10 Best Baby Formulas of 2022
Best Baby Formulas of 2022
June 21, 2022

Best Baby Formulas of 2022

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Best Baby Formulas of 2022.
Best Baby Formulas of 2022

Ed note: If you’re overwhelmed by the current formula shortage, you’re not alone. For expert advice and answers to common questions about the shortage, read our article on What Parents Can Do About the Formula Shortage.

There are many benefits to breastfeeding, and it’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as the optimal source of nutrition through your baby’s first year of life. But breastfeeding doesn’t work for every family, and you may need or choose to use formula full-time or give it in addition to breast milk.

What Types of Baby Formula Are There?

There are four main types of formula:

  • Cow’s milk formula, as its name implies, uses cow’s milk as its main ingredient, but the milk has been treated to make the protein more easily digestible. According to the AAP, cow’s milk formula is the most prevalent type of formula on the market and makes up about 80% of all formula sold.
  • Hydrolyzed formula contains protein that has been broken down (hydrolyzed) into smaller proteines, making it more easily digested. Hydrolyzed formulas may be either partially or exclusively hydrolyzed and are often marketed as “calm” or “gentle.” These types of formulas are designed for babies who can’t tolerate cow’s milk or soy-based formulas or for babies with a protein allergy.
  • Soy formula is made from soy and contains a protein (soy) and a carbohydrate.Soy formulas may be recommended if you’re looking to exclude animal products from your baby’s diet or if your baby is allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk formula or lactose.
  • Specialized formula is designed for babies who have particular medical needs, such as premature babies or babies with a high risk of developing allergies.

Baby formula comes in three forms:

  • Powder formula that you mix with water;
  • Concentrated liquid formula, also mixed with water;
  • Ready-to-feed formula, sometimes called ready-to-use, that is premixed and doesn’t require adding water.

What Baby Formula Is Most Recommended By Pediatricians?

There’s no one formula that pediatricians recommend across the board. Instead, talk with your pediatrician about which brand and type is best for your baby. The best choice will be the formula your doctor supports and that your baby accepts.

The good news is that all baby formula is heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and has to meet the same basic nutritional requirements.

How to Choose a Baby Formula

According to Kelly Fradin, MD, a pediatrician, writer and New York City-based public health advocate for evidence-based information, there are a few things to consider when choosing the best formula for your baby.

  • Accessibility. “I recommend families prioritize having an infant formula that’s accessible,” says Dr. Fradin. “If it’s hard to obtain from a local store or if you travel, that may cause unnecessary stress.” And don’t spend too much time stressing over a store brand formula versus a name brand, or whether or not the formula is organic. Store brand formulas, according to Dr. Fradin, are essentially the same as name brand. And while organic formulas may be less likely to contain traces of pesticides or growth hormones, the evidence for benefit from organic baby formula is slim. “Certainly I would prefer a baby be fed non-organic formula than a family be stressed and rationing a more costly organic formula.”
  • Cost and convenience. Choose a baby formula that fits most easily into your budget. Powdered formula is the least expensive type of baby formula and the most convenient to store. Concentrated formula is more expensive, but is a bit less messy to prepare than powder. And ready-to-feed is the most expensive and has the most waste, but it’s also the most convenient.
  • Use science, not marketing. Take marketing claims like “boosts brain development” or “helps soothe a fussy baby” with a grain of salt, says Dr. Fradin. “Many of these claims are based in scientifically valid theories,” she says. “However, at best, there is indirect evidence of benefit.”

Check out How to Choose a Baby Formula for more information on selecting the best formula for your baby and your family.

What About European Baby Formula?

Recently the FDA has approved additional formulas made outside of the United States: Kendamil (UK), Bubs (Australia), Nestle (Gerber/Germany), and a version of Similac produced for Spain. These formulas meet US safety standards for production and labeling and are valid options to feed your baby.

“The biggest difference between these formulas versus the formula produced in the US is iron content; formula produced abroad contains about half of the iron content as its US counterparts,” explains Dr. Fradin, although she also notes that different preparations of iron may predispose to better absorption.

