Best Baby Formula Reviews in 2018

Many moms choose to feed their babies exclusively with baby formula or to use it as a supplement to breast milk. However, with so many options for formula, such as whole milk, soy, iron-fortified, or hypoallergenic, choosing the best one for your infant can be a daunting task.

So, how do you decide which baby formula is right for your baby? After all, each baby is unique – maybe yours has allergies/sensitivities or you want to go organic (GMOs? No thank you!). Maybe you aren’t able to breast feed, but you still want to give them baby formula that’s as close to breast milk as possible. Maybe the current baby formula you’re feeding your baby is giving them constipation or giving them tummy troubles, so you’re looking for something new. Whatever your reason, using this guide, you can be sure that you’re choosing a baby formula that you can feel good about and your baby enjoys. Also, it doesn’t hurt that we help first time parents can be sure get the best baby formula for the best value.

We’ll also go over the different kinds of baby formula available and its forms so you can make an informed decision and not waste money trying different baby formulas at random. Then, we’ll share our top picks to make buying baby formula quick and easy.

Forms of Baby Formula

baby formula

There’s a belief that “breast is best.” However, for some moms, breastfeeding isn’t possible (or they choose not to), yet they still want what’s best for their baby. Fortunately, baby formula is a great, safe alternative to breast milk. In fact, most baby formulas contain the same nutrients and are good for supplementing breast milk when mommy goes back to work, isn’t home, or someone else is feeding baby or for exclusively formula feeding. There are many different baby formulas and they come in three forms: powder, liquid, and ready to use. Here, we’ll explore each kind so you can choose the baby formula that best fits your budget, lifestyle, and needs.

Powder

Baby formula has been around a long time – since the 1800’s. In 1867, chemist Justus von Liebig created the first baby formula (first in liquid and then in powder form in 1915) by mixing wheat and malt flour with cow’s milk. His concoction became the foundation for modern baby formula. Then, in 1951, instant (or ready-made formula) hit the market and became the popular feeding method. Powder is still commonly used because powder baby formula is the least expensive option and it is mixed with water. While it’s the most convenient, powdered formula is not sterile. Therefore, it should not be given to infants under two months of age, infants born prematurely who are not yet two months past their expected due, or infants who have compromised immune systems. When preparing it, be sure to follow all the guidelines on the packaging. If your baby doesn’t finish the bottle, never save it for later, as this can cause bacteria to grow.

Liquid Formula

Since the 1970’s, there’s been a resurgence in formula feeding babies under six months old. As mentioned, liquid baby formula was the first kind invented, though it’s gone through many changes, including the introduction of soy formula in the 1950’s. Like powdered formula, liquid concentrate formula requires water to make. However, it’s more expensive than powdered baby formula. To make it, you take equal parts liquid concentrate and water and shake it. (Example: two ounces of liquid concentrate and two ounces of water make four ounces of formula). This is a great option if you’re on the go – just remember to bring a bottle of water for mixing. Also, this will last for up to forty-eight hours when refrigerated. However, keep in mind that some kinds of liquid baby formula can stain a baby’s clothing when they spit up, so bring a change of clothes if you’ll be out and about.

Ready-to-Use

The history of ready-to-use baby formula has gone up and down in popularity, beginning with its decline in use in the 1970’s when many women began working. Just a decade earlier, approximately 30% of women breastfed because baby formula was so popular. It was considered the preferred method of feeding for many women. And for good reason. Ready-to-use baby formula is the easiest to use, but it is the most expensive (which is why formula feeding was less prevalent during the Depression). It does not need any water. In fact, adding water dilutes it and makes it less nutritious. Use a bottle opener with a triangular tip to punch a hole in the lid for flow. Decide how much formula you need and pour it – that’s it! Just be sure to cover the formula can with plastic wrap and a rubber band for freshness. They can last in the refrigerator for a few days.

Baby Formula Options

Cow’s Milk

Most baby formulas are made of cow’s milk and are made to mimic breast milk, so they will contain all the necessary nutrients for baby’s development. Cow’s milk baby formulas are typically what parents try first and then move onto other types (i.e. soy) if deemed necessary.

