be given a cow's milk based iron fortified formula.
Soy formulas are made with soy protein and are lactose free. Brands include Enfamil ProSobee, Similac Isomil, and Nestle Good Start Supreme Soy. They are good for children who don't tolerate lactose or milk proteins. ]
Elemental formulas are also lactose free and are made with hydrolysate proteins, which are easy to digest for infants with protein allergies. Types of elemental formulas include Nutramigen, Pregestamil and Alimentum.
If you have a family history of food allergies or formula intolerances, you might choose to start your baby off with a soy or elemental formula if you do not want to breastfeed.
Lactose free formulas, such as Lactofree and Similac Lactose free are made without lactose, but do have cow's milk proteins in them. Infants are not usually thought to be born with a lactose intolerance, so these formulas are usually not needed.
Other infant formulas include Enfamil AR (added rice), which is supposed to be helpful for infants with reflux and premature formulas, such as Similac Special Care and Enfamil Premature.
Powder, Concentrate or Ready-To-Feed?
When choosing a formula, you will also have to decide if you would like to buy your formula as a powder or concentrated liquid, which you will have to mix, or a ready-to-feed or ready-to-use formula. In general, ready to feed formula, while more convenient, are more expensive. Powder formula is usually the least expensive.
You can also buy some brands of formula, including Enfamil with Iron, Lactofree and ProSobee as a Single Serve Powder Packet, which is pre-measured to make a 4 ounce bottle. Similac makes similar Powder Singles.
DHA and ARA
This past year, new infant formulas were introduced which are supplemented with DHA and ARA, which are found in breast milk and are thought to help with an infant's development. Brands of these supplemented formula include Enfamil Lipil, Similac Advance, and Nestle Good Start Supreme DHA & ARA.
Soy formulas and premature formulas with DHA and ARA have also recently been introduced.
A formula with DHA and ARA is likely a good choice if your infant isn't breastfeeding and you want to give a formula that is most like breastmilk to help with their development.
These types of formula, like Similac 2, Enfamil Next Step and Nestle Good Start Supreme 2. They generally have more calcium and iron than regular infant formula. Do you need to change to a follow-up formula? After he is four to six months old, your child should be able to get enough of these nutrients from the solid foods that he is eating, so a follow-up formula might not be necessary. If your child isn't eating solids well, you might ask your Pediatrician if you should change to a follow-up type formula.
Alternatives to Formula
According to the FDA, 'Homemade formulas should not be used.... Homemade formulas based on cows' milk don't meet all of an infant's nutritional needs, and cow's milk protein that has not been cooked or processed is difficult for an infant to digest. In addition, the high protein and electrolyte (salt) content of cow's milk may put a strain on an infant's immature kidneys. Substituting evaporated milk for whole milk may make the homemade formula easier to digest because of the effect of processing on the protein, but the formula is still nutritionally inadequate and still may stress the kidneys.'
Goat's milk is also not usually a good alternative, especially if your child has a problem digesting milk proteins. Goat's milk is low in Vitamin D and it is also low in iron, Vitamin B12 and folate, which can lead to an iron deficiency or megaloblastic anemia (low blood counts). If you are going to feed your infant goat's milk, make sure that you use a commercially prepared pasteurized form that is supplemented with Vitamin D and Folic Acid. You might also have to supplement it with an additional form of carbohydrate, such as sugar or corn syrup. And remember that your infant will need vitamin supplements with iron.
Cow's milk should also not be used until your infant is about 12 months old. Cow's milk is not always easy for infants to digest and it is low in iron.