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Types of Infant Formula Explained

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Choosing an infant formula is a big decision. With so many choices, and now with the formula shortage, it can feel especially complicated. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains quality and safety standards for all infant formulas. While there are many different brands and types of formula to choose from, all have met rigorous nutrition and safety standards. There are a few different preparations of formula. Each have pros and cons based on convenience, affordability, and shelf life. There are also different types of infant formula that offer organic, lactose-free, or hypoallergenic options. Let’s talk about the different types of infant formula parents can choose from.

Different Infant Formula Preparations

Powdered Infant Formulas

Most parents are familiar with powdered infant formulas. This type of formula is the most economical. The container will provide directions on how much powder to mix with how much water. It’s very important to adhere closely to the directions, as formula that’s too concentrated or too dilute can cause serious health problems for the baby. Powdered formula can be mixed as needed for each feeding, or prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Liquid Concentrate Infant Formulas

Liquid concentrate formula must also be mixed with water before it can be consumed. Some parents prefer this type of formula as it’s less messy than powdered formula. It is worth noting that the same brand of a formula in liquid or powdered formula can be tolerated differently by your baby. An opened container of liquid concentrate formula can be stored in the refrigerator for 48 hours. 

Liquid Ready-to-Feed Infant Formulas

Ready-to-feed formulas are the most convenient and most expensive option. Ready-to-feed formulas do not need to be mixed with water. Sometimes it is recommended for premature or immunocompromised babies to consume individual sized ready-to-feed formulas as they are the most sterile option. Some babies also experience less constipation with these types of formulas than powdered formula. 

Different Types of Formula Ingredients

Cow’s Milk-Based Infant Formulas

About 80% of formula produced in the US is cow’s milk based. Most babies tolerate this type of formula well. Cow’s milk bases are changed to be more suitable and easily digestible for babies. Proteins are changed so that infants can readily digest them. More lactose is added to match levels in breastmilk and fats are removed and replaced with more easily digestible vegetable oils.

Organic Infant Formulas

Some parents prefer organic infant formulas. These formulas are sourced with ingredients that are organic (produced without use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides) and non GMO. Organic cow’s milk based formulas come from cows that are not treated with steroids, antibiotics or hormones. Examples: Baby’s Only, Earth’s Best, Holle, Hipp, Bobbie, HappyBaby Organic

Hypoallergenic Infant Formulas

Some babies cannot tolerate cow’s milk based formula. Parents can utilize hypoallergenic formulas in which the cow’s milk protein is hydrolyzed and broken down into smaller, more digestible parts. Alternatively, parents can choose goat’s milk formula, which many babies find easier to digest. In some cases, pediatricians recommend a soy’s milk based formula for severe allergies. Examples: Similac (purple), Nutramigen

European Formulas

Some parents prefer formula produced in Europe. European formulas typically have higher nutrition standards than domestic formulas. However, since they are not regulated by the FDA they must be shipped from overseas. Examples: Hipp, Holle. Bobbie is a domestic FDA-approved infant formula that meets European standards.

Toddler Formula

Some formulas are labeled as toddler formula, because they encourage breastfeeding for the first year. Baby’s Only formula meets all of the FDA regulations for infant formula.