Community Curated • Updated 03, 2019
Baby formula is the next best thing after a mother’s milk - it’s definitely the best alternative option that you could give to your little one for breastmilk.
Mothers opt out for formula feeding either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding, and the reasons for doing it are different from mother to mother. Some do it because of medical reasons, some as an occasional supplement to breastfeeding, some when they’ have particularly busy streaks, as it gives them the necessary flexibility.
And, if you’re formula feeding your little one, or are planning on doing so, chances are you have a couple of important questions that you want to have answered. In this guide, we’re going to try to answer the most important questions surrounding formula feeding, while also offering you the best such products currently on the market. And since bottles an essential item also when you’re formula feeding, make sure to check out our guide on the best bottles we’ve carefully selected for you.
One of Amazon’s customer favorites, Baby’s Only formula will steal the hearts of babies who have trouble digesting dairy. If you don’t believe us, see the reviews on Amazon, moms swear by it! This baby formula is lactose-free, organic and kosher, that will save your baby from bummers such as gas, reflux or bloating, all caused by lactose intolerant metabolisms. Baby’s Only contains big amounts of essential fatty acids which your baby’s body then manages to convert to DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) and ARA (omega-6 fatty acid). In fact, Baby’s Only is really definitely a formula gem, because such organic formulas oriented towards sensitive baby stomachs are quite rare to find on the market. The vitamins used are naturally-sourced, unlike other formulas that often used petroleum-based vitamins and corn syrup solids (for sweetness, they use brown rice syrup instead). According to the manufacturers, this is a formula suitable for newborns as well (although you may have noticed the inscription ‘toddler formula’) - nevertheless, you should, of course, consult with your pediatrician first before using it. Possible downsides may be that it can cause mild cases of constipation, but this is a common effect of a lot of baby formulas, and it also depends a lot on the individual organism of the baby.
This is another favorite of parents with newborns, and it’s no wonder because Earth’s Best seems to be on the baby formula shelves for ages - it’s actually one of the first ones to show up on the market and it’s also one of the most distributed baby formulas out there. It’s a USDA certified organic and kosher baby formula, and contains no GMO ingredients whatsoever. It also includes very important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (aka DHA and ARA), which are extremely beneficial for eye and brain development. It also doesn’t contain any scary growth hormones or steroids, antibiotics, herbicides or pesticides. An additional benefit is the presence of lutein, for extra eye-development support and good eye health, as well as iron for overall good health, stronger blood, and a great help in the tissue building processes. This is definitely one of the more affordable baby formula options you can find without sacrificing quality, which is what makes this product one of the most popular ones on the market. Possible downsides may be the controversial use of hexane for extracting the fatty acids from DHA and ARA, which is used in industry as a degreaser and cleaner and is known as a neurotoxin. Some people fear that by using this method of extraction, traces of the hexane might be present in the formula itself, although there isn’t enough scientific data to support this - the company is also very adamant that there are no traces of it in their product and that they meet all organic and health guidelines. Another downside might be that although the formula does contain natural sugars as sweeteners, some people have complained of a fishy smell and taste - however, this might actually have to do with the presence of omega acids, because some people have reported a difference in taste with the Earth’s Best green can which doesn’t contain the DHA and ARA supplements.
The Honest Company’s popularity in the baby products market is slowly gaining momentum. Once again they’ve delivered a very fine product, a certified all-organic, non-GMO baby formula. This is indeed a rich formula packed with beneficial baby nutrients such as carbohydrates from all natural organic lactose sources (no artificial sweeteners), proteins derived from organic non-fat milk and also whey protein all in the good service of building and maintaining strong and healthy new tissue. The different kinds of fats (organic palm, soy, coconut, and sunflower) give energy and aid critical bodily functions, while the vitamins and minerals encourage the proper nutritional development of a growing baby’s body. The prebiotics (or probiotics) from FOS - fructooligosaccharide help and support the immune system of the body. The Honest Company doesn’t include DHA and ARA in their baby formulas, which some parents might actually like, considering how sometimes the process of extraction of these fatty acids is not clearly disclosed. Considering how the packaging of baby formula is also pretty important, the Honest Company has made sure that their packaging is PBA-free certified, which means your baby will not be exposed to any unwanted chemicals that might come from the container. Slight downside: it's one of the tad more expensive options on the market, while another concern is the presence of palm oil. Nevertheless, reviewers have been very content with the formula in general, and some of them have also hailed the absence of copper sulfate in the ingredients. Copper sulfate is a compound that's actually present in the products of a lot of trusted brands, and its presence often goes unnoticed, although this unhealthy, inorganic compound is also used as a pesticide.
Although not one of the most popular baby formulas on the market, the Plum Organics infant formula still fares well among parents that search only for the best products when it comes to their little ones. This particular formula is enriched with iron, an essential nutrient for the proper development of the baby that helps strengthen their blood and enables tissue building processes. It’s also one of the rare formulas that don’t use corn additives as carb supplements (for example, a lot of formulas out there use corn syrup or other such derivatives for sweetness and carb content). Plum Organics uses only the lactose provided from cow’s milk, a natural ingredient which is also the most prominent carb in a mother’s breast milk. Completely organic and certified by the USDA, as well as non-GMO, this is also a formula that has a container certified as PBA-free, which means that the packaging is completely safe for your little one. The blend of nutrients that this formula includes is organic lactose and non-fat milk, whey protein, vitamins D, E, K, folic acid, calcium, choline, amino acids and also DHA and ARA, the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids we all like. This is an infant formula suitable for newborns and babies up to 1 year of age. It is, however, not suitable for babies born prematurely. A downside to the Plum Organics might be the use of palm oil and palm derivatives which can be problematic both for adults and babies. Palm oil can cause intestinal distress (because the oil can build in the intestines) and also decrease fat absorption by the baby. If you’re feeding solely on formula, you might want to consider a product that has a different dominant oil. This product also doesn't contain probiotics to aid digestion.
