Tips to Choose Baby Formula

When you stock your nursery with diapers and wipes, you may want to think about whether you want to get some formula.

Doctors prefer that moms breastfeed -- and breastfeeding is best. But if you can't breastfeed all the time, or at all, then start by buying just enough formula to last for a week or two. That way, you can see how your baby likes it, before you commit to buying a lot.

Although formula doesn't contain everything found in breast milk, it has many vitamins and other nutrients that babies need, as well as calories.

Formula From Cow's Milk and Soy

Your baby's doctor should suggest a formula that's right for your little one. Most doctors recommend that babies drink one made from cow's milk. Most formulas available today are made from that.

If a baby has a milk allergy or the formula doesn't agree with them, doctors may suggest formula made from soy milk.

Other Formulas

If allergies run in your family, your doctor may advise using a “hydrolyzed” formula, which is easier to digest. It may also make it less likely that your baby will get allergies.

Some formulas also have probiotics, the “good” bacteria that live in the gut and are in some yogurts. Probiotics give formula-fed babies the same bacteria that breastfed babies have, to keep their intestines healthier.

Some formulas have prebiotics, which are carbs that help the good bacteria stay and grow in your baby’s gut. Ask your doctor what your baby needs.

Iron for Baby

Pick a product that’s fortified with iron, unless your doctor says not to. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies who aren't breastfed should get formula with iron until they're 1 year old. It helps prevent anemia, which is low iron levels in their blood.

Best Advice for Formula Feeding

Wash your hands first. Just like you would before you prepared anything you were going to eat, you want to have clean hands when you prep your baby's formula.

Use tap water if it’s safe, or bottled water if you’re not sure. You can also use water that you've boiled for at least a minute and cooled. If you're mixing powder or liquid concentrate with water, pay attention to the measurements -- they're important.


Don't warm formula in the microwave, which heats things unevenly. Instead, place the bottle in a container of warm water for a few minutes, or run it under a hot tap.

Tilt the bottle upward, filling the entire nipple with formula. This helps to keep your baby from swallowing air.

Your baby should drink the bottle within an hour after you fix it. Throw away any unused formula. You can mix bottles ahead of time and store them in the fridge for 24 hours.

Ask your doctor how much your baby should eat and how often. Most infants need 2-4 ounces per feed, depending on their weight and age.

If your baby vomits or has diarrhea often, isn't gaining weight well, or if you think the formula doesn’t agree with them, ask the doctor if you should switch to another type of formula.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 19, 2019



American Academy of Family Physicians: “Infant Formula,” 

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Choosing a Formula.”

Committee on Nutrition, Pediatrics, August 1, 2000.

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Probiotics in Formulas.”

Nemours Foundation: “Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Feeding.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “How To Safely Prepare Formula With Water.”

March of Dimes: “Feeding Your Baby.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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