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As a mom, when you find yourself in the baby formula aisle, you can easily feel overwhelmed because selecting the best nourishment for your child is a vital decision. The fact that there are dozens of options out there makes this process even harder.
Luckily, there are several aspects you should consider before purchasing an infant formula: its protein content, the form the product comes in, ingredient lists, etc. In today’s post I will discuss the most important things you should know how to find the best baby formula, so stick around.
- 1 How to Find the Best Baby Formula – Things to Be Aware of
- 2 1. Know the Main Forms of Baby Formula
- 3 2. Know the Different Types and Features of Infant Formula
- 4 3. What Should a Good Baby Formula Contain? – Important Ingredients
- 5 Should You Choose Popular Brands or Go for Generic Ones?
- 6 Shopping for Baby Formula – Useful Tips
- 7 Top 3 Best Generic Baby Formulas
- 8 Best Organic Baby Formula
- 9 Final Thoughts
How to Find the Best Baby Formula – Things to Be Aware of
1. Know the Main Forms of Baby Formula
There are three types of infant formula that you can choose from.
a. Powdered Form
This is less expensive than the other type of formula and it is also an environmentally-friendly option. Still, you will have to prepare it which will take up quite some time and you must also carefully follow the guidelines and indications written on the label. On the other hand, the powdered formula has a longer shelf life (up to one whole month). I would recommend you to prepare one single bottle at a time so that the product stays as fresh as possible. Also, this option works best for moms who are still breastfeeding their babies but want to give their children an occasional bottle of formula.
b. Liquid Formula
The liquid type is also known as the ready-to-consume formula which is, by far, the most convenient choice. You won’t need to measure or mix anything. All you have to do is open the container and feed your baby. This type of formula comes in handy when you’re on the go or you don’t have access to clean water. On the other hand, the liquid formula is more expensive than the powdered version and it also has a pretty short shelf life (only 48 hours).
C. Concentrated Liquid Form
Compared to the powdered alternative, the concentrated liquid formula is a little bit easier to prepare because you don’t have to dissolve the powder. You will still need to combine it with water, though. Also, this baby formula type costs more than the powdered option. The proper way to prepare this product is by cleaning the lid of the container, shaking it thoroughly, removing the lid, and mix the same amount of water and formula in the baby’s bottle.
2. Know the Different Types and Features of Infant Formula
a. Formula Based on Cow’s Milk
This type of formula is the most common one and the majority of brands use it because it also works for almost all the babies due to its balanced content of carbs, protein, and fat. Furthermore, the milk protein is somewhat modified to ensure quicker digestion. This must be done because newborn babies cannot digest regular cow milk.
b. Soy-Based Options
Instead of cow protein, these formulas are made with plant-based protein which is also altered for easy digestion. This might be a good solution for vegan families but doctors recommend mothers to use soy-based formulas only in the following medical or health-related situations:
- Food allergies associated with cow’s milk – this is a nasty allergy to the protein found in cow’s milk that leads to several symptoms such as a runny nose, rashes, and others. Still, if your baby suffers from this type of allergy, make sure he or she is not allergic to soy as well before giving her or him soy-based formula;
- Congenital lactase deficiency – this health condition is rare and it is usually inherited. Basically, the newborn’s organism is not able to break down the milk’s sugar lactose which causes life-threatening symptoms;
- Transient lactose deficiency – unlike other health conditions, this is only a temporary problem and its cause is usually a gastrointestinal infection;
- Galactosemia – just like the congenital lactase deficiency, galactosemia is also a rare and inherited issue in which the organism cannot break down galactose which is milk sugar that provides energy.
c. Hydrolyzed Formulas
There are two types of hydrolyzed baby formulas: partially hydrolyzed and extensively hydrolyzed. They are called like that because the protein is split into smaller parts which are easier for a baby’s stomach to digest. You should feed your baby hydrolyzed formulas if he or she is allergic to milk protein or if there’s an issue related to nutrient absorption. I’ve also heard of doctors who recommend this type of product for babies who suffer from eczemas or other kinds of skin conditions.
d. Lactose-Free Alternatives
In a case of lactose intolerance, purchasing a lactose-free formula is a great way to go. In these types of formulas, lactose which is the main ingredient of standard infant formula is replaced with corn syrup or another form of sugar.
e. Organic Formulas
So far, we cannot know for sure whether or not organic milk is better or healthier than regular milk. So, you should consult with your doctor to see if organic options are truly worth it because these formulas are quite expensive. Therefore, I advise you to get all the information you can find regarding a certain product before making a purchasing decision to make sure that the organic label isn’t just a marketing tactic.
Other Types of Formulas
- Prebiotic and probiotic baby formulas;
- Iron enhanced formulas;
- DHA or ARA versions (synthesized options that are supposed to improve brain development and eye health);
- Special formulas made for premature babies;
- Metabolic alternatives; etc.
3. What Should a Good Baby Formula Contain? – Important Ingredients
When it comes to breast milk’s protein content, both whey (60%) and casein (40%) are present. The majority of infant formulas marketed nowadays manage to match approximately the same amount of protein while some brands come up with 100% whey protein. Partially hydrolyzed options are not hypoallergenic so don’t feed your baby with those if he or she has a food allergy.
In extensively hydrolyzed alternatives, the proteins are broken down into smaller parts until they reach the level of amino acids which are easily absorbed by the body. Finally, soy formulas are made with soy protein isolate which is an almost pure protein.
