Infant and toddler health (24)
- Vaccines: Keep your child's shots on track
- Language development: Speech milestones for babies
- Childhood vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers
- see all in Infant and toddler health
Newborn health (27)
- Infant development: Birth to 3 months
- New parents: Getting the sleep you need
- Premature baby? Understand your preemie's special needs
- see all in Newborn health
Infant health (24)
- Weaning: Tips for breast-feeding mothers
- Infant formula: Your questions answered
- Infant formula: 7 steps to prepare it safely
- see all in Infant health
Toddler health (16)
- Parenting tips: How to improve toddler behavior
- Burn safety: Protect your child from burns
- Water safety: Protect your child from drowning
- see all in Toddler health
Infant formula: Your questions answered
Here's what you need to know to choose the best formula for your baby.By Mayo Clinic staff
If you're planning to feed your baby infant formula, you might have questions. Is one brand of infant formula better than another? Are generic brands OK? Is soy-based formula better than cow's milk formula?
Here's what you need to know about infant formula.
What are the main types of infant formula?
Commercial infant formulas are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Three major types are available:
- Cow's milk formulas. Most infant formula is made with cow's milk that's been altered to resemble breast milk. This gives the formula the right balance of nutrients — and makes the formula easier to digest. Most babies do well on cow's milk formula. Some babies, however — such as those allergic to the proteins in cow's milk — need other types of infant formula.
- Soy-based formulas. Soy-based formulas can be useful if you want to exclude animal proteins from your child's diet. Soy-based infant formulas might also be an option for babies who are intolerant or allergic to cow's milk formula or to lactose, a carbohydrate naturally found in cow's milk. However, babies who are allergic to cow's milk might also be allergic to soy milk.
- Protein hydrolysate formulas. These types of formulas contain protein that's been broken down (hydrolyzed) — partially or extensively — into smaller sizes than are those in cow's milk and soy-based formulas. Protein hydrolysate formulas are meant for babies who don't tolerate cow's milk or soy-based formulas. Extensively hydrolyzed formulas are an option for babies who have a protein allergy.
In addition, specialized formulas are available for premature infants and babies who have specific medical conditions.
Why use formula instead of regular milk?
Commercial infant formulas provide all the nutrients that most infants need. Milk from animals or milk substitute from plant sources doesn't contain these nutrients in a healthy balance for an infant. For example, infants younger than age 1 who drink cow's milk are at risk of iron deficiency.
What infant formula preparations are available?
Infant formulas come in three forms. The best choice depends on your budget and desire for convenience:
- Powdered formula. Powdered formula is the least expensive. Each scoop of powdered formula must be mixed with water.
- Concentrated liquid formula. This type of formula also must be mixed with water.
- Ready-to-use formula. Ready-to-use formula is the most convenient type of infant formula. It doesn't need to be mixed with water. It's also the most expensive option.
Be sure to follow any mixing instructions carefully.
What's the difference between generic and brand-name infant formula?
All infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the nutrient standards set by the FDA. Although manufacturers might vary in their formula recipes, the FDA requires that all formulas contain the minimum recommended amount — and no more than the maximum amount — of nutrients that infants need.Next page
(1 of 2)
- Feeding infants: A guide for use in the child nutrition programs. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/Resources/feeding_infants.pdf. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- FDA 101: Infant formula. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048694.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- Do "house brand" or generic infant formulas differ nutritionally from name brand formulas? U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/InfantFormula/ConsumerInformationAboutInfantFormula/ucm108141.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- What does the "use by" date mean on infant formula product labels? U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/InfantFormula/ConsumerInformationAboutInfantFormula/ucm108155.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- What is the evidence that addition of DHA and ARA to infant formulas is beneficial? U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/InfantFormula/ConsumerInformationAboutInfantFormula/ucm108560.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- Why is there interest in adding DHA and ARA to infant formulas? U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/InfantFormula/ConsumerInformationAboutInfantFormula/ucm108558.htm. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.
- Morrow AL. Choosing an infant or pediatric formula. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. 2004;18:49.
- Wright K, et al. Formula supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA): A critical review of the research. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. 2006;11:100.
- Indrio F, et al. Effect of a fermented formula on thymus size and stool pH in healthy term infants. Pediatric Research. 2007;62:98.
- Weizman Z, et al. Effect of a probiotic infant formula on infections in child care centers: Comparison of two probiotic agents. Pediatrics. 2005;115:5.
- Kleinman RE. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. 6th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:61.
- Chung CS, et al. FDA's health claim review: Whey-protein partially hydrolyzed infant formula and atopic dermatitis. Pediatrics. 2012;130:1.
- Holt K, et al. Bright Futures Nutrition. 3rd ed. Elk Grove, Ill: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011:69.
- Qawasmi A, et al. Meta-analysis of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of formula and infant cognition. Pediatrics. 2012;129:1141.
- Fleischer DM. Introducing formula and solid foods to infants at risk for allergic disease. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Oct. 19, 2012.