“We know iron is a critical nutrient for brain and liver growth in babies, especially for babies born preterm or after pregnancies with certain complications like preeclampsia. If you’re using one of these formulas and are worried about anemia or iron deficiency, talk to your pediatrician,” she says.

What Water Is Best for Baby Formula?

Although it can be confusing to know what type of water to use when mixing baby formula. Dr. Fradin advises that tap water is usually fine, but to always check with your pediatrician first about your town or city’s water.

“In most parts of the U.S., tap water works great to mix formula,” she says. Some water labeled “baby water” doesn’t contain fluoride, and may actually do more harm than good.

What Formula Is Best for Breastfed Babies?

If you’re breastfeeding your baby and looking to supplement with formula, or trying to make the switch altogether, you’ll probably notice lots of formula marketed toward breastfed babies. According to Dr. Fradin, though, that type of messaging is just that: marketing.

“Formulas marketed for supplementation purposes are essentially no different than other infant formulas,” she says. “This is because the nutrient requirements for all formulas are the same, so supplemental formula doesn’t have special ratios or different nutrients. Because of this and because “supplemental” formulas are typically less accessible, I’d recommend you choose the formula you use based on other qualifications.”

What If I Can’t Find My Baby’s Formula?

In general, try to stick with a formula that is similar to the one that you’ve been using, advises Rebekah Wheeler, Certified Nurse-Midwife and Lead Family Guide at Cleo, an online health and wellness service.

If you can’t find your favorite formula, it’s safe to switch formulas unless your child requires a special type of formula (in that case, check with your pediatrician first).

And since all infant formula in the U.S. is overseen by FDA, you can be confident that any formula you find will be safe and contain the vitamins, minerals and proper ratio of carbohydrates and proteins to help your baby thrive.

Best Overall Baby Formula

What Our Experts Say

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right baby formula, and this one covers all the bases. It’s made with something called 2’-FL Human Milk Oligosaccharide—HMO for short—an immune-system nourishing prebiotic similar to one found in breast milk. (HMO is important because it feeds good bacteria to the gut, where the majority of the immune system exists.) There’s also nutrients that support brain development, eye health and developing cells. Similac Pro-Advance is also non-GMO and contains no artificial growth hormones.

What’s Worth Considering

Similac is the #1 brand of baby formula chosen by hospitals, so there’s a good chance that if you’re using formula from day one (or even just supplementing), the hospital where you deliver may have some samples to help get you started.

Best Organic Baby Formula

What our Experts Say

Earth’s Best should be on your list if organic ingredients are an important factor for you when selecting a baby formula. Certified USDA organic and non-GMO, this formula is designed to be as similar as possible to breast milk. It contains high quality protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids and no added corn syrup solids.

What’s Worth Considering

The brand also makes gentle formula for sensitive tummies, a reduced lactose formula and a plant-based soy formula.

Best Baby Formula Subscription

What Our Experts Say

Modeled on breast milk and designed to support gentle digestion, Bobbie was founded by moms and a team of food scientists and medical experts. This subscription-only formula ships monthly right to your front door, taking one thing off of your ever-growing to-do list. (You can choose from a four- or eight-can bundle.) Bobbie’s protein ratio is similar to breast milk’s, and the formula meets European and U.S. standards for iron. It’s also gluten-free and non-GMO.

What’s Worth Considering

Bobbie is temporarily at capacity and not accepting new subscribers due to the formula shortage. You can join a waitlist to be notified when the situation changes.

Best Formula For Breastfed Babies

What Our Experts Say

Enfamil’s Neuro-Pro line is backed by years of research on breast milk and clinical studies around its brain-building nutritional qualities. The formula is the only one to contain milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), a 3-layered membrane previously found only in breast milk and that’s been proven to support brain development. Neuro-Pro also contains DHA, proteins and baby probiotics for immune support. Parents love the gentle formula that helps reduce fussiness, colic and gas.

