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Choosing The Right Baby Formula

Whether you breastfeed or formula feed your infant (or do both), one thing is true: A well-fed baby is a happy baby. But with so many infant formulas on the market, how can you be sure you're choosing the right one for your baby? First, consider the three main types of formula.

  1. Cow's milk-based: Most infant formula contains cow's milk that's been modified to give it just the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and to make it easier to digest. The majority of babies do well on it.
  2. Soy-based: Soy-based formula is made with a plant protein that's also been altered for easy digestion. This type of formula is an option for babies with an allergy or intolerance to cow's milk or lactose.
  3. Hypoallergenic: Babies who can't tolerate cow's milk or soy-based formula, who have a protein allergy, or who have trouble absorbing nutrients often do well on this type of formula. It contains protein that's been hydrolyzed, or broken down into smaller sizes, to make it easier to digest.

In most cases, you can start your baby on a cow's milk-based formula. If they develop problems like excessive spit-up, gas, colic, or eczema, their doctor may suggest switching them to a different type of formula. You may need to try a few types and brands before finding the right one.

But as with all things baby-related, your decision-making doesn't end once you've chosen a formula type. You also need to consider what form of formula to purchase. Infant formula comes in three forms:

  1. Powdered: This is the least expensive option, but also the most work—the powder must be carefully measured and mixed with water.
  2. Concentrated liquid: This formula must also be mixed with water, but is less messy to prepare than powdered formula.
  3. Ready-to-feed: This formula is the easiest to use—just pour it into the bottle and serve.

When deciding what form of formula to buy, think about your lifestyle and level of convenience you need. Whichever you choose, you can feel confident that your baby will be properly fed: Infant formula sold in the U.S. is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must meet the FDA's nutrition standards.

For more help finding a formula that's right for your baby, check out our formula feeding guide. With a bit of research and some guidance from your baby's doctor, you'll find a formula that both you and your baby will love.