If you want to know our single best baby formula choice, it’s Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula with Iron Stage 1. Why this formula? Because it’s organic, non-GMO, and has the best ingredients formulated by parents with baby’s best interest. Not every mother is concerned about buying an organic baby formula. Some doctors have said that organic formula is not necessary. In that case, we recommend Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula for quality ingredients.Best Organic Baby Formula: Happy Baby Organic Formula
Best Non-GMO Formula: Enfamil Enspire Infant Formula
Best for Milk Allergy: Enfamil Nutramigen Formula
Best Soy Baby Formula: Earth's Best Soy Infant Formula
Best Vegan Baby Formula: Else Plant-Based Formula
Best for Constipation: Enfamil Reguline Formula
Best for Premature Babies: Similac NeoSure Formula
Best for Breastfed Babies: Similac for Supplementation Formula
Best for Toddlers: Similac Go & Grow Drink
Best Enfamil Baby Formula: NeuroPro Infant Formula
Best Gerber Baby Formula: Good Start GentlePro Formula
Best Earth's Best Baby Formula: Organic Infant Formula
Best Similac Baby Formula: Pro-Advance Infant Formula
Best Off-Brand Baby Formula: Mama Bear Organic Formula
Best Formula for Babies
Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula
Enfamil is also trying their hand at creating a formula closer to breast milk and one of their closest is Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula.
Unlike Similac, Enfamil’s prized ingredient is MFGM or Milk Fat Globule Membrane, a fatty substance that supports cognitive development. This ingredient surrounds fat droplets in breast milk and helps brain structure to form in infants.
Brain function is an important factor in feeding an infant. Breast milk contains about 55% fat and of course, fat is necessary for brain growth and energy.
So which is better – Enfamil’s breast milk ingredients or Similac’s? The answer is neither. Both MFGM and 2′-FL HMO (from the Similac Pro-Advance) are found in breast milk. Seeing both of these ingredients in a formula blend would be optimal.
Take a look at the label:
MFGM is meant to increase brain building. NeuroPro touts a larger amount of inositol – or vitamin B8 – great for mental health. This is one of the reasons for the neuro name in this formula. This formula is also a bit higher in carbs than the Similac version but lower in linoleic acid.
This formula is non-GMO, which is no surprise, as most formulas are heading in this direction for better overall health.
Most formulas have between 4.9mg and 6mg of inositol, but this formula has 24mg, a significant improvement. All of the other vitamins and minerals in this blend are comparable to other formulas.
Let’s not forget my favorites – this formula is thankfully lacking maltodextrin and corn syrup as the main ingredients. Enfamil focused on milk first, followed by lactose, oils, and then whey proteins.
The only real complaint with this formula is a mild one. The polydextrose, which is a sugar substitute that can lead to blood sugar spikes, might bother some.
It would be nice to see the lactose first in the ingredient list, as that is the highest quantity ingredient in breast milk, and this formula claims to be inspired by breast milk. But I suppose we are dealing with cow’s milk here and not human milk. This ratio may be more beneficial to a baby’s tummy with the added new ingredients not found in other formulas.
Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula with Iron Stage 1
Many experts suggest organic formulas are not worth the money, but many moms will gain peace of mind knowing they are feeding their baby the very best ingredients.
Those moms should buy Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula Milk Based Powder with Iron Stage 1. Sure, Earth’s Best Organic formula is a great option, but Happy Baby brand takes organic formula to new heights and it’s more affordable.
Not all mothers can breastfeed, but they still want the best for their baby, and Happy Baby has a bit more brain-nourishing fat, just like breast milk. The main ingredients are from organic sources. It includes organic lactose, tailored nutrition, and prebiotics.
The other ingredients include:
All of the ingredients are in the right order to help your baby grown and thrive as best as possible.
Lactose is the first ingredient instead of corn syrup and is a great start for babies with no tummy troubles. Even better, this formula is non-GMO, offers DHA and ARA for brain and eye development, is kosher, and gluten-free.