Why Choose This?

Good for babies without allergies or lacto-sensitivites. It is the most common type of formula available and the least expensive.

What are the advantages/benefits of this type of product?

It’s affordable, a good source of calcium, and it contains protein.

What's the best way to use this product?

The best use of the product is for babies who have no sensitivities to it because of its cost.

Address the controversy

Cow milk is often criticized for containing fat and sugar, but you can cut fat by using skim or 1% and sugar in milk has no effect on blood sugar.

Soy

A plant-based product, soy formula is an alternative for parents who want to exclude cow’s milk from baby’s diet or whose baby has sensitivities to cow’s milk.

Why Choose This?

Babies are rarely allergic to cow’s milk, just sensitive to it (i.e. it will make them gassy, constipated, etc.). Soy is a good option in those cases because it’s more affordable than hypoallergenic and other formulas.

What are the advantages/benefits of using the product?

Soy has the same vitamins and it’s vegetarian-friendly.

What’s the best way to use product?

The same as cow’s milk. Soy is no different other than its plant-based. It contains many of the same nutrients.

Controversy surrounding product

Babies who are allergic to cow’s milk are sometimes allergic to soy (up to 14% of cases). Also, there is no scientific evidence to support soy helps colic, but parents have had success in using it.

Hypoallergenic

Good for babies with lots of tummy troubles, hypoallergenic formula means the milk proteins have been heated and broken down into tiny pearls that are more manageable to digest. It is by far the most expensive option at approximately $30 per can. Most parents use it as a last resort.

Why Choose This?

Hypoallergenic formulas are best for infants with a mix of issues, instead of one or two. Typically, babies will have seven different types of troubles (i.e. acid reflux, constipation, etc.) before parents try baby for sensitive stomachs.

What are the advantages/benefits of using the product?

May prevent tummy troubles.

Helps 90% of babies with allergies.

What’s the best way to use product?

As a “last resort” formula. It should be introduced over the course of a few days.

Controversy surrounding product

New studies suggest hypoallergenic milk may not help with milk allergies.

Protein Hydrolyzed or Sensitive Stomach

This formula is best for babies with gas, bouts of constipation, and those who grunt and/or cry when feeding.

Why Choose This?

It’s good for babies with one or two types of gastrointestinal issues.

What are the advantages/benefits of using the product?

No constipation.

It refrigerates well.

What’s the best way to use product?

Use sensitive stomach formula while trying these options to help with gas, like massaging the baby’s stomach and burping more frequently.

Best Baby Formula to Use

Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Gentle Infant Formula

Kirkland, a Costco brand, may not be a brand you’re familiar with, but it’s worth a try. (It is available elsewhere, though, including through online retailers). In fact, it ranks as one of our top five choices and for good reason. It’s highly ranked and it is made with a gentle formula for easy digestion, vitamin D for strong bones, DHA for baby's developing brain, Lutien for baby's developing eyes, and prebiotics (nourishes good bacteria) for digestive health and immune support. Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Gentle Infant Formula is good for babies ages 0-12 months.

This is a good choice for parents who are concerned about GMOs and don’t want their baby’s formula made containing ingredients grown in a lab. Kirkland’s Signature is natural and as for baby as breast milk. Despite the cons, including the packaging, it is a solid choice that may be the end of your search for the perfect baby formula.

  • Easy on baby’s tummy
  • More affordable brand
  • Great breast milk substitute
  • Non-GMO
  • May still cause gas
  • Sub par packaging
  • Tends to get frothy
  • No bulk mixing instruction

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula

baby formula

This formula, made by the company Nature’s One, the leader in Organic Medical Nutrition, is USDA Certified Organic (so it doesn’t contain artificial growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics) and the only baby formula on our list that is considered kosher dairy. In addition, it’s the only baby formula in our guide that is made with toddlers in mind, so it can be given to children over twelve months of age (as we’ll mention later, ages and stages aren’t important to follow – just be sure to prepare any baby formula per the package’s directions). Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula is gluten-free with no GMOs (like Kirkland’s) or corn syrup and has DHA and ARA lipids to promote healthy brain development.

