How to choose an infant formula

When it comes to choosing an infant formula, there’s never one right answer. There are dozens of brands with dozens of formulations. How do you choose and which can you trust? Understanding how each formula differs can guide your decision-making. Start by learning about popular brands, common formulations, and your baby’s unique nutritional needs.  If your child has any health issues, you should absolutely consult with your pediatrician. Even if there are no known health issues, your pediatrician can be an excellent source of information on formula.

5 widely used formula brands

1. Similac

A trusted name in infant nutrition, Similac offers a wide range of formulas. Similac Advance is a well-rounded option.

2. Enfamil

Enfamil is similarly popular, with wide-ranging options like Enfamil NeuroPro and Enfamil Gentlease, tailored to sensitive stomachs.

3. Gerber Good Start

Gerber's Good Start line has formulas like Gentle and Soothe, crafted to keep your baby's belly content and calm.

4. Bobbie Organic

For ingredient-conscious parents, Bobbie offers organic formulas free from artificial additives and preservatives.

5. Walmart Parent’s Choice

Walmart's Parent's Choice brand offers budget-friendly options that don’t compromise on quality. Parent's Choice Advantage is often compared to Similac Advance.

Understanding different formulations

Not every formula is right for every baby. Based on your child’s nutritional needs and your pediatrician’s recommendations, you may want to seek out a specialized formula. Here are five common types:

Cow’s milk formula

Tried-and-true and suitable for most infants, these formulas are made from cow's milk proteins that have been modified for easy digestion.

Hydrolyzed formula

These formulas break down proteins into smaller, more digestible fragments, making them better for babies with sensitive stomachs.

Soy-based formula

Soy-based formulas can be soothing for babies with cow's milk allergies or lactose intolerance, as they're made from soy protein instead of dairy-based proteins.

Lactose-free formula

For babies with lactose intolerance (which is different from cow’s milk protein allergy!), these formulas provide alternative carbohydrate sources for nutrition.

Specialized formulas

Some babies, such as pre-term infants, those with metabolic conditions, or babies with reflux, will require even more specialized formulas.

Considerations when choosing a formula

Some babies will be fine with your basic formula. Others will need something more specific. Here are some guidelines to help narrow down your options based on your child’s unique needs:

Do they have allergies or food sensitivities?

For babies with allergies or food sensitivities, a hypoallergenic formula or soy-based alternative may be best.

Are you looking to supplement breastfeeding?

Parents looking to occasionally supplement breastmilk with formula will want to choose a formula that mirrors breastmilk in composition.

Is your baby fussy or colicky?

Gentle or soothing formulas can be best for babies prone to gas and digestive discomfort.

Is your baby pre-term or did they have a low birth weight?

Some babies may require specialized formulas with added nutrients to support their growth and development. Consult with your pediatrician or a specialist.

Does it need to be organic?

If you care about organic ingredients, keep an eye out for brands that offer organic formulas. Just know that they may come at a higher price point.

How much are you able to spend?

Store-brand formulas are usually more budget-friendly than brand-name formulas without compromising on quality.

Check with your doctor

If you’re not sure what’s best for your baby, ask your pediatrician or lactation consultant for guidance. They can recommend specific formulations and/or brands that best suit your needs.

Getting clear on your priorities and your baby’s needs will make choosing a formula easier. Don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional before committing, both for peace of mind and to ensure that your baby gets the nutrients they need to support their growth and development.