For moms who find confidence in the quality of organic ingredients, this formula will satisfy your desire to feed your baby well. And, it will appeal to your baby’s desire for a full belly!
Also, the brand completely skips the unnecessary sugars like corn syrups and maltodextrin which babies don’t need.
Lastly, You can expect this powder to mix well and most babies take to the taste although not all babies will as each has different tastebuds. With Plum Organics off the market completely, this is the next best thing after breastmilk itself!
Babies with milk allergies or a sensitive tummy may find the lactose and whey protein concentrate difficult to swallow or have issues with constipation. (Note: if you switch from a new formula your infant may experience constipation from a change in food for a week or so and this should not be too alarming.)
Sadly, even this organic formula uses soy oils, but finding a formula without soy is a difficult task. We would love to see the fat ratio go up a little closer to breastmilk but then again, manmade formulas have a hard time doing so without using corn syrup.
This formula does tend to be a bit foamy, which is fine on a beer, but on a formula, it can be frustrating and increase gas.
Every baby is different and while this may the best, most delicious bottle for one baby, another might snub her nose at it and scream for something different. This may be especially true if they previously tried formula with corn syrup as the main ingredient.
For more information on organic formula, check out this article on How To Pick The Right Organic Formula.
Similac For Supplementation Non-GMO Infant Formula with Iron
If breastfeeding alone is not working out for your family and you need to supplement, you may want to try Similac For Supplementation Non-GMO Infant Formula with Iron.
No matter the reason you wish to supplement, this formula will care for your infant’s dietary needs. The list of ingredients is very similar to many other regular baby formulas. But this version is unlike most of the other Similac formulas, which tend to use corn syrup as one of the main ingredients.
As a matter of fact, this formula is one of Similac’s most outstanding formula achievements.
First, this formula is free of corn syrup, which is a bit astonishing. Being corn-syrup-free is necessary for breastfeeding moms who do not want sharp sugars to draw their baby’s taste buds away from breast milk.
Even more surprising is the lack of maltodextrin, a potentially nefarious ingredient that causes blood sugar spikes and inhibits the function of probiotics.
The omega fatty acid Linoleic Acid is in abundance in this supplementing formula. All of the rest of the vitamins and minerals are comparable to other baby formulas on the market, including organic versions.
Next, you can expect this formula to be a suitable formula for introducing formula into your once-breastfed baby’s diet with great benefits such as DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E.
Finally, the unique combo of nonfat milk, lactose, and whey protein (in that order) should be more settling for your tot’s tummy from infancy through to 6 months, 7 months, or up to the first year.
Oh, and this baby formula is non-GMO, which is a great bonus!
Do be sure to check the expiration date, as this has been an issue for some customers.
Of course, with all formulas babies will have an adjustment period that may cause a bit of stomach trouble.
Overall, this formula blend is rather decent. Babies may snub their little nose at the smell compared to breast milk, their normal drink. The change from breast milk to formula can be a bit of a jolt but if offered to a hungry baby, but she will eventually eat.
Earth’s Best Organic Infant Powder Formula
Earth’s Best Organic Infant Powder Formula with Iron, Omega-3 DHA & Omega-6 ARA is their original formula and it’s packed full of wholesome organic goodness.
The brand offers five different formulas, including a gentle, sensitive, non-DHA and ARA formula, and a soy baby formula blend. This original baby formula powder is just right for babies without stomach issues. The amount of fats, carbs, protein, water, vitamins, and minerals is consistent with most formulas on the market.
Earth’s Best is so committed to excellence, even their packaging is made from recycled materials.
Here are the ingredients:
Earth’s Best designed their original formula to be more like breast milk. To do so, they added DHA and ARA for brain and eye health, along with lutein for the eyes.
Next, like many of the best baby formulas available today, this formula blend includes prebiotic fiber and is iron-fortified.
Some who worry that organic brands are not as scrutinized will be pleased to know this blend meets all the FDA’s infant nutrition requirements all without GMOs.
