Jun 29, 2001 (Updated Mar 26, 2003)

The Bottom Line Discuss this issue in-depth with your pediatrician and research all the possible choices before making this highly personal decision for yourself.

For most new parents, choosing how to feed their baby is one of the most important decisions they will make. Without debate, human breastmilk is almost always the preferred nutritional choice and is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But for those that cannot or choose not to breastfeed for whatever reason and those who wish to supplement breastfeedings with infant formula occasionally, deciding which brand and type of infant formula can be a somewhat confusing and difficult process of trial and error. In recent years, the choices seem to have quadrupled! Where in the world should you begin?

First and foremost, discuss this topic in detail with your baby's future pediatrician and educate yourself as much as possible on what types work best with each baby's individual nutritional needs. Check out all the websites online and talk with other new parents to see what kind of advice they can give you. And, naturally, without a doubt, research all the helpful and informative reviews written by my fellow Epinionators for the brands and types that have been rated the most highly recommended to consumers.


The majority of formula fed infants happily thrive and grow with these traditional cow's milk based varieties with little problems. These were typically the only choice new parents had years ago when most babies were not breastfed at the higher percentage rates as they are today. Most of them claim to be most like breastmilk, but realize that no formula has ever been able to duplicate many of the superior qualities found only in human milk. Some examples of this type are:

Similac With Iron
Enfamil With Iron
Nestle Carnation Good Start
Parents' Choice Milk Based Formula (Wal-Mart)
American Fare Little Ones Infant Formula (K-Mart)


For babies with vegetarian parents or when cow's milk protein allergies are a concern, lactose free formulas are often recommended by pediatricians for those babies with digestive problems or for those that wish to avoid using animal products altogether. These formulas use soy protein in place of cow's milk proteins that are found in the starter formulas as listed above. They also use 100% corn syrup solids as their source of carbohydrates instead of lactose or table sugar as well. Some of these cost a bit more than the starter formulas among the same brand. Examples here are:

Isomil (by the makers of Similac)
ProSobee (by the makers of Enfamil)
Nestle Carnation Alsoy (by the makers of Good Start)
Parents' Choice Soy Based Formula (Wal-Mart)
American Fare Little Ones Soy Infant Formula (K-Mart)


As an often better choice for feeding problems resulting in symptoms of gas, fussiness, diarrhea, rash, excessive spitting up and excess crying (aka...colic) due to sensitivities to the lactose found in milk based starter formulas, the lactose-free varieties are sometimes recommended by pediatricians as an alternative. These formulas are also cow's milk protein based, only they are lactose-free to be more easily digested by a baby's developing digestive system. Choices here are:

Similac Lactose Free
Enfamil LactoFree


Another choice for those babies with cow's milk protein allergies diagnosed with colic and exhibiting the symptoms as listed above are infant formulas specially designed for such digestive problems. Protein allergies can pose a very serious health risk and need to be addressed with your pediatrician immediately if suspected. For the small minority of babies with such digestive problems, these types of formula contain cow's milk proteins that have been hydrolyzed, meaning they've been broken down into smaller parts. Hence, these smaller particles are more easily digested, eliminating or reducing the symptoms of infant colic. But these formulas are VERY expensive, so use ONLY with the recommendation of your baby's pediatrician. They are:

Alimentum Protein Hydrolysate Formula With Iron (by the makers of Similac)
Enfamil Nutramigen


Those babies born prematurely need extra added nutrition, such as higher levels of protein, fat, calories, vitamins and minerals than standard infant formula for their tiny bodies to grow and catch up with their full term cohorts. While most NICU's encourage new mothers to pump their breastmilk and store it for later use as an excellent source of nutrition for premature babies, a convenient and trusted alternative has been designed to provide for those babies born prematurely. These typically contain 22 calories per ounce as compared to just 20 calories per ounce found in most other types of formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the use of a preterm discharge formula until the age of 9 months results in greater linear growth, weight gain and bone mineral content compared with the use of regular term infant formulas. Two examples here is:

Similac Neosure Infant Formula With Iron
Enfamil Premature Formula
EnfaCare (from the makers of Enfamil)


Even though almost all babies will spit-up from one time to another, there are many who suffer from excessive episodes of spitting up, resulting in a diagnosis of infant reflux disease. As a common treatment, many pediatricians will recommend adding rice cereal to a baby's bottle of formula or pumped breastmilk to thicken it, hence reducing the intensity and frequency of reflux episodes. For added convenience and to reduce the messiness associated with mixing infant formula and rice cereal, there is a specially designed formula produced to meet the needs of such babies. It is:

Enfamil A.R. (Enfamil with added rice starch)


The first and only infant formula created for the dietary management of diarrhea in infants older than 6 months of age and toddlers may also be chosen when necessary. It helps to reduce the duration of loose and water stools, decreasing the risks of infant dehydration. It's also effective for infants and toddlers who experience diarrhea during oral antibiotic treatments. Soy based and lactose-free, this formula should NOT be used by babies suffering from constipation. This type is:

