With so many baby formula options on the supermarket aisles, it can be difficult knowing how to choose the right formula for your baby.
Whether you want to supplement your breastmilk, or are exclusively formula-feeding, you still need to pick the right formula for your baby.
This will depend on a few factors, e.g. whether your little one has a cow’s milk allergy or is lactose intolerant, or maybe they need specialized formula milk for specific conditions.
We will discuss all this on this post.
If you are not sure which formula milk will be suitable for your baby and you don’t know how to choose the right one, this post is for you. Keep reading.
Which Formula Milk Is Right For Your Baby?
How will you know which formula is right for your baby?
There are many brands. So many options! Where do you start? It’s not an easy task, but the choices aren’t that many actually.
You only get baby formula in three forms (options). And those forms come in five types.
Formula comes in three forms that parents can choose from.
Powdered Formula Milk
Regular everyday baby formula that comes in cans. It comes in powdered form and is mixed with water.
Preparation is time-consuming and proper mixing procedure should be followed to the letter.
Concentrated Liquid Formula
This formula comes in liquid form. You mix it with water before giving to the baby.
Ready-Made Formula Milk
The most convenient formula out of the three options. No mixing required. You just pour into your baby’s bottle and feed.
Expect that convenience to come at a cost.
Ready-made baby formula is more expensive than powdered and concentrated liquid formula.
Types Of Formula
These are the five types of baby formula.
Regular Cow’s Milk-based Formula
Usually the first option most parents go for when choosing baby formula.
Although it contains cow’s milk protein, it has been treated to be suitable for a baby to digest.
Most parents start with this formula milk, and continue with it if their baby takes well to it.
Partially Hydrolyzed Formula
This type of milk contains cow’s milk protein that has been partially broken down for your baby’s tummy to digest easily.
It’s often recommended for babies who may have eczema, or those who have a high chance of developing an allergy to cow’s milk protein.
Note that you shouldn’t give your baby this type of formula if they have a confirmed cow’s milk protein allergy. It’s not completely safe as it’s not hypoallergenic.
Extensively Hydrolyzed Formula
The milk protein in this formula has been completely broken down, making it easy for a baby to digest. It’s suitable for babies with a confirmed cow’s milk allergy or severe digestive system problems.
Extensively hydrolyzed formula actually falls under “specialized baby formula” category, only use it under the advice and guidance of your doctor.
This formula contains no cow’s milk and is chosen by parents whose babies have galactosemia, are lactose intolerant, or cannot tolerate cow’s milk.
Those who follow a vegetarian diet also opt for it. This kind of formula is not suitable for premature babies or those with low birth weight (source).
Clear it with your doctor first before using soy-based baby formula if your baby is lactose intolerant.
It’s also important to note that sometimes a baby with a cow’s milk allergy can also react to soy-based formula.
Specialized Baby Formula
There are cases where your baby will need specialized formulas for specific conditions. These kinds of formulas address specific complications and you should only use them under the guidance of your doctor.
Specialized formula milk is usually prescribed for conditions such as constipation, reflux, diarrhea, difficulty in gaining wait, and more.
You shouldn’t opt for this type of formula as your first choice.
Is All Baby Formula Milk Made Equal?
Formula milk contains protein (cow’s milk or soy), vegetable oils, vitamins, and minerals. It’s often also fortified with iron for your baby’s development.
Some formulas contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), together with ARA (arachidonic acid). These omega fatty acids are believed to have developmental benefits for babies.
All formula milk is made to provide the necessary nutrition to your baby. There will be some variations based on the type of formula and whether it’s meant to address a specific condition or not.
How To Pick The Right Formula For Your Baby
For you pick the right baby formula, look at the following:
- Establish whether you will be using cow’s milk based baby formula or soy-based. If your baby can drink regular formula, go for it.
- Does your baby have any allergies, or likely to have them? What about eczema? If so, consider using partially hydrolyzed baby formula.
- Are you vegan or maybe looking for organic formula?
- Do ask your pediatrician what formula they can recommend. You can also ask other moms who are bottle-feeding. Find out why they opted for a formula they are giving to their baby.
- Jot down your answers to the above points
Based on your answers, you will have a list of what to look for, and you can use that to put together a few formula options to consider.
If you still feel that you can’t choose the right formula for your baby, speak to your doctor. They will help you decide based on your baby’s needs.
Whichever milk you will be feeding, you should follow the correct directions for preparation and feeding, and make sure you don’t make these bottle-feeding safety mistakes.
What To Consider When Choosing Formula
Baby’s reaction to the milk
If you believe your baby is likely to have a reaction to formula (e.g. milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance), consider a partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula.
