Doctors will tell you that breastfeeding your newborn is best. However, not all women have that option. There are medical, personal, and logistical reasons why a woman might decide to use baby formula instead of breast milk. For example, if you have high-order multiples, it won’t be possible for you to nurse four or five babies.
Regardless of how many infants you have at one time, when you decide to use formula to feed your baby, there are some things you’ll need to know and some choices you’ll have to make. Start here to learn about the different types of and benefits of baby formula.
In This Post:
Types of Baby Formula
There are three main types of baby formula that are categorized according to their primary ingredients.
Cow milk baby formula
This is the most common type of baby formula in the United States. The main ingredient is cow’s milk that has been manipulated and changed to be more like a mother’s breast milk. This makes it easier for a baby to digest. A baby cannot and should not drink regular cow’s milk. The baby’s digestive system isn’t ready to take it on until he or she is at least one year old.
This type of formula is derived from soybeans. If a baby shows an allergic reaction to a cow-milk-based formula, then try a soy-based formula. Often, that resolves any digestive issues. Vegetarian parents who want to keep their baby off of animal products, often find soy formula a logical alternative.
This type of formula is also called “hypoallergenic” and contains proteins that have been broken down even further than the proteins in cow-milk-based formula and soy formula. Doctors may suggest this type of formula for a baby who isn’t tolerating milk or soy formula. Because the proteins have been broken down into smaller pieces, they are easier for an infant to digest.
If your baby has special needs (low-birth weight, an allergy, or a medical condition), your doctor might recommend a special formula. Don’t use one of the following unless you’ve discussed it with your pediatrician:
- Lactose-free — Lactose sugars have been replaced by other sugars in this type of formula.
- Reflux — These formulas are thickened and used for babies who aren’t gaining weight.
You can buy baby formula in three different formats:
Follow the directions on the container, but basically you will combine a scoop of powdered formula with water, shake well, and it’s ready for baby. Tap water is generally fine, but check the directions first.
Concentrated Liquid Formula
Like the powdered formula, concentrated liquid formula must be mixed with water before you feed it to your baby. Don’t forget to shake well.
Ready-to-Use Baby Formula
As the name says, this formula is ready to use straight from the container. No need to add water. Do shake to make sure that nothing has separated.
Don’t forget that one of the greatest advantages of bottle feeding is that dad (and grandpa and grandma) can participate in feeding your newborn. Don’t be shy about asking for help. It’s a wonderful opportunity for your baby to bond with other family members.
Make sure to read the instructions on whichever type of formula you use. Once it is opened, ready-to-use formula will need to be used up sooner than dry powder formula. Make sure you understand where to store opened and unopened containers.
Make sure you have a place to safely store the formula within the optimum temperature range before you go ahead and buy in bulk to get the best price. But, no matter what the price, don’t buy more than you will use before it expires.
And never buy expired baby formula. Check the date and make sure you’ll be using up the formula before it expires. This will ensure your baby gets the highest quality product.
It’s entirely up to you whether you buy generic or brand name baby formula. Before deciding, make sure you read the ingredient labels to make sure you’re getting the same level of nutrients and quality ingredients.
Enhanced and Fortified
In general, your baby’s formula should be iron fortified, but check with your doctor, if you’re not sure.
You’ll see that some formulas are enhanced with omega-3 fatty acids that are also found in breast milk. Again, make sure to ask your pediatrician if the following are necessary in your baby’s formula:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Arachidonic acid (ARA)
Ready-to-use and specialized formulas are more expensive than standard cow-milk-based powdered formulas.
If expenses are an issue, you can start a buying club. Get together with other new moms who use the same brand of formula. Together, you can buy enough formula to trigger a bulk discount. This will work particularly well if you and the other moms don’t have a lot of home storage. If you all live in apartments, for example, you might only be able to store a few cases of formula at a time, but by working together, you can purchase many cases, get the bulk discount, and distribute the formula among yourselves.
To add to your baby’s comfort, dress him or her in snuggly, cotton, easy-to-wash rompers, like those from Miki Miette, since you’re going to want mealtime to be enjoyable for both of you. And if formula spills on your baby’s easy-to-wash outfit, you won’t need to make a trip to the dry cleaners.
Ask your pediatrician for samples of baby formula. That way you can try out a specific brand and figure out if it works well for you and your baby. After all, if your baby doesn’t love the formula, he won’t drink it, and that defeats the whole purpose. Once you’ve established that your baby enjoys a specific brand and type of formula, stick with it. A baby’s digestive system is easily disrupted by dietary changes.
The other advantage of sticking to one brand is that companies love loyalty. Just ask for coupons, and they will send or email them. You can also check out which stores offer your brand on sale or on special.
If you end up with formula you aren’t going to use — either because you bought too much or because your baby doesn’t like the type you bought — donate to a local food bank or women’s shelter. That way, everyone wins!