Even better, this formula avoided corn syrup and maltodextrin. The sensitivity formula by Earth’s Best does have corn syrup, which is why it was not the first choice, even though the corn syrup’s intended purpose – as with all formulas – is to assist tiny tummies in digesting cow proteins.
The recyclable packaging may be better for the environment but seems to be damaged easily in shipping.
The formula may have a bit of a tendency to be foamy when mixed, but this is true of many formulas and is the nature of baby formula powders in general. Using one of the best baby bottles really helps minimize extra air and foam.
Finally, a few babies did not find this formula to be sensitive enough for their tummies. But since this is not a sensitive formula, this is not surprising information.
Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO Infant Formula
More and more, baby formula companies are searching for ways to make a formula like breast milk and are including ingredients that closely resemble human milk. Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO Infant Formula with Iron, with 2′-FL HMO, for Immune Support, Baby Formula is Similac’s formula closest to breast milk because of the added 2′-FL HMO, or human milk oligosaccharide, a prebiotic found in human milk.
Even better, this brand avoids GMOs. Similac does need to – like all other formula companies – find a way to make baby formula without corn syrups and maltodextrin. This particular formula avoids both of these ingredients which is why it made the cut.
Take a look at the ingredients:
Similac Advance is another good option if you would like more information.
Similac’s Pro-Advance is a bit higher in fat and linoleic acid, which is great for your baby’s brain health. All of the other ingredients in this formula are comparable to other Similac formulas and other brands.
Nonfat Milk and Lactose are the first ingredients. When you see the word lactose, the first thing you think is probably that lactose is a sugar. You are correct, and sugar is something I have admonished formulas for. But remember, human breast milk’s first ingredient is lactose, just lactose of the human variety. Sugar is a source of energy meant to improve growth, and lactose is far preferable over corn-based sugar.
The second ingredient in breast milk is…drumroll, please… human milk oligosaccharide! It helps to nourish healthy bacteria so they can thrive in the GI tract. Score for Similac!
Also, beyond the above ingredients, you can expect decent amounts of lutein, DHA, and Vitamin E for eye and brain development. This baby formula also claims to be palm olein oil-free fat, which will allow for better calcium absorption.
To top it all off, the price is quite nice for most budgets.
As with all formulas, fats, proteins, and carbs are first and this one is no exception. Unlike some of the others though, the whey protein concentrate is found in higher levels than other ingredients, and this concentrated level of cow protein could cause stomach issues in babies with sensitive tummies. The brand does claim to reduce fussiness in one day, but each baby is different.
Like most other formulas, the packaging does not fare well in transport. Other customers received the tub with the seal broken, so make sure you buy from a reputable seller or Similac themselves to avoid this issue and so you can return the damaged item.
Enfamil Enspire Infant Formula
Enfamil’s Enspire Infant Formula is not just non-GMO but Enfamil’s formula closest to breast milk.
What makes this blend unique is lactoferrin, MFGM, and DHA paired with Choline. Even better, the formula offers prebiotics and ARA.
Beyond these ingredients, this formula offers a host of wholesome goodness to nourish your baby for the first year of their life.
Take a closer look at the ingredients list, and then we’ll discuss the importance of the ones found in this cognitive-building and immunity-boosting formula.
Lactoferrin, MFGM, and DHA with Choline are the stars of this show. Any ingredients that help formula to more closely mimic breast milk is a win in the formula book.
The first, lactoferrin is a protein that supports the immune system and is found in breast milk.
MFGM is a lipid (fat) found in breast milk and it supports mental development. The same is true for DHA and Choline.
These particular ingredients are not found in other formulas, except DHA, which has now become a pretty common ingredient in most quality baby formulas. Read below and you will see another Enfamil formula with a few of these ingredients.
Other ingredients increase the beneficial nature of this formula. Milk and lactose are found in the most abundance, much like in breast milk. This Enfamil formula offers whey protein in two forms for more brain-healthy fats.
Finally, you will see two prebiotics to help keep healthy bacteria thriving in your baby’s belly, which leads to better digestion and fewer tummy troubles.