Isomil DF (from the makers of Similac)


Diarrhea caused by uncommon bowel problems can be treated by using a special easy to digest formula called:

Enfamil Presgestimil


In the past, it was believed that the iron in typical starter formulas sometimes led to infant constipation. Therefore, many pediatricians began recommending the low-iron varieties to help with this problem. But because the iron stores that full term babies are born with are usually depleted by the age of 6 months, it's very important to replenish them to reduce the risk of infant iron-deficiency anemias. Contrary to popular belief, we now know that added iron to infant formulas does NOT led to infant constipation. So presently, these types of infant formula are no longer recommended, even though companies continue to produce them in spite of recent research proving just how inadequate these types of infant formula are with possible detrimental side effects to an infants well being. Uninformed consumer demand remains the largest reason why. Two examples here are:

Similac Low Iron
Enfamil Low Iron


Once a baby reaches at least 4 months of age and is eating iron-fortified cereals and other baby foods, these types of formulas may be used an alternative to the starter ones as listed above. They typically cost less than the average starter formulas and have extra added calcium as well for an older baby's rapidly developing skeletal system. Most can be used for babies up to 18 months of age as well to help ensure added nutrition in a toddler's sometimes picky diet. Some examples here are:

Nestle Carnation Follow-Up Formula
Nestle Carnation Soy Follow-Up Formula
Enfamil Next Step
Enfamil Next Step Soy
Similac 2
Parents' Choice 2 (Wal-Mart)
Baby's Own Organic Toddler Formula


For a substantial savings of up to 40% off typical starter and follow-up formulas, consider purchasing these equally nutritious yet lower costing formulas at Wal-Mart or K-Mart as recommended by your baby's pediatrician. ALL infant formulas marketed for sale in the US must pass certain requirements set forth by the FDA. So why pay more if you don't have to? Examples here are:

Parents' Choice Milk Based Formula
Parents' Choice Soy Based Formula
Parents' Choice 2
American Fare Little Ones Infant Formula
American Fare Little Ones Soy Infant Formula


Introduced in early 2002, these types of milk based formulas contain special fatty acids previously only found in breastmilk. A bit more expensive in price than regular starter formulas, these newest choices are quite popular currently. Examples are:

Enfmail Lipil
Similac Advance


Many of the above described types and brands of infant formula may be purchased in ready-to-feed 32 ounce cans or bottles. While these are generally the most convenient, they are also the most expensive. All that is needed are clean bottles or cups as no added water is necessary. This may be the preferred type of infant formula by many day cares as no mixing to prepare is required. And for those with questionable water supplies, boiling water to sterilize it first or using bottled water instead would not be necessary if this type is chosen.


These smaller concentrated 13 ounce cans of infant formula are less expensive than the ready-to-feed varieties, but added water is required for proper dilution or health risks can occur. To mix properly, add water to the concentrated formula on a 1:1 ratio. That is, for every 2 ounces of formula, add 2 ounces of water, and so on. Thus, each 13 ounce concentrated can yields 26 ounces of formula when prepared correctly as directed. The top of the can must be cleaned before preparing and a clean water supply is necessary.


Generally the most economical, powdered infant formulas require proper mixing as well with a clean water supply. One unpacked scoop is added to every two ounces of water for proper dilution and mixed well. This type would be best for those who breastfeed and supplement with formula occasionally as only one bottle at a time can be prepared without waste. Purchase the smaller canisters in this instance and use the remaining contents within one month.


Recently, I've noticed infant formulas being marketed in single serving sizes. While even more convenient than the ready-to-feed, especially while traveling, this ease of use comes at a high price. Similac with Iron can be purchased in a six pack of ready-to-feed 8 ounce servings if desired for special occasions. And Enfamil with Iron comes in an 18 count box of smaller 4 ounce powdered packets as well. I've personally stocked samples of the latter in my baby's diaper bag for emergencies and they've certainly come in handy more than once.

So obviously, there are numerous choices out there today when it comes to choosing which type of infant formula is the best for your baby. Breastfeeding is the easiest and most recommended choice, but for times when supplementing becomes necessary or desired and when breastfeeding is not possible or chosen for whatever reason, rest assured that there IS a brand and type of infant formula available to help your little one grow and thrive in most cases. The ultimate challenge is actually finding it on the first try!

GOOD LUCK with your little one and I hope this review has been helpful to all new and expectant parents. Here is some additional information (websites) to help you get started as you research your options and register for free samples if you wish to do so:

Join the "Welcome Addition Club" for free samples and formula checks delivered to your door.

MEAD JOHNSON (makers of Enfamil)
Join "Enfamil Family Beginnings" for free samples and formula checks delivered to your door.

NESTLE CARNATION (makers of Good Start/Follow-Up)
Register for a FREE newsletter geared towards your babies unique stage of growth and development containing free money saving checks.

Check out this very informative website regarding the equally nutritious yet lower costing generic store brand infant formulas available to new parents today, such as Parents' Choice and American Fare.

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