With so many formulas out there, I am not sure which is the healthiest. Are there any studies that show which formulas are the best? OR what to look for in formula? Are there things that are unhealthy in formula that I should keep my eye out for?

== EDIT ==

Just to clarify, im not looking for specific formulas. Im looking for what makes formulas healthy. For example "X formula contains Y and Y has been shown to be better than Z which most other formulas have"

I hope that helps...

5 Answers 5


My wife researched the various formulas available using the internet, and we asked several pediatricians, and formula choice really comes down to price and preference.

There are international standards that govern the nutritional value of infant formulas, so the reality is that there is not much of a difference between brands, as far as nutrition goes. After double checking with 2 pediatricians, we switched to a generic formula powder, and we've had absolutely no problem with nutrition (our baby eats the recommended amount of formula, supplemented with the recommended amount of solid foods, and he's in the 97th percentile for both height and weight).

We've found that there is a bit of variation in how the dry formulas mix, however, as some are quite lumpy for the first 5-10 minutes after you mix them, which can cause the bottles to clog quite easily.

Please note, however, that this is only for regular formula. Many babies have special medical needs that necessitate specific formula types (soy-based, sensitive stomach, etc.) so your pediatrician will be your best resource should any special formula needs be identified.


While we were in hospital post-birth, our newborn had jaundice and needed topping up with formula, but we had the midwives come and give us information to let us know what the best thing would be to do. I recommend doing that at your local childbirth centre of choice, but here are the highlights.

If for some reason breast alone isn't an option, (e.g. mother is needed elsewhere, mother feels uncomfortable feeding in public, milk's running slow, baby needs more than just breast can provide, tounge-tie, or any of the other billion justified reasons), Formula Is Perfectly Acceptable. Repeat a million times to drown out any fear:

"They have it in hospitals, so it must be safe"

However, if expressed breast milk is an option, it's healthier than any formula and can be frozen for up to six months. Now, here's the guidance we were given:

  • More expensive is not better. There's a minimum standard high enough that for any approved milk, the differences are stylistic rather than nutritious. One midwife even suggested that certain cunning companies might use the same formula for their budget and premium brands, simply changing the packaging. Which would make sense, as providing less-safe milk to tiny babies would be monstrous. Manipulating upper-class parents is just redistribution of wealth.
  • It's actually slightly preferable, if more expensive, to use ready-made formula, as it's guaranteed sterile on opening, whereas with powder you have to sterilize the water, and then the spoon, and the jug, and everything.
  • The milk requirements change with development (roughly by age, but check with your baby's doctor each visit to make sure your baby's not running ahead/behind), so use different milk for newborns than later, etc.

Personally, we're topping up on SMA's jars of baby fluid, dispensed via cup, till her weight's up a bit (phototherapy dehydrates her, so her weight dropped a little more than preferred). It's so easy, you just hook it under her lip and she laps it up. And I can do it, which is the highlight of my day.


When it comes to baby formulas, I actually read first on the nutritional labels found on the boxes or cans, so I would know what nutritional benefit would my child gets from this formula. I also ask for recommendations coming from my son's pediatrician and my Mom, as well, so I would know which formula is the best for my son or not.

So far, I have only used two brand of formula for my son. When choosing, I also consider if my son will like the taste or not. So I buy small box first, if he likes it and he doesn't develop any allergies or so on, I will continue using it. Good thing, my Mom is also on my side, so she give me recommendations on what formula milks are proven effective and good for my baby.

Aside from milk, it is also important to give them the right amount of nutrients they need like fruits, vegetables and vitamins, to ensure optimum health.

  • 1
    removed that spam for you - it didn't help your answer, and would risk downvotes.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 21, 2013 at 12:42

I have found it very difficult to find reliable information about formula because even the mere mention of the word is often denounced by breastfeeding activists as a "booby trap" that precludes breastfeeding. Given the push to increase breastfeeding rates, I've found that even pediatricians don't have a lot of good information, so I have had to really look to find a ped that is supportive of someone who can't breastfeed. Formula companies are restricted in how they can promote their product in many countries (again to avoid booby traps) so it's very difficult to compare products beyond the content of their packaging.

I'd recommend tooling around The Fearless Formula Feeder's blog for some info. She is a "factivist" who feels that breastfeeding is great for those who can do it, but that the research about it is very poor and doesn't support overblown conclusions. She's delved into some of the issues of nutrition in formula, particularly DHA and ARA, and other questions like yours.

  • Claiming a group is biased, but then calling them "militant lactivists" is quite ironic.
    – DA01
    Jun 29, 2011 at 13:55
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    Having spent a lot of time around parenting forums where formula feeding parents are routinely labeled child abusers, I feel there is a lot of militancy out there about a decision that should be a medical decision. My belief is that just as you wouldn't plaster an oncology ward with "chemo is best" posters, every parent needs to make the best decision for his/her own child as far as infant feeding is concerned. What is best is feeding the baby. Jun 29, 2011 at 18:41
  • @DA01 edited to reflect more of my own experience. Jun 29, 2011 at 18:46
  • @CorvusMelori It would be helpful if you extracted some information from that blog that might be relevant to the question. Answers that link to outside sources are far from ideal, as they force visitors to leave the site to actually get the answer (and our primary purpose is to provide answers). Additionally, not every site is permanent. It seems the blog you linked is still active, but has already moved to a new location.
    – user420
    Jan 3, 2013 at 15:17

Surely the formula that most closely approximates human milk will be the best. The nutritional components of human milk are known so compare the two.

The other consideration will be taste. Human milk tastes different depending on what the mother has eaten, when weaning children expect variation in flavour. So it could be wise to switch between formulas to replicate this slight change in taste (I can't imagine having only one flavour for six months)

  • 1
    -1 Essentially you are saying "research the ingredients and figure it out yourself", which isn't actually answering the question. Furthermore, the ingredients in infant formula are largely dictated by the international standards governing the nutritional value, so the ingredients will be pretty much identical from brand to brand; only the proportions are likely to change, and even those not by much.
    – user420
    Jun 30, 2011 at 14:37
  • fair enough I don't know the components of formula, but I was offering a model for what to look for. Some formula's advertise that they are 'balanced' or 'promote growth' others advertise that they are close to breastmilk.
    – SarahM
    Jun 30, 2011 at 14:40

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