What’s Worth Considering

If a sensitive belly isn’t an issue, the brand also makes a standard Enfamil Neuro-Pro formula, as well as the Enspire line, the first and only formula to contain MFGM and Lactoferrin (two components of breast milk that support brain and immune development).

Best Formula For Gassy Babies

What Our Experts Say

When it comes to babies who have extra-sensitive tummies, finding the right formula can be a bit of trial and error. Some parents find that this non-GMO Similac formula is the one that finally eliminates their babies’ painful bouts of gas and bloating. Safe for lactose-sensitive babies, the formula aims to boost your little one’s immune system. And just like the brand’s Pro-Advance formula, it also contains the 2’-FL HMO prebiotic found only in breast milk.

What’s Worth Considering

You’re likely to pay a bit more for this sensitive formula. It’s also available in ready to feed.

Best Store Brand Baby Formula

What Our Experts Say

All of the amazing baby and kid stuff at Target will give you a reason to love this bullseye retailer even more than you already do once your little one arrives—and the store brand’s baby formula is at the top of the list. Easy on the tummy and easy on the wallet, Target’s non-GMO baby formula is made from cow’s milk protein that’s broken down into smaller parts to help with digestion. This can lead to a reduction in fussiness, gas and crying.

What’s Worth Considering

For another store brand baby formula that’s well-loved by parents (and babies), check out Walmart’s Parent’s Choice Gentle Non-GMO Infant Formula.

Best Organic Baby Formula Most Like Breast Milk

What Our Experts Say

Fed is best, so if you’re looking for an organic formula that closely mimics breast milk, Happy Baby is a good choice. This formula is designed to meet all of your baby’s nutritional needs over their first year and is made with ingredients similar to those found in breast milk such as prebiotics and key vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, DHA, zinc, choline and organic lactose. The lactose is made from cows raised on organic farms and the formula is non-GMO and free of corn syrup.

What’s Worth Considering

Once your little one is ready to move on from formula to solid foods, Happy Baby also has a huge variety of organic purees, pouches, snacks and more.

Most Affordable Baby Formula

What Our Experts Say

If you love Costco as much as we do, it will come as no surprise to you that the brand’s generic formula stacks up nicely against major brands—and at a price that’s much more affordable. Modeled after breast milk, the Kirkland formula is non-GMO, has no artificial growth hormones, and contains 2’-FL HMO for immune support as well as DHA and Lutein for brain and eye development. It’s most likely aligned to Similac Pro-Advance and Enfamil formula if you’re looking to do a side-by-side comparison with major brands.

What’s Worth Considering

You’ll have to be a member of Costco to unlock these great deals, but who are you kidding…what else are you doing on a Saturday afternoon, anyway?

Best Hypoallergenic Baby Formula

What Our Experts Say

If your baby has a milk protein allergy, you’ll need a hypoallergenic formula such as Nutramigen. This lactose-free specialized formula contains hydrolyzed protein to provide colic relief and probiotics for immune support. It’s easy to digest, is designed to support brain development and immune support and has been proven to provide fast relief for infants with cow’s milk allergies.

What’s Worth Considering

Milk protein allergies do occur but are fairly rare among infants. (Studies show about a 2-3% prevalence rate.) Milk sensitivities and intolerances, however, are more common. These intolerances don’t always require a hypoallergenic formula, so always talk to your pediatrician before making the switch.

Best Toddler Formula

What Our Experts Say

If you have a picky eater, you know what it’s like to worry that they’re not getting enough of the good stuff to make their body and brain grow. This toddler formula contains 22 nutrients and is designed to support immune health and brain development. Some parents also use it as a transition step between ending breastfeeding at one year and starting regular cow’s milk.

What’s Worth Considering

Once your child turns one, it’s fine for most kids to start drinking regular cow’s milk, but always check with your pediatrician first.

Choosing What’s Right for You

While selecting a baby formula may feel like a super-weighty decision, the reality is that every formula has the key ingredients your child needs to thrive. Getting your pediatrician’s advice on what’s best for your baby and having your little one weigh in on the taste can help guide you towards making the right decision for your baby and your budget.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.