Breastmilk isn’t always best for every baby. Maybe your little one has an allergy or your supply is low and you need to supplement, or maybe you just don’t want to breastfeed and have decided formula is best for your family. Whatever your reason for using it, baby formula is a perfectly healthy alternative to breastmilk and comes with many benefits.
When it comes to baby formula, there are dozens of options out there. To help you narrow down your choices, here are Truly Mama’s top picks for the best baby formulas.
What to Look for in Baby Formula
Baby formula is manufactured food created for infants younger than a year old. There are many different types of baby formula available and the best one for your baby will depend on their unique health needs and guidance from your pediatrician. Here is a breakdown of the different types:
- Cow’s milk formula is milk-based and is the most prevalent type of formula on the market. It’s been treated to make the protein in cow’s milk easier to digest.
- Soy formula is a vegan option that contains protein from soy. This soy-based formula is an option for babies who may be allergic to the protein in cow’s milk.
- Specialized formula is made for babies with certain health needs, like those more at risk for developing certain allergies or preemies who need a different type of nutrition than full-term babies.
Most often, baby formula is a is a powder infant formula that you mix with water to feed your baby. However, you can also buy ready-to-drink infant formula that is already mixed and ready to feed to your baby. Ready-made formula generally will be more expensive.
Ingredients in Baby Formula
All types of infant formula are designed to resemble breastmilk and are heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to meet nutritional requirements. While some of the ingredients may vary depending on the type, every formula has the key nutrients your baby needs to thrive.
Some of the most common ingredients in baby formula include:
- Oils (sunflower, coconut, or soy)
- Vitamin E
- Corn syrup
Truly Mama’s Picks for the Best Baby Formula
Truly Mama’s Overall Top Pick
The Pro-Advance Non-GMO formula offers all the nutrients your baby needs, including 2’-FL Human Milk Oligosaccharide-HMO — an immune system nourishing prebiotic similar to the one found in breastmilk. HMO feeds the good bacteria in the gut and helps support your baby’s developing immune system. This formula also contains a blend of DHA, Luetin, and Vitamin E to support brain development and eye health.
According to Amazon reviews, this formula might also help reduce gassiness. “Since my son started on this brand (switched from Neosure) he has been so much less gassy. He used to have a hard time passing (grunting, straining) but I haven’t noticed any of that since using this brand.” — Emily, Amazon review
Best Organic Baby Formula
The main difference between organic formula and regular formula is that the milk or soy used in organic formulas is free of hormones, chemicals, and pesticides. Regular formulas are heavily regulated and perfectly safe, but some families may opt for organic for a variety of reasons.
If choosing an organic baby formula is important to you, this brand is a great choice. It contains essential vitamins and minerals, like Omega 3 DHA and Omega 6 ARA fatty acids, high-quality protein, carbohydrates and lutein for eye health. This brand also makes a plant-based soy formula for babies with dairy allergies.
Most Like Breastmilk
All formulas are made to mimic breastmilk, but some may resemble it more than others. This formula is the only one that contains milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) — a membrane in breast milk that supports brain development. NeuroPro also contains probiotics for immune support and DHA proteins for brain health. Many parents also claim this is one of the best baby formulas for reducing gassiness.
As one Amazon reviewer puts it, “I like the ease of preparing the formula and the fact that my newborn doesn’t get gassy and bloated tummy after having it. It’s easy for him to digest. The formula contains all necessary vitamins & minerals to develop his brain and immune health which is a plus along being Non-GMO and gluten-free.”
Best for Sensitive Tummies
For babies with painful bouts of gas and bloating that may cause prolonged crying, finding the right formula can help ease discomfort. Designed for lactose-sensitive babies, this formula is gentle, easy to digest, and some parents claim it reduces their infant’s fussiness.
This formula also contains the 2’FL-HMO prebiotic, is non-GMO and contains no artificial hormones. At about $1.30 per ounce, you may pay a bit more for this sensitive formula than other types, but for parents of colicky babies, this formula just might do the trick.
Best Costco Baby Formula
We love all the mom-friendly things you can buy at Costco and Costco’s generic formula is comparable to the major baby formula brands at a much more affordable price. Similar to Pro-Advance, Kirkland formula is non-GMO, contains no artificial hormones, and also contains vital nutrients for immune support, eye and brain health, like 2’-FL HMO, DHA and Luetin. At about $0.50 an ounce, Kirkland Signature ProCare just might one of the most affordable formula options out there but you’ll of course have to be a Costco member to purchase this brand.
Tips for Formula Feeding
Both breastfeeding and formula feeding provide your baby with nutrition while strengthening the parent and child bond. Snuggling your baby close and offering plenty of skin-to-skin time are key components of any feeding session no matter which method you choose. Other tips for formula feeding include:
- Use a bowl of warm water or a bottle warmer to heat up bottles. Formula does not need to be warm when fed to infants. Cold or room temperature is just fine. But if your baby prefers warm bottles, use one of these methods and avoid microwaving, which could result in uneven heating.
- Burp your baby often. Bottle-fed babies take in air as they eat, which can cause discomfort. For every two to three ounces your baby eats, take a break to help them burp.
- Mix up your baby’s formula for the whole day in the morning. Preparing bottles each time your baby is hungry can feel overwhelming, but you can use a formula pitcher to prepare it once and use it throughout the day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the closest formula to breastmilk?
All formulas are heavily regulated and required to provide the key nutrients your baby needs. The best one for you will depend on your baby’s unique needs and guidance from your pediatrician.
What is the best newborn formula?
Similac is the leading choice of hospitals, but any brand of formula, or even a combination of different types, is fine for a healthy, full-term newborn. A preemie or a baby with certain health conditions or allergies may need a specialized formula. Your pediatrician can help you determine the best formula for your little one.
What water is best for formula?
For the most part, you can use any kind of clean water, either bottled or tap, to prepare powdered or liquid concentrate formula. If your home is supplied with well water, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends testing your water for nitrates every three months to make sure it is safe for your baby. You’ll also want to be sure you’re regularly sterilizing your baby bottles and supplies too.
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