The Happy Baby formula is part of Amazon’s Choice recommendations, which definitely makes it one worth considering. It’s got all the essential stuff you need in an infant formula such as lactose, milk, whey protein concentrate, probiotics (FOS and GOS), lots of vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, and choline. It’s an organic, non-GMO, kosher-friendly baby formula, with additional contents of DHA and ARA. The packaging is also pretty safe for babies, as it doesn't contain any BPA. Stuff that you may not like in this product, however, are the contents of soy lecithin, which can be a problem for babies with certain food sensitivities; the Happy Baby also contains several oils among which is palm oil, something that is considered a bit of a controversial presence in baby formulas (as we saw in the Plum Organics review). Some reviewers have also found this formula to be harder to dissolve in water or breast milk, requiring more shaking and stirring than usual, but this might be considered as a minor con. Price-wise is not the cheapest of products out there, but it’s well within the range of being an affordable baby formula product.
Enfamil is hailed as a baby formula that’s actually one of the closest replicas to a natural mother’s breast milk. Coming in higher calory content, the Enfamil EnfaCare is able to meet even the most specific nutritional needs for infants till the age of 1; this is no wonder though, as this product is actually aimed for babies that were born prematurely or with a very low weight. This particular baby formula contains additional amounts of protein and calcium, as well as the usual bunch of beneficial vitamins and minerals for overall growth promotion, but also DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid, and choline, all aimed to support your baby’s brain development. It also contains dual probiotics to help with the baby’s delicate stomach microflora and ease digestion. The Enfamil doesn’t use any artificial sweeteners, so that’s another thing you shouldn’t worry about - in fact, the manufacturers only use lactose as sweetener, the natural sugar present in milk and other dairy products. Although not as popular as the other products on our list - and this is maybe because it is primarily oriented towards preemies (prematurely born babies) - still, when comparing the Amazon reviews, we’ve found that they tend to be generally positive ones and the customers seemed to be rather satisfied by what they got for their little ones. A slight downside to this product may be that it is more expensive than other baby formulas out there (but, again, this also might have to do with its richer nutritional content).
Switching baby formulas is by no means a dangerous affair. Sure, the taste will vary, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the formula you’re using, and your little one will most likely notice it, but it’s nothing to be worried about - they’ll get used to it pretty fast anyways. The main point is you can’t possibly harm your baby by switching baby formula brands.
If your baby is currently using a specific formula - let’s say a lactose-free one, which would require them to use a soy-based formula, you’ll just have to consider switching to one that’s also soy-based, because if your baby has milk allergy or lactose intolerance, it will have it with every formula that contains lactose.
As we said before, switching between different brands of baby formulas is nothing to be worried about and it won’t harm your little one. Some parents may wonder or be afraid that such a change may be abrupt for the baby’s digestive system and that it may cause changes in their stool, colic or fussiness - but this is very unlikely to happen only from switching baby formulas.
It all depends on your baby’s tastes - you can always try out different brands and see which one your little one likes best. You can even try mixing two or more brands (from the same formula type though!) if your baby just prefers it that way and responds better to a mixture of brands.
Before you start formula feeding it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician. If your baby is lacking certain vitamins and minerals, you should opt for a baby formula that is fortified with them and search exclusively for one.
When you’re preparing the baby formula It’s important to follow the instructions given on the container. Also, make sure to always wash your hands before preparing the baby formula.
If your baby is not on the right formula, it will probably have an allergic reaction or some sort of digestive tract irritation. See the next question for more info on allergies and baby formula.
Some of the most common signs that a baby is allergic to a particular baby formula that you’ve given them are:
Extra gassiness - granted, babies are rather gassy as it is, and sometimes this is not a cause of concern at all, but sometimes a little extra gas can tell a lot about how they handle their food, which is why it’s a good idea to keep track of it as well.
Baby is easily irritated, is often crying or being fussy after a feeding - babies can’t really talk in the beginning of their lives, but they sure can be loud and fussy and tell whenever something’s wrong or bothering them in their own way.
Watery, very loose stools - This is a bit tricky, since babies’ stools differ in each baby, and their color and consistency is not always connected to particular food allergies.
Some more serious symptoms include:
Red, dry and scaly skin
Extreme fatigue or weakness
It’s important to note that whenever you think your little one might be having an allergic reaction to baby formula, you should consult with your pediatrician and rule out the potential allergens that might be bothering your baby.
Also, if you suspect there’s something a tad off with the water in your town, make sure you boil it first before putting it in the baby formula mixture. Another option is to use bottled water. Just remember that, if you opt for boiling the water, first let it cool off before putting it in the baby formula. Don’t give your baby formula that’s too hot. And - don’t forget to use a clean cup for measuring the water. Make sure to sterilize the bottles you use.
Combining breastfeeding with formula feeding is a very practical affair and a perfectly safe combination, which many families opt out for using, in fact.
The only thing we can advise you to do is maybe wait for about eight weeks (provided that you can) before starting to use formula as well since combining them sooner can sometimes affect the milk supply.
It all depends on whether you’re formula feeding your baby full-time or simply supplementing (as it is often called the mix of breastfeeding and formula feeding). If you’re doing it full-time then you can start from day one when the little one comes into this world.
If you’re doing a combination of both it’s a good idea to wait for about eight weeks so it doesn’t mess with your milk supply.
For more information on baby formula, as well as a more detailed comparative analysis of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, make sure to read this article. We hope that, in addition to this guide, it will make some stuff clearer for you in the end when it comes to feeding your little one the best way possible.