The above fabulous ingredients do increase the cost of the formula.
One of the prebiotics, polydextrose, is a bit controversial because it is a sugar substitute. But with less than one percent in the formula overall, this is not nearly as concerning as maltodextrin or corn syrups, neither of which are in this formula.
The added whey protein and lack of corn syrup can be too harsh for some baby’s tummies and they may experience some tummy troubles like constipation, gas, a rash, or reflux.
Again, as with all formulas, there is such a variety on the market because no two babies are the same. This one is definitely worth a try, as it tries so hard to be like breast milk.
Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant Formula with Iron
If you must give your baby soy formula, then you will want to try Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant Formula with Iron first.
Especially with all the issues with chemicals, additives, and synthetic ingredients, baby formula research can be a dark rabbit hole. Searching one ingredient will lead to searching another, and on the list goes.
But with Earth’s Best, you know you have organic ingredients and the worse thing on this list is corn syrup.
Every soy formula available has corn syrup as the first ingredient. That’s because soy can be harsh for little tummies, and corn syrup helps make the formula easier to digest.
The only exception is Gerber, which of course starts with corn maltodextrin and even adds table sugar. That’s no bueno.
Take a look at the ingredients in Earth’s Best Soy:
Beyond being organic, this formula has many benefits. The most obvious benefit is that it’s lactose-free for babies who cannot tolerate milk or a mother who is against animal by-products.
This is the only brand I have seen that claims to have a formula made free of prohibited pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, a major concern for moms wary of chemical-laden food.
You can expect the now-normal DHA and ARA in this formula, but Earth’s Best claims to have 2X the amount of DHA than the leading organic formula.
Also, you will find healthy amounts of linoleic acid, lutein, and prebiotics, all for a decent price.
Soy should not be the first option for the best baby formula, as it does not provide a sufficient amount of the amino acid methionine. This formula does have L-methionine, which is good. It also does contain all 9 essential amino acids, just not in the right forms or amounts. This is more a bad aspect of soy formulas in general than directed at this formula specifically, but necessary to share.
There is another concern for soy formulas in general and why they should be tried only if milk-based options do not work for your baby. There is a phytoestrogen found in soy that acts as the human hormone estrogen. It can bind estrogen receptors in the body, which is not good for baby boys or girls.
Soy needs to be more processed than milk-based formulas because it is plant-based instead of an animal-based protein. Also, soy proteins are bigger and harder to digest than the proteins found in breast milk. Soy proteins need to be and should be hydrolyzed for proper digestion in a baby.
Because of the soy, this formula is supplemented with corn syrup and added sugars, not just for taste, but to also aid in digestion. The only other formula on this list with corn syrup is the one for preemies.
Finally, the taste is apparently quite bad, but most soy formulas taste less than desirable. Think of drinking whole milk vs drinking plain soy milk.
Similac NeoSure Infant Formula with Iron
Similac NeoSure Infant Formula with Iron is designed especially for premature babies.
What’s different about this formula that sets it apart from all of the others on the market? MCT oil. Actual studies have proven that this fatty acid can significantly improve the weight of premature babies.
This is a game-changer, my friends! It’s why you should consider making this the best baby formula for your baby that was born just a bit too early.
Also, you can use this formula for the entire first year of your baby’s life to keep the growth going. However, you may want to switch to a regular infant formula once your baby reaches the correct weight.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients:
First off, this formula touts DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E, which all wonderful ingredients as previously discussed. You will want those ingredients along with the MCT for your preemie.
Also, non-GMO is an added bonus as we don’t want the tiniest bellies to deal with GMOs.
The first ingredient is milk for the win. Then there’s corn syrup for energy and taste, after which you see lactose (a milk sugar), and then all the fats, followed by the vitamins.
This formula also packs in a little extra protein and fat for brain health and a decent amount of linoleic acid, a healthy plant-based fat. Notice the lack of maltodextrin.
All of these ingredients add up to a healthier weight, length, and head circumference.
