The 10 Best Baby Formulas

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This wiki has been updated 34 times since it was first published in March of 2015. The right formula can provide infants with all the nutrition they need to thrive and develop in the first year of life. Here we rank the top standard varieties as well as several alternative options that can be good for little ones with conditions like allergies, reflux, gas, and constipation. When choosing the best one for your baby, be sure to get your pediatrician’s approval. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Enfamil Nutramigen

2. Similac For Supplementation

3. Earth’s Best Milk-Based

Editor's Notes

February 25, 2020:

Today we added an organic choice to the list that’s easy to digest and can provide complete nutrition for your little one’s first 12 months of life. Earth’s Best Milk-Based contains lactose, without any added sucrose or corn syrup solids to sweeten it. It’s also Kosher-certified, fortified with the proper amount of iron, and contains important fatty acids Omega-3 DHA and Omega-6 ARA that boost brain and eye health. It’s also relatively easy on the wallet, at $1.19 per ounce as of this writing.

The newly added Kirkland Signature ProCare is also sweetened only with lactose, making it another viable choice for any parent looking to avoid formulas with sucrose or corn syrup. Its canister is thoughtfully designed, with a convenient zip top package and a built-in scoop holder, so the scoop doesn’t need to rest among the powder. Made in the USA, this Costco name brand choice is priced affordably, giving the bigger brands a run for their money.

Retaining the top spot on our list is Enfamil Nutramigen, which is extensively hydrolyzed, making it easy to digest. Its highly broken-down proteins are recommended for babies who might be suffering from lactose allergies. It claims to provide positive results as early as with the first feeding, and anywhere up to 48 hours after that. It’s also got the important nutrients found in breast milk like DHA and ARA for brain support.

If you’ve got an especially gassy or fussy little one, check out our list of best baby soy formulas, as an alternative that’s not made from cow’s milk could be the answer.

As a rule, be sure to talk with your pediatrician before deciding which formula to feed your new baby. The same rule applies to anyone considering switching out a baby’s formula, since it’s important to make sure any drastic dietary changes are right for your infant. No matter which you go with, read the directions carefully, especially about safe warming methods as well as how much water to mix with the powder.

Special Honors

Up&Up Advantage Target’s brand of formula uses lactose as its only form of carbohydrate, unlike others that add sweeteners such as corn syrup or sucrose. It’s one of the least expensive, quality formulas, yet is similar in composition to the more expensive brands. In addition to all of the standard required ingredients in infant formulas, it’s also fortified with extra nutrients like DHA and RHA, lutein, and a prebiotic. It’s currently available in 35-ounce and 23.2-ounce canisters. Target also makes a special version of its Up&Up formula for infants who are sensitive to lactose.

Parent’s Choice Tender Infant Formula If your pediatrician has recommended a partially hydrolyzed formula, which is easier for babies to digest, this Walmart brand is worthy of a look. It’s modeled after breast milk, containing prebiotics for the immune system and DHA to support the brain’s development. It contains no GMO ingredients, is gluten free, and is certified Kosher. It’s also one of the most affordable choices around, currently selling for $0.62 per ounce in a single-can pack.

4. Kirkland Signature ProCare

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

5. Similac Sensitive

6. Gerber Good Start Soothe

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

7. Similac ProAdvance

8. Gerber Good Start Gentle

9. Enfamil PurAmino

10. Enfamil Enspire

Bringing Up Baby

Simpler still, another question involves how you should be feeding your baby.

It's not a highly-disputed fact that rearing children is a tough job, particularly from the time of infancy to the day junior comes to you and tells you he's getting married and about to start a family of his own. So many thoughts will run through a new mom's head. How do I raise my baby? Will he or she be fussy? What will their personality be like? How can I positively influence the proper development of that personality and all the best traits? What is the definition of right from wrong? How do I start off on the right foot?

The fact is that there's not always a clear distinction between right and wrong when it comes to raising your baby. At some point, instinct takes over. Simpler still, another question involves how you should be feeding your baby. Though feeding is a basic concept for all life, what your baby eats during its development definitely matters. Is breastfeeding better than formula? Does baby formula have its own advantages over natural breast milk? The answer is that commercially-prepared infant formulas are an excellent and nutritious alternative to breast milk, particularly if you're unable to nurse naturally.

The scientific definition of a baby formula is that it's a manufactured food that is specially-designed and marketed for feeding infants twelve months of age and under. The majority of baby formulas come in a powder, are mixed with water, and are ideal for bottle or cup feeding. The main advantage of most baby formulas is that they simulate the benefits of human breast milk either as a partial or entire substitute. Common types of baby formulas are composed of a combination of purified cow's milk whey, casein (for protein), vegetable oils for a fat source, and lactose as a good source for carbohydrates. Many formulas also contain a mix of vitamins that are important for baby's growth.

Ideally, baby formulas are manufactured under sterile conditions (free from any harmful contaminants) and they at least help to substitute nutrients that a breastfeeding mother wouldn't be able to produce naturally. Aside from the biological benefits of the product, administering baby formula affords new parents the convenience of trading off the feeding responsibility. Since a formula can be placed into a bottle, either parent can participate in the feeding process. This supports equal bonding between both parents and the baby as opposed to the restrictions of breastfeeding with only the nursing mother present.

Formulas also take longer to digest than breast milk, meaning that baby may not need to eat as often as one who depends on breast milk at different times around the clock.

Formula Over Time

The evolution from breastfeeding to bottle feeding and to baby formula has taken an interesting path over time and has even circled back to the continued benefit of breastfeeding today. The practice of wet nursing was very common before the use of feeding bottles or baby formulas. Wet nursing has its origins as early as the year two thousand BCE and continued into the nineteenth century.

Wet nursing has its origins as early as the year two thousand BCE and continued into the nineteenth century.

By the nineteenth century, artificial feeding became an alternative for wet nursing, thanks to the advancements in individual feeding bottles and the availability of animal's milk. In fact, there were many different types of vessels used for artificial infant feedings dating all the way back to ancient times. Such bottles were also written about through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. However, descriptions of these vessels would detail their uncleanliness.

By the time of the Industrial Revolution (mid-eighteenth century), a more hygienic feeding bottle was introduced in 1851 in France. This type of bottle had a cork nipple and ivory pins in its air inlets to regulate flow. As artificial feeding became more popular, so did the focus on developing new sources of infant nutrition, hence the invention of the first commercialized infant formula in 1867 by German chemist, Justus von Liebig. Liebig's formula was first produced in liquid form followed by a powder for improved preservation of the formula's ingredients.

This formula was made up of a combination of cow's milk, wheat and malt flour, and potassium bicarbonate. By the 1920s, scientists began experimenting with non-milk based formulas for infants allergic to cow's milk. The first non-milk formula was introduced in 1929. During the 1940s and 1950s, baby formulas became synonymous with safety as a healthy substitute for breastfeeding. Today, baby formula makes up one of the largest segments of the baby food industry.

Choosing Proper Nutrition

Development is an important factor that one must consider when looking for the right formula. Formulas rich in the same types of vitamins ordinarily found in breast milk is a big selling point (i.e. vitamin E), as vitamins and nutrients assist with rapid and healthy brain development. Some formulas can also be given in combination with solid foods, which is a strong consideration for babies who are a bit older.

It's never too early to begin building your baby's natural immune defenses. For that reason, selecting a formula that contains prebiotics is an excellent idea as well.

Talk to your pediatrician as well. Your baby's doctor will have a wealth of information that can steer you in the right direction to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients he or she needs during such an important stage of its development.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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