If you have allergies yourself, or a family history of allergies, it’s possible that your new baby might also have them. Take this into consideration.
What to also keep in mind is whether the baby is premature or has any medical conditions or dietary requirements.
It’s such a hassle going up and down in frustration searching for your baby’s milk without success.
When you choose formula milk for your baby, look at what is accessible in your area.
You don’t want to select milk that requires you to drive out of town to buy. What will happen if the milk gets finished without you realizing and you need a can immediately? Because trust me, it happens.
Sometimes you find foreign material inside the can or you tip it over onto the floor.
What happens if you really can’t make that trip out of town and you’ve ran out of formula?
Unless your baby only drinks a specific kind of milk (extensively hydrolyzed, or the specialized types), regular milk should be fine.
In cases where your baby strictly drinks specialized formula and it’s not available in your area, then you have no choice but to drive out if the milk isn’t available in your neighborhood.
It’s better to stock up and always have at least two unopened cans of formula in case of emergencies.
Formula milk is expensive. There’s no doubt about that.
Although cost can’t be used to select the type of formula that is right for your baby, you should take it into consideration.
If your baby drinks regular powdered formula, there is absolutely no need to go for an expensive option. Unless of course you want to.
Just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better.
Let your choice be your personal preference.
Select a formula based on what you want from it, e.g. added probiotics or prebiotics, organic, vegan, halaal, etc. Otherwise they are all made to provide sufficient nutrition for your little one.
When selecting formula milk for your baby, think about the effects of cost in the long term.
If your baby needs a specialized kind of milk and it’s a little heavy on your pocket, plan ahead and make provision on your budget for how you will afford it.
How Do You Know If You Need To Change Your Baby’s Formula?
Sometimes formula-feeding involves a lot of trial and error.
You may pick one type of formula and your baby doesn’t take well to it.
So, bear in mind that, chances are high that your baby won’t take well to the first formula you give them. It’s common.
Be prepared to change. Make a list of other types of formula milk you can try.
You also need to know the signs that the formula doesn’t agree with your baby.
Here are the symptoms to look out for:
Symptoms Of Formula Allergy Or Intolerance
- Rash or hives
- Red, itchy patches on the skin (eczema)
Sometimes the symptoms appear right after feeding, or during a feed. Sometimes a few hours after a feed.
Symptoms like skin rash or hives, and cramps can start on the same day you give your baby the milk.
Sometimes it can take a few days to show. Signs like red, itchy patches, or eczema, and constipation, often appear after a few days.
When Should You Change Baby Formula?
Once you have established that your little one is reacting badly to formula milk, it’s time to switch.
It’s important though to consult with your doctor or a medical professional before going ahead.
Sometimes the reaction could be from something other than the milk.
First confirm that the above symptoms are caused by formula milk, then you can change to a different one.
How Do You Change Baby Formula?
The best way is to gradually introduce the new formula while phasing out the old one.
In other cases, you can stop immediately with the old milk and start with the new one.
From my experience, it depends on the types of formula you are dealing with, as well as the reason you are changing formula milk for your baby.
I did a complete switch. I also did a gradual switch.
For me, the driving factor was the type of milk I was switching to.
When I switched from a partially hydrolyzed formula to a specialized one for constipation, I changed gradually.
One bottle of specialized formula after every two bottles of partially hydrolyzed formula, up until I was only giving specialized formula.
This was under the advice of a pediatrician, of course.
When I did a complete switch, I stopped giving regular formula with whole cow’s milk protein and started giving partially hydrolyzed formula on the next feed.
As I said, it will all depend on your baby, the milk you are giving, as well as what your doctor advises.
When changing milk, wait for a few days, 3 – 5 days at least, to see how the baby reacts to it.
It can even take up to a week. Babies are different.
Sometimes switching can make your baby fussy, have gas or cause constipation. This is because your baby’s tummy is still adjusting. That is why it’s important to wait a few days to see how your baby will react.
The time allows your baby’s system to adjust to the new milk.
Which Formula Is Right For Your Baby?
Formula-feeding already requires a lot from you. From picking the right bottles and nipples, sterilization, and all that washing of bottles after feeding.
Knowing how to choose the right formula for your baby doesn’t have to be difficult as well.
You just need to take into consideration allergies, lactose intolerance, and special conditions such as reflux, constipation, or gas, etc.
If you don’t have reason to believe your baby needs a specific kind of milk, start with regular powdered formula and take it from there.
Check if your baby takes well to it. If not, you change until you find a suitable one.
Maybe you will be fortunate and your journey to finding the right baby formula will be an easy one.
How did you figure out how to choose the right formula for your baby? Was it easy for you or it took a lot of trial and error?
Please let me know in the comments.