Unfortunately, the second ingredient is corn syrup solids. Don’t worry too much though, a quick call to Similac confirmed this is just plain corn syrup and no high fructose corn syrup, which is sure to raise your preemie’s sugar levels.
You will notice this list focuses more on formulas without corn syrup, but for preemies, corn syrup was unavoidable because it’s an inexpensive, readily available, and easy-to-digest source of carbohydrates.
The corn syrup can help sensitive tummies to more easily digest cow proteins, but too much sugar can lead to lifelong issues. No reason to start at birth unless you need to.
Corn syrup is the reason why you may wish to switch to a new formula once your baby is up to weight. The remaining worry is will your baby switch to a non-corn syrup formula after a couple of months with the added sweetness? Each baby is different, but it’s worth a try.
We have all the information you need on the best formula for preemies in our comprehensive article.
Enfamil Nutramigen Infant Formula
Enfamil Nutramigen Infant Formula – Hypoallergenic & Lactose-Free Formula with Enflora LGG is the best choice for babies with milk allergies. The name is shorted to Nutramigen because the name is far too long! Either way, the formula has been clinically proven to reduce colic caused by an allergy to cow’s milk in two days.
Not only does Nutramigen promise to reduce colic, but it also promises to reduce future incidences of cow’s milk allergies while still providing overall health for your infant.
In layman’s terms, this means many babies who have trouble digesting milk proteins will continue having problems even when they are preschoolers or older. This sensitive formula claims to help those allergy symptoms now and continues helping in the future to consume milk proteins without allergies.
Nutramigen is considered hypoallergenic and easy-to-digest to help quickly remedy milk protein allergies. Basically, this formula serves as sort of an allergy shot against milk allergies in the future. A little dose now to get the body used to milk proteins, and repeated exposure to build up the ability to digest it.
This formula may be a last resort, but it’s still a great option for babies with severe allergy or lactose intolerance issues.
Let’s look at the ingredients:
Similac also offers a hypoallergenic formula for milk allergy with lactose if you would like to read more on the topic. You can also check out how Nutramigen compares to Elecare or how Alimentum compares to Nutramigen.
Cow’s milk has proteins that are more difficult to digest than human breast milk. Most babies tolerate cow’s milk without too many issues, but other babies do not tolerate it well. Some babies just have a mild aversion to milk and others cannot digest the proteins at all.
Nutramigen contains casein hydrolysate (milk), which is a fancy way of saying smaller, more digestible proteins made from larger cow’s milk proteins.
This formula still contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals including DHA and ARA.
Nutramigen also increases the inositol for mental health and helps balance out the sugars.
Nutramigen, unfortunately, uses sugars to aid in digestion. Not only that, but it’s the first ingredient. Choices are limited for parents who hope to prevent a lifelong milk limitation for their baby, so most will just accept the addition of sugar for the greater good.
Also, Enfamil uses modified corn starch to thicken the formula and increase the digestibility of the formula. This addition does help a bit with mixing and drinking in the baby bottle. Because the starch is modified though, some babies will hate the bitter taste.
Finally, the price is very high for a formula. But, this is a specialty formula for milk allergy, and the makers will have you pay accordingly.
Enfamil’s Reguline Infant Formula
Enfamil’s Reguline Infant Formula is designed to help promote soft and comfortable poops in one week.
It almost did not make the list because it does contain corn syrup solids, but the corn syrup is not one of the first ingredients and the other ingredients are fairly impressive.
Even more, this formula made the cut because of the overwhelmingly good reviews. Reguline does seem to regulate babies, and life is definitely better when pooping comes easily! It’s the best formula for constipation. Some babies may even want or need this formula to prevent constipation issues from happening.
Time to look at the ingredients:
Beyond helping babies with number two, this formula has DHA and prebiotics, along with all the normal vitamins and minerals.
The ingredients start out similarly to the Plum Organic Sensitive formula above. First, you’ll find partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk and whey protein for easy digestion. That’s followed by oils for fat content, then the corn syrup for added digestion ease, and then lactose before the vitamins and minerals.