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula has been the number one selling baby formula since 1999. It meets strict standards (in place by the FDA and several pediatricians) to be labeled organic, like not using ingredients such as corn syrup. The milk for it comes from a family-run farm, too. If baby is experiencing tummy troubles, Baby’s Only Organic comes in Soy or Lacto-Relief.

  • Good for corn and gluten allergies
  • No hexane-filtration
  • Helps digestive issues
  • May cause constipation
  • Still contains sugar (Brown Rice Syrup)
  • Some report says their babies experience throwing up and being gassy

Enfamil Infant Formula (Powdered)

baby formula

Enfamil Infant Formula is touted to be the closest to breast milk and meets the nutritional needs of babies up to twelve months of age. It’s the formula most recommended by pediatricians and is neuro-complete, meaning that it contains iron and DHA for brain development. Also, it’s made with Natural Defense Prebiotics Blend to help strengthen baby’s immune system. It’s available in Non-GMO and Ready-to-Use.

Did you know 70% of baby’s immune system is located in their digestive tract? This is why what formula you give them is so crucial. As baby ages and grows, they reach new milestones that are achieved using the cognitive, social, motor, and communication areas of the brain. Enfamil baby formula has all of the necessary ingredients to help with baby’s brain development to reach these important milestones. This baby formula is also available in powder, liquid, and ready-to-use and comes in a variety of sizes, from a twenty-two ounce container to eight ounce plastic bottles that are ready to use – just put a nipple on the bottle and feed. (Available in single-serving packets of powder and only requires water).

  • Good taste
  • Comes in reusable tabs
  • May still cause gas
  • Customer service and packaging issues

Similac Advance Infant Formula with Iron (Powdered),

baby formula

Similac Advance is a plant-based formula that is the #1 brand used by moms and the brand most often used in hospitals. It contains OptiGRO, DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E, ingredients found in breast milk, for baby’s eyes, brain, bones, and immune system. This is the first leading brand that was labeled Non-GMO and it’s iron-fortified for babies that require supplemental iron.

  • Convenient
  • Easy to Digest
  • Comes in 8oz bottle
  • Expensive
  • Reported packaging issues
  • Only includes one nipple

Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula, 23.2 ounces

baby formula

Earth’s Best Organic has organic in the name, so you know it’s USA Organic Certified and kosher and it doesn’t contain growth hormones, antibiotics, steroids, or potentially harmful pesticides or herbicides. It contains no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and corn syrup solids. However, it has DHA and ARA for brain and eye development and prebiotics to build up the immune system.

  • Easy to digest
  • Best value baby formula
  • Organic
  • No added hormones
  • Contains soy and milk
  • Doesn’t dissolve well
  • Foul smell
  • May cause constipation

Conclusion

Despite there being so many types and brands available, we’ve narrowed it down to our personal favorite: Baby’s Only Organic Formula (Dairy Milk or Soy, Powdered). Most parents prefer it to cow’s milk because it doesn’t contain growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics and it’s kosher. It can be given to toddlers and is gentler on the stomach than cow’s milk. It’s a good option for those with infants with lactose allergies or sensitivities because it’s less expensive than hypoallergenic or protein hydrolyzed formula. In addition, it meets the factors you should look for when choosing a formula because it contains 2.6 grams of protein per serving, it’s nutritious, and can be given to toddlers (per the label, though you don’t have to follow ages and stages of formula).

Organic is just a preference, but you have that option with this formula because it comes in organic dairy and soy. Though there’s no evidence to support the claim, some parents say they’ve had success using this for colicky babies while others have said the casein in it made their baby constipated.

Finding the right formula doesn’t have to be an impossible task – it just takes a bit of patience, time to research, and effort. Also, keep in mind that any new formula requires time for baby to adjust. If one doesn’t seem to be working, there are many other options. Using this guide, you’ll find a formula that both you and your baby will love.
















Sandra Henderson
 

Editor-in-chief at Babiology and a proud mother of four passionate about sharing pregnancy and baby growth knowledges

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