The medical community generally considers breast milk to be the best option for your baby. But many parents make the choice to give their baby formula in the first year of life. Formula is made up of special ingredients that try to mimic breast milk. Common ingredients include special amounts of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Different brands of formula do differ in their ingredients.
Because of the special ingredients in formula, it is very important that you not try to make your own formula from scratch. It is also important that you meticulously follow the instructions for mixing the formula without error, to prevent developmental problems.
- Use the same formula your hospital used. If your baby was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) your baby may have received formula. In that case, it's important to use the same brand and type your hospital used. Your baby is already used to it, and you know your baby has no allergies to it. If your baby was in the NICU for prematurity, please try to get your baby some breast milk-premature babies thrive much better on breast milk than formula.
- Talk to your pediatrician. Ask your pediatrician which formula is best suited for your baby. She may have some recommendations.
- Ask what type of formula works for your family. There are three types of formula: powdered, concentrate and ready-to-feed.
- Ready-to-feed is formula that is already mixed with water to the correct concentration. It is nice for traveling or in a place where mixing a powder might be difficult. But ready-to-feed is also the most expensive form.
Concentrate formula requires you to add water to it. It's a little cheaper than ready to feed, and is easier to use than powdered formula.
Powdered formula is the cheapest, but also the messiest option. It comes in cans with scoops or in pre-measured packages.
Iron-Fortified. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies who are not being breastfed be given an iron-fortified formula until they reach their first birthday.
Soy Formula. Most formulas are made from cow's milk. But some babies are allergic to cow's milk and soy formula is an option. Soy milk is not for all babies as it is very high in sugar. If you think your baby is allergic to cow's milk in the formula, talk to your pediatrician before switching formulas.
Specialty Formula. Some formulas are specially made for babies with special needs or with babies that are allergic to cow's milk and soy milk. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby needs a specialty formula.