It would be preferable if lactose was listed as the first ingredient, but at least the first ingredient here is milk-based and not corn syrup.
This formula does not have a whole lot of bad.
First, this formula may cause diarrhea in some babies, but not in all, as each belly is different.
Second, one of the prebiotics mentioned is polydextrose which isn’t the best, as it can have adverse effects on blood sugar levels.
As with all formulas, some babies will get gas. This makes sense, as the formula is made with cow’s milk proteins, which are intended for baby cows and not necessarily baby humans. Just remember, even breastfed babies get gas, as do pretty much all humans. Normal amounts of gas show the digestive system is working correctly.
Else Plant-Based Formula
Else Plant-Based Formula is a fabulous vegan baby formula.
Now, don’t fret too much over a formula marked for toddlers instead of infants. The blend should be quite sufficient for many older infants (6 months and up and eating solids), but as is always recommended, feel free to check with your family physician.
In my previous experiences with formula companies, Baby’s Only once sent me a few documents supporting the use of their toddler formulas for babies. They told me that for regulation purposes, formula companies are required to label the packaging as a toddler formula when it contains certain ingredients in certain ratios.
Speaking of ingredients, take a look:
If you have the option, you may want to pick a lactose-based baby formula in order to more closely mimic breast milk. That is not always the right choice, especially for babies with lactose intolerance or parents who prefer to avoid animal products in their baby’s formula.
Take a look at the pros and cons of this baby formula blend.
Have you ever seen organic almond butter as the first ingredient in baby formula? Me neither. This is meant to serve as a source of protein, fat, and fiber for your vegan kiddo. This and buckwheat flour (protein and complex carbs) and tapioca maltodextrin (a gentle carb for quick energy) are the main ingredients, leaving soy and dairy entirely off the label, which may be better for your baby’s health.
Next on the label, you’ll notice a bunch of vitamins and minerals. But yes, down there at the bottom, you’ll find organic cane sugar. Caution, this could entice your baby into a love of sweet foods. But with vegan as a limitation, lactose sugars are not an option, so there isn’t much else to choose from that’s a whole food with good taste.
At least this brand has found an option other than corn syrup to ease tummy troubles when breast milk and milk are not an option.
You’ll also find organic ingredients and no GMOs on this label. It has an entirely clean label and not only avoids scary ingredients but is minimally process and even excludes products processed with hexane or other chemicals or solvents.
This formula, while vegan, does not offer any prebiotics and lutein. The Else brand is working on a baby-specific formula, and I have no doubt that this formula will have all that good stuff.
If your baby has allergy issues, this does use a tree nut as the number one ingredient. Be careful when giving this to your child if you are unsure of their allergy to nuts.
But for a lactose-free option, you will not find a better baby formula.
Finally, with organic sugar added for flavor and energy, this formula is sweet and almost smells like cookie dough! And your baby might find this tastes more like a snickerdoodle and less like breast milk. It might just be the best-tasting baby formula because everything on the label is actual food, not a chemical.
Mama Bear USDA-Certified Organic Infant Formula
The Mama Bear USDA-Certified Organic Infant Formula is not just a decent newborn formula, but also it’s organic without milk from rBST cows. It’s a great way to get fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E which mimic breastmilk.
This formula promises complete nutrition for a baby’s first year of life, with important ingredients like DHA, Lutein, and vitamin E.
Honestly though, the only difference between this formula and the Similac Organic, which claims to be their closest to breast milk, is a few amounts of vitamins and the amount of maltodextrin.
Take a look at the ingredients:
Mama Bear’s formula offers all the good stuff you expect from their brand and improved formula that’s continually working towards offering products at a lower price.
Most parents seem to like this formula because it has more omega fatty DHA than other brands, but with a nicer price tag.
No artificial growth hormones or GMO ingredients mean you get a high-quality formula clinically prove to support growth and development for your baby. It also doesn’t have whey which can be difficult to digest for some babies.
This formula uses moth maltodextrin and corn syrup solids to sweeten the formula. As stated earlier, maltodextrin can spike blood sugar. Also, corn syrup gets babies addicted to sweetness and takes away some of the benefits of formula.
This newborn formula is missing lactoferrin – which is found in Enfamil’s Enspire. It’s like thieves oil, but all-natural to the body. This protein is an iron-binding, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal superhero that even protects against cancer.
Lactoferrin does have the downside of stomach troubles in some people, which is probably why it wasn’t put in this formula. Either way, a little gas seems like a small price to pay, especially when the ingredient makes up less than one percent of a formula.
That’s it, there are no other complaints about this formula. But honestly, the Enfamil Enspire might be a better choice overall except the fats do not come from lactose.
Go & Grow by Similac Non-GMO
Once your baby has grown into a toddler, you may want to continue giving formula. Try Go & Grow by Similac Non-GMO Toddler Milk-Based Drink with 2′-FL HMO for Immune Support.
The first thing you will notice is the non-GMO boldly printed at the top. Score one for Similac with this toddler formula.
The next benefit of this toddler milk-based drink is Similac’s signature breast milk replica ingredient: 2′-FL HMO Human Milk Oligosaccharide.
Finally, this formula touts brain and eye development and immune support up to the age of three.
Tell me a two-year-old who eats all of his vitamins in his food and couldn’t stand for a little extra nutrition? Most two-year-olds skip the spinach and kale.
Take a peek at the ingredients:
First things first, this drink offers two times more calcium than yogurt, thirty times more iron than milk, and three times more vitamin E than broccoli. That’s a whole lot of good nutrition not found in chicken nuggets, Cheerios, and a juice alone. Most toddler diets are limited at best to the previously mentioned food, Goldfish, and mac’n’cheese.
Also, this formula offers something few toddlers get – a powerful prebiotic sugar called 2 -FL HMO. We haven’t even mentioned calcium, omega fatty acids, vitamin D, and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals toddlers need.
Lastly, this formula is sans corn syrup unlike the toddler drinks by Enfamil.
With no whey protein, this formula is low on protein. Most toddlers are willing to scarf down a few chicken nuggets or some ham to fulfill this need, so the lack of protein in the formula is acceptable.
Fat levels in this toddler formula are a little low but trust me, toddlers eat enough fat in their diet. What fat this formula does offer is a good fat to supplement.
Finally, while this formula does not have corn syrup, most toddler foods and beverages probably taste much better than this. If Similac were to add a little corn syrup, it might possibly encourage them to keep drinking it.
Of course, if you were giving them formula all along as an infant without corn syrup, they may be willing to continue drinking a cup of this a day. Every toddler will make a different choice.
Gerber Good Start Gentle Non-GMO Powder Infant Formula
Just because Gerber is a really well-known name brand, that doesn’t mean their formulas are top quality. That’s why the only Gerber baby formula on this list is Gerber Good Start Gentle for Supplementing Powder Infant Formula. It is the better of the options from the Gerber baby formula lineup.
They lost me at maltodextrin. Not just a little, but it’s one of the main ingredients in every single one of their formulas, even in their organic versions.
This is the only formula on this list to include maltodextrin, which is why I wish it was not on here. Why is this seemingly innocuous ingredient so bothersome? As mentioned above, this fake sugar causes sugar spikes, gut problems, and inhibits probiotics’ effectiveness.
On a positive note, Gerber seems to strongly dislike corn syrup, as not one of their formulas has a drop on the ingredient list.
It’s important to note that corn maltodextrin is most often sourced from GMO crops, despite Gerber saying their products are non-GMO.
The ingredient list clearly says corn maltodextrin, take a look:
Gerber does have another formula, Gerber Good Start Gentle 2 (HMO) Powder Infant Formula, similar to this one in ingredients, but it is for ages 6 to 12 months and not the whole first year like this supplementing formula.
The good news is this formula’s first ingredient is whey partially hydrolyzed protein, which makes the formula easier for babies to digest. This is