The main carb in infant formulas, as well as breast milk, is lactose. Some companies also include corn maltodextrin as a secondary carb. Special formulas like soy-based or lactose-free ones replace lactose with one of the following elements: modified cornstarch, sucrose, corn syrup solids, or corn maltodextrin.
Breast milk comes with a mix of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats. Manufacturers add a blend of oils to baby formulas to make up for the lack of fat. Among these oils, you will find the following alternatives: coconut oil, high-oleic sunflower oil, soy oil, or palm oil. These being said, you should know that palm oil isn’t considered the best choice, despite the fact that it’s widely used.
d. Minerals and Vitamins
If you pay attention to the ingredients list written on an infant formula’s label, you will see that most of those elements represent vitamins and minerals: iron (also known as ferrous sulfate), vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), vitamin B5 (which is sometimes described as calcium pantothenate), etc. It is very important for infants to consume formulas that are fortified with iron, until their first birthday. This will prevent a type of anemia that’s caused by iron deficiency.
Iron is what enables the oxygen to circulate in the blood which will further go to all the organism’s cells in order for them to function normally. Premature babies definitely need iron-enriched formulas.
e. Amino Acids
Ingredients like carnitine and taurine are normally added to soy-based baby formulas, and sometimes even to cow’s milk options in order to recreate the same amino acid content that breast milk provides.
f. Dietary Fiber
Adding dietary fiber like soy fiber to infant formula might work as a short-term treatment for diarrhea. It has been shown that soy fiber lowers the duration of this health problem. Also, the most well-known formula that contains this ingredient is Similac Expert Care.
g. Prebiotics and Probiotics
These are live bacteria strains that sustain the health of the baby’s digestive system and gut by preventing body inflammation and intestinal infections. However, these elements can also be harmful to babies who have a weak immune system so make sure to seek your doctor’s approval before choosing formulas that are enriched with probiotics or prebiotics.
Should You Choose Popular Brands or Go for Generic Ones?
By now, you’re probably wondering if generic brands are nutritionally adequate or not. Well, in many cases, the only aspect that differentiates branded formulas from generic products is the price. No matter which brand of formula you choose, make sure it is approved by the FDA which means that it meets certain standards of safety and quality. The simplest way to check that out is by closely looking at the label. You can also find some Recalls of Baby Formula and Baby Food recalls right on our website.
Also, as a precaution measure, you should never try to prepare your own infant formula from scratch because it is simply impossible to add all the necessary nutrients in the correct amounts.
Shopping for Baby Formula – Useful Tips
1. Don’t Purchase Infant Formulas before the Birth of Your Child
If you stock up before your child is born, you will lose both the product and the money you spent on it. Some companies and even hospitals will provide you with plenty of samples, so there’s no need to buy a lot of formula before the baby comes. Firstly, you cannot know right from the start what type of formula your child will tolerate. Secondly, most formulas don’t have a very long lifespan so they might end up spoiled.
2. Buy The Product at Mass Merchandisers to Save Money
Mass merchandisers have lower prices in general. Based on personal research that I’ve conducted, the most expensive baby formulas are sold at drugstores while supermarket prices fall somewhere in the middle. Also, milk-based formulas are less expensive than soy-based options. Finally, the most expensive formula type is the organic one.
3. Always Verify the Use-by Date
Whenever you purchase formula for your baby, don’t forget to check the expiration date on the product’s label, container, or lid. All manufacturers must provide this detail, as per FDA requirements. Until that specific date, the formula is safe to consume and all the ingredients will maintain an acceptable level of quality.
4. Some Additional Ingredients Aren’t Bad
Most formulas are fortified with additional ingredients and nutrients such as iron, fiber, and other minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Probably the most important add-in is iron which promotes a normal brain development as well as healthy eyesight. What a baby formula shouldn’t contain are chemicals, artificial compounds, and preservatives, but these elements are not commonly included in newborn products.
5. Organic Might be Better, But It’s More Expensive
While studies haven’t definitively proven than organic is better per se, if you generally only buy organic produce it’s hard to argue against organic formula for babies. We do our best to identify the top organic and European formulas available for the best price.
Top 3 Best Generic Baby Formulas
My personal recommendations are:
- Similac Pro-Advance Infant Formula – fortified with iron and without GMO ingredients. It is one of the most popular and nutritious formulas out there;
- Gerber Good Start Formula – great for colicky babies. Contains comforting prebiotics and has a soothing effect. It is a convenient product that’s ready to serve without adding water. It is also fortified with iron;
- Enfamil Reguline Infant Formula – it is specially created to solve constipation issues. It contains easily digestible proteins and supports a soft, regulated, and comfortable stool.
Best Organic Baby Formula
If organic is the way you are leaning (we personally did for our kids), then here are our top recommendations:
- Holle Organic Dairy Formula – Holle is certified Organic, Non-GMO and Biodynamic. They also over a Goat-based formula if your little one has a dairy sensitivity. Read the full Holle review for more details.
- Hipp Organic Formula – Very similar to Holle, but does not contain Maltodextrin. It isn’t Biodynamic, but it IS organic and Non-GMO.
- Baby’s Only Organic Formula – This one is not European-based (like the above options), but it IS readily available in most US based grocery and health food stores. It’s also more affordable than Holle and Hipp.
I really hope that all the tips and insights provided above will help you choose the best formula for your baby. However, if, after going through this article, you’re still uncertain about how to find the best baby formula, I strongly recommend you to ask the doctor of your newborn. After all, a specialist is the one who can decide based on your baby’s nutritional needs, age, weight, and health.
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