What’s in Baby Formula?

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Breast or bottle?

This is the question that every new mother must ask herself as she nears the end of her pregnancy. It is a very important question and should be given much thought. Of course, I am of the mindset that breast is best. However, not all moms will be able to breast feed for any number of reasons which then leads to the next question. What’s in baby formula and which one is best for my baby?

Main types of infant formula

There are 4 main types of infant formulas:

  1. Cow’s milk protein-based
  2. Soy-based
  3. Protein hydrolysate
  4. Specialized formulas for premature infants and/or specific medical conditions

Cow’s milk protein-based formula

Cow’s milk infant formula consists of many proteins, carbohydrates and fats that baby needs for proper growth and development. Key ingredients include purified cow’s milk whey and casein (a slow-digesting dairy protein) – for protein; a blend of vegetable oils – for fats; lactose (a type of sugar) – for carbohydrates; a vitamin-mineral mix and other ingredients depending on the manufacturer.

Soy-based formula

If your baby has a milk protein allergy and you are unable to breast feed, there are options for infant formula that do not contain cow’s milk. Soy formula is made from soy protein. However, health care organizations don’t recommend its widespread use as it is considered to offer little nutritional advantage over cow’s milk formula. This is typically advised from your pediatrician due to your baby having a cow’s milk allergy, is lactose intolerant or a medical condition called galactosemia (an inherited condition that impairs the body’s ability to process and produce energy from a sugar called galactose). Always consult your doctor before choosing any infant formula including soy-based.

Protein hydrolysate formula

This is infant formula made for babies with digestive and immune issues. Hydrolyzed proteins are less allergenic for babies who are at risk for food allergies or immune diseases. This is a milk-based formula in which the milk proteins have been broken down into smaller components thereby minimizing the risk for allergic reaction.

Specialized formula

There are formulas made for premature babies which contain extra calories per ounce, more protein and higher levels of vitamins and minerals than formula meant for full term babies. There are formulas made for babies with specific medical conditions which contain higher levels of nutrients needed according to the specific need. Physicians usually prescribe or recommend this type of formula.

How long should a child drink infant formula?

It is recommended that your baby drink infant formula until age 1, followed by whole milk until age 2. You should always follow your doctor’s advice! This information is a general guide and is not meant to be medical advice. Again I say, always, always consult your doctor before making any decisions about your baby’s diet.

Take note that reduced fat or skim milk is not appropriate before age 2 because it does not have enough calories or fat to promote early brain development.

What infant formula preparations are available?

There are 3 different forms of infant formula.

1. Powdered formula (least expensive)

2. Concentrated liquid formula (middle of the road expensive)

3. Ready-to-use formula (most expensive)

Is there a difference between generic and brand-name formula?

The answer to this is all infant formulas must meet the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) nutrient standards. Manufacturers may vary in their recipes, but the FDA requires all formulas meet the minimum recommended amount of nutrients that infants need. There is very minimal difference between the generic and brand-name infant formulas.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

To see the full nutrient content of infant formula regulated in the United States, go to the FDA website and you can see in detail what the infant formulas must contain.

Enhanced infant formula

There are infant formulas on the market that state they are “enhanced” formulas. This means that these formulas have fatty acids named docosahexaenoic (DHA) and arachidonic (ARA). I will explain a little further. DHA and ARA are omega-3 fatty acids found in breast milk and certain foods such as fish and eggs. Some studies suggest that including DHA and ARA can help infant eyesight and brain development.

Also, many infant formulas include pre- and probiotics which are substances that promote healthy bacteria in the intestines. Always ask your doctor for guidance!

The formula most hospitals use and trust

Similac infant formula has been on the market since 1925! To this day, most hospitals continue to use this infant formula for babies. Similac offers all the main types of infant formula covering every possible need for babies. It is a brand that I myself used with all 3 of my boys. I have attached some links for the best-sellers or most popular types of Similac formula in powder form. You will find that this formula mixes very easily with water. Here you will find formulas for pro-advance, or for hypo-allergenic (Similac Alimentum), and one for premature babies. There are other formulas for sensitivity, extra iron and one called Pure Bliss which is formulated very close to breast milk. I have attached the link for that one as well.

Get a 1-month supply here.

Similac Pro-Sensitive Non-GMO Infant Formula with Iron

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic For Food Allergies and Colic Infant Formula Powder

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

For premature babies

Similac NeoSure Infant Formula with Iron

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Other formula mixtures

There are many more types of formula mixtures to meet your baby’s individual needs. I’ve only listed a few of them. If you click on one of the links, however, it will take you to Amazon and you will see the other recipes.


My thoughts

This is just a simplified overview of what’s in baby formula and is intended to give you a better idea of the different types that are available. It is not a complete list as there are many brands and types on the market. I personally used the Similac brand and found it to be the best. My mother used Similac for me and so you know, it has been around a long, long time. I feel most comfortable with products that have been around awhile as then you know it is good and time-tested!

It is my sincerest desire this blog helps you out and if you have questions, please leave them in the comment section below and I will respond promptly.

A long time parent and grandmother,