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Which baby formula should you choose?

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are a lot of opinions. But it’s important to remember that every baby is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

While breastfeeding may not be a fit for every mother due to health or other concerns, baby formula is a good alternative. If you and your doctor agree that formula is the right choice for your baby, you may feel daunted by the task of choosing the right formula. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.

Types of baby formula

Formulas come in several different types, including ready-to-use, concentrated liquid and powder.

Ready-to-use formula is the most expensive, but also the most convenient, as no preparation or mixing is required. Powder formula is probably the most common and least expensive. It requires you to mix one scoop of powder formula with two ounces of water and shake or stir well. Concentrated liquid is the middle ground between ready-to-use and powder; you combine equal parts of the liquid concentrate and water, and mix well to prepare the formula. It is less messy and easier to prepare than powder, but a less expensive alternative to the ready-to-use formula.

Choosing which type is most appropriate for you and your baby is individualized and depends on your budget and preference. All types will provide the necessary calories and nutrients for your baby to have healthy growth and development.

Choosing the right formula for your baby

Your pediatrician can help you decide where to start based on your baby’s needs. The most common types of formula include cow’s milk formula, hydrolyzed formula and various types of specialized formulas.

Cow’s milk formula

Most pediatricians will recommend starting with a traditional cow’s milk formula, which works well for most babies. Cow’s milk is usually the least expensive option.

Hydrolyzed formula

If you find your baby is not responding well to the cow’s milk formula, talk to your pediatrician about potential allergies, specifically to the cow’s milk protein. In those cases, it may be best to look for a hydrolyzed formula to aid in digestion. A hydrolyzed formula is simply a type of formula where the cow’s milk protein is already broken down and is in an easier form for your baby to digest.

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Soy formula, which is a type of hydrolyzed formula, is only indicated for babies with a congenital condition called galactosemia. However, your healthcare provider may suggest switching to a soy formula if your baby is experiencing colic, or other symptoms suggestive of formula intolerance such as excessive spitting up, vomiting or fussiness.

Specialized formulas

If your baby has a particular health condition or allergy, your pediatrician can help you figure out the best type of formula for your baby. There are many different kinds of formula, and each is designed to make sure your baby gets the right nutrients.

Specialized formulas on the market include those for infants who struggle with severe gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), as many babies with GERD are often unable to maintain a healthy weight. These specialized formulas often add rice, which helps to prevent the spit-up and other symptoms of GERD.

There are also sensitive formulas designed for infants who suffer from severe colic, or abdomen pain. These formulas contain prebiotics or probiotics, which can help soothe your baby’s tummy and decrease the troubling gas and indigestion.

When it’s time to switch formulas

Look for the following clues that it might be time to try a new formula: if your baby is always fussy, never seems full or satisfied after a feeding, is having fewer than six to eight wet diapers a day or is not gaining weight regularly. Other signs may include severe nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, red, dry scaly skin, and extreme fatigue or weakness.

If you are ever concerned that your baby is not getting enough calories or nutrients, talk with your pediatrician and discuss where your baby falls on their growth curves. If your baby is slowly “falling off their curve,” they may suggest you switch to a different type of formula.

Remember, every baby is different and it’s okay to reach out for advice. Talk to your doctor about which formula options are best for the growth and development of your baby.

Looking for a doctor? Find one at Baylor Scott & White Health.

About the author

Fallon Stovall
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Fallon Stovall is a social media consultant and content creator for Baylor Scott & White Health. Her passion is to connect people through powerful storytelling and visuals.

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Which baby formula should you choose?