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Types of Baby Formula

Updated on September 23, 2009

Choosing a formula for your baby is one of the first and most important choices you will make for your child. There are more choices now than ever before, making the task seem a bit daunting.

Basic types of baby formula

There are 3 basic types of baby formula: iron fortified formula, soy formula, and elemental formula. These formulas differ primarily in the type of sugar and protein they’re made of.

Iron fortified formulas, such as Enfamil Lipil, Nestle Good Start Supreme, and Similac Advance, are comprised largely of lactose and proteins from cow’s milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends iron fortified formulas for all infants.

Soy formulas, as opposed to cow’s milk-based formulas, contain soy protein and have no lactose. Examples of these are Enfamil ProSobee, Similac Isomil, and Nestle Good Start Supreme Soy. Infants who are lactose intolerant (which is rare) or experience adverse reactions to milk proteins are good candidates for soy formulas.

Like soy formulas, elemental formulas are also lactose free. However, they differ from soy formulas in that they contain hydrolysate proteins, which are ideal for infants who are allergic t certain proteins. Examples of elemental formulas are Nutramigen, Pregestamil and Alimentum.

Forms of baby formula

Once you have decided upon the type of baby formula that is right for your infant, you will also need to decide upon a form for the formula. You can purchase formula as a powder and mix it with water to prepare it (be sure to follow the directions when mixing it, as different powders require different amounts of water). Concentrated liquid formulas require a similar process.

Ready-to-use formulas, as the name implies, require no special preparation, and can be fed directly to your infant. Ready-to-use formulas tend to be more expensive, while powder and concentrated liquid formulas are generally less expensive.

Some powders such as Enfamil with Iron, Lactofree and ProSobee come in single servings to be mixed in a 4 ounce bottle, making it easier for you to prepare them.

How to choose the right formula for your baby

If you have chosen not to breastfeed your baby—or not to do so exclusively—you will need to pick a formula that suits your baby best. One thing to consider is any family history of food allergies or problems with certain kinds of formula. If these types of intolerances run in your family, consider beginning with a soy or elemental formula rather than one that is cow’s milk-based.If your baby has adverse reactions to lactose, there are lactose-free formulas such as Lactofree and Similac Lactose Free. Keep in mind, however, that these formulas do contain cow’s milk proteins, and that it is rare for infants to be born lactose intolerant.

Image Credit: Johnny Corduroy, Flickr


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  • OTmommy profile image

    OTmommy 7 years ago from Southern USA

    Thanks for the hub on baby formula and how many choices are out there. Just want to clarify elemental versus hydrolyzed formula because this could be a serious thing to know the difference for a child with a milk allergy. Hydrolyzed formulas have been broken down for easier digestion, yet still contain the milk protein casein. These formulas are Pregestimil, Nutramagin, and Alimentum. Whereas elemental formulas do not contain casein. Neocate and Elecare are elemental formulas. My daughter had an anaphylatic reaction requiring emergency care after drinking a small amount of Nutramigen. This was because she is allergic to casein even if it is broken down. Some kids are just sensitive to casein such as with gas and belly aches, and in those cases hydrolyzed formulas are fine. I chose to never offer formula again, and just stuck to breastfeeding while I avoided consuming dairy. But had I not, elemental formula would have been the only choice. In addition, many infants with severe milk allergies tend to also be allergic to soy.