Baby formula 101

  • All infant formulas provide complete nutrition.
  • Understanding the different types of protein is a big part of choosing your baby’s formula.
  • Infant formulas come in powder, concentrate and ready-to-feed.

There are many formula options available, so it’s important to make an informed decision about what’s best for you and your baby.

All routine formulas provide complete nutrition for your baby’s healthy growth and development. The biggest difference among formulas is the type of protein.

Formula made with both casein and whey cow’s milk proteins

  • Many infant formulas contain casein, a cow’s milk protein, which may form curds* in your baby’s tummy.

Formula made with 100% whey partially hydrolyzed cow’s milk protein

  • The whey protein found in these infant formulas is broken down into smaller pieces and designed to be easy for your baby to digest.
  • Whey is a high-quality protein that forms fewer or smaller curds, or possibly none at all, during digestion.
  • Partially hydrolyzed whey protein formulas have been shown to empty from the baby’s stomach at a rate similar to breastmilk.
  • It promotes soft, unformed stools.
  • 100% whey partially hydrolyzed formulas may help reduce the risk of your baby developing atopic dermatitis, a type of allergic skin rash, when fed exclusively as a starter formula or as a supplement to breastmilk, when compared to intact cow’s milk protein formulas.**

Formula made with soy protein

  • Soy-based protein formulas promote normal growth and development.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics states there are a few indications, such as a hereditary condition called galactosemia, when soy should replace a cow’s milk formula.
  • Soy formulas are an option for parents who prefer their infant follow a vegetarian diet.  

Special Conditions Formula

  • Extensively hydrolyzed formulas contain proteins that are broken down even more. They’re designed for babies with special digestive needs and should be used under the care of a physician. 
  • Other formulas are made using free amino acids — the building blocks of proteins. These formulas are also for babies with special digestive needs.

Test yourself

How much do you know about formula? Test your knowledge now in the Formula IQ Quiz.

Formulas to choose from

The most popular and at the best economic value, powdered infant formula is a great choice for most infants. However, powdered formulas shouldn’t be fed to premature babies or those who have immune problems, unless directed by your physician.

Easily prepared by mixing equal parts of water and formula.

Great for parents on the go, ready-to-feed formula is the most convenient, as it requires no preparation.

* Curd formation is not related to the body’s ability to absorb and utilize proteins.
** “For healthy infants who are not exclusively breastfed and who have a family history of allergy, feeding a 100% whey protein partially hydrolyzed infant formula from birth up to 4 months of age, instead of a formula containing intact cow’s milk proteins may reduce the risk of developing atopic dermatitis throughout the first year of life. FDA has concluded that the relationship between 100% whey protein partially hydrolyzed infant formulas and the reduced risk of atopic dermatitis is uncertain, because there is little scientific evidence for the relationship. Partially hydrolyzed formulas should not be fed to infants who are allergic to milk or to infants with existing milk allergy symptoms. If you suspect your baby is already allergic to milk, or if your baby is on a special formula for the treatment of allergy, your baby's care and feeding choices should be under a doctor's supervision.”  
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