The Facts About Formula

One trip down the drugstore aisle is all it takes to send a rookie mom into full-fledged panic. How do you make the right choice? We asked experts to guide you through it.

How to prepare a bottle of formula in five easy steps.

Shannon Greer

Formula is packed with good stuff

Today, it's nearly impossible to find a label that doesn't tout things like DHA and ARA (fatty acids that are believed to help brain and eye development) and pro- or prebiotics (which promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract), says Jennifer Shu, M.D., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. That's really good news: No matter what you buy, you can rest assured it's healthy.

Cow's milk formula is usually fine

Soy-based formulas do exist if you want to avoid animal protein or your infant has a milk allergy. If your tot has an upset stomach or is fussy with both milk and soy, your M.D. might suggest a hydrolyzed formula. The proteins are broken down so they're easier for Baby to digest.

All formulas are tightly regulated

Don't let the ingredients intimidate you: Formula is simply a combination of water, proteins, fat, and carbs, mixed with vitamins, minerals, and other additives that imitate breast milk. Brand-name and store-brand formula are screened by the FDA and have to comply with the Infant Formula Act. Formula is probably safer than much of what you eat, says Frank R. Greer, M.D., a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison.

Formula comes in three varieties

Powder is sold in a canister or in travel-friendly packets and has to be mixed with water. Major selling point: It's also the most economical. Concentrated liquid is a bit more expensive because it's less messy to prepare. But it still has to be mixed with some water. Ready-to-use nixes mixing. It's the most costly, but it may make stools looser, which could help if Baby is easily constipated, says Dr. Shu.

Preemies need TLC

Babies born premature or at a low birthweight might benefit from a formula with extra calories, minerals,
and vitamins. Check with your doctor first.

Organic formula is not nutritionally superior

That label just means that at least 95 percent of what's in the formula (such as milk or soy) was made without antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals. Expect the cost to reflect that.

Originally published in American Baby magazine in June 2014.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby


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