How do I Choose the Right Baby Formula for my Newborn?

One trip to the grocery store's baby formula aisle is enough for any parent to be overwhelmed. Why is there so many choices? It was hard enough to pick a name for your baby.

You don't need to panic about picking baby's formula. Matthew Badgett MD is a pediatrician and an internal medicine doctor. He explains how to select the best formula for you baby.

How do I choose my baby's formula?

The FDA approves all infant formula. It contains all the essential nutrients infants and babies need. Specific amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat are used in a way that is similar to human breast milk.

Dr. Badgett states that all infant formulas need to meet certain requirements in order for their babies to be nourished properly. If your formula is available in the United States, you can be sure it contains the nutrition your baby requires.

What about the extras on the packaging, such as brain health and probiotics? Dr. Badgett states that there is no evidence to support the claim that extra ingredients make babies healthier. The basic formula can be used to support your baby's growth without any additional claims.

Different types of formula

All formulas have been tested to ensure safety. However, some babies may need specific types if they are allergic or suffer from other medical conditions. While there are many brands to choose from, all formulas fall into one of these categories.

Cow's Milk Formula

About 80% are made with cow's milk and the majority of babies love this kind.

Dr. Badgett says that baby formula made from cows' milk doesn't taste the same. It is more difficult to digest regular cow's dairy milk and lacks the nutrients babies need. Cow's formula milk is specifically processed so that it can be safely and healthfully consumed by full-term infants and newborns.

Nonfat milk is the first ingredient of cow's milk formula.

Some parents fear that lactose found in cow's formula milk will lead to gas and stomach problems. But this is rarely the case. Many people suffer from lactose intolerance or difficulty digesting lactose. However, the condition is rare in infants.

Dr. Badgett says that lactose intolerance is a common condition in people after the age of 3. "Most infants can easily digest milk from cows even though it is high in lactose. Human breast milk has a higher lactose content than milk formulas from cows.

If your doctor advises otherwise, most healthy babies can start off with cow's-milk formula. Your baby might be premature or have a medical condition that requires cow's-milk formula to be avoided.

Cow's-milk allergy (or a very high chance of it) due to a family history of allergies. Galactosemia (a rare intolerance for galactose), a form of lactose. In infants, lactose intolerance is also very rare.

Soy Formula

Soy milk formula is similar to cow's milk, but also has the best levels of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Soy formula can be used as a vegan or lactose-free. This product contains:

Soy is naturally rich in phytoestrogens. These plant compounds look similar to estrogen. Soy milk formula isn't any less safe or better than that of cow's.

Dr. Badgett stated that "there's no evidence to indicate soy phytoestrogens could be harmful for babies." "Phytoestrogens may actually reduce the risk of cancer in the long term. Either way, estrogen is not something you can avoid. The breastmilk formulas of cows and human babies will also contain estrogen. That's okay.

If your baby has an allergy to cow's milk, soy formula might be a viable option. Hypoallergenic formula is usually less expensive and contains no dairy.

Dr. Badgett states that many babies who have a cow's-milk allergy can tolerate soy milk formula. You will need to use a hypoallergenic formulation if your baby reacts to either soy or cow milk.

Partially Hydrolyzed Formula

Partially hydrolyzed formula may be the solution if your baby is having trouble digesting cow's milk. These milk formulas from cows can be described as gentle and are therefore easier to digest. The partially hydrolyzed protein in these formulas are reduced into smaller parts.

The label can be used to determine if the formula has been partially hydrolyzed. Look at the label to see if it lists "partially Hydrolyzed" prior to the name of the protein, which is whey. These formulas aren't suitable for infants with milk allergies.

Dr. Badgett said that partly hydrolyzed formulas are helpful for babies who have colic, fussiness or other issues. This type may be beneficial for babies with eczema. Your pediatrician should be consulted before you make the switch to partially-hydrolyzed formula. Another reason your baby is fussy or having colic may be a problem that needs to be addressed.

Formula that is hyperallergenic (extensively hydrolyzed)

Hypoallergenic or extensively hydrolyzed formulas are designed to be used by babies who have soy and cow's milk allergies. These formulas can be used by babies allergic to cow’s milk but they do not contain any cow's-milk. How? They are so tiny that the body can't identify them as cows' milk proteins.

Dr. Badgett says that most babies do not need to be given a lot of hydrolyzed formula. This formula isn't healthier for babies who don't have allergies and costs more.

Your baby's healthcare provider is qualified to diagnose cow milk allergies. Signs include:

Dr. Badgett states that while spitting up can be a concern for many parents it does not indicate an allergy. All babies will spit. "All babies spit up. If they're growing normally and have soft stools, it is likely that your baby doesn't have an allergic reaction to the formula."

Neonatal Formula For Premature Babies

Your pediatrician might recommend a neonatal formulation if your baby was prematurely born. These formulas help premature babies grow and thrive. These formulas are usually given to neonatal intensive health units (NICUs).

Dr. Badgett explained that formulas made for premature babies are more nutritious than regular baby formulas. They are also designed for babies with immature stomachs and weak kidneys. Standard formula is often too difficult to handle.

Ask your pediatrician for information about neonatal formulation and the length of time your baby will need it. After your baby is sufficiently mature, it may be possible to change to the standard formula.

Toddler Formula

For babies over 12 months, toddler formulas can be used.

Dr. Badgett claims that you can supplement your baby's solid foods with toddler formula after they reach one year old. Toddler formula should not be given to infants and newborns. It isn't balanced with the necessary amount of protein, carbs and fats for babies in their first year.

Your older child doesn't need to have toddler formula. At 12 months, most babies are able to switch from whole milk and unsweetened soymilk.

Formula Forms: Ready-to-feed, Powdered and Concentrate

After you decide on the formula that you require, there are two things you must do. Ready-to-eat, powdered or concentrate?

Dr. Badgett notes that powdered formulas are generally cheaper and more suitable for babies. Your pediatrician might recommend liquid formula if your baby has an immune problem or is preterm. Sometimes, germs in powdered formula could cause illness to immunocompromised children. This isn't a problem for most babies and powdered formulation is safe.

Is switching formula harmful for my baby?

It's okay to change brands and types of formula if your baby does not have any allergies. Talk to your doctor if your baby is experiencing colic or gas.

Dr. Badgett says that many parents believe that their fussy babies need a different formula. But, talk to your provider first about your baby’s needs before changing. Your baby may require a different formula from time to time, while other times the situation is simply part of the baby's developmental process.

Formula for breastfeeding supplementation

You can still follow the above advice if you are breastfeeding or supplementing with formula.

Dr. Badgett stated that you don't have to use any special formula to supplement your diet. These rules are the same for babies who only eat formula or babies who get breastmilk from their mothers.

Formula Feeding Tips

Formula or breastmilk is what your baby eats for the first year. You need to choose which type you want and how you will feed your child. You should also know how to properly store formula for your baby.

You can give your baby the following:

Fearless Formula Feeding

It is true that there are many formulas. Most babies can tolerate basic soy or cow's milk formulas. Your pediatrician should be consulted if you notice any signs of colic, allergy or other symptoms in your child. You can talk to your pediatrician about switching to hydrolyzed options, either partially or fully.

Dr. Badgett says that you do not need to buy the best formula for a happy, healthy baby. Choose a formula that suits your baby's needs. The right formula will help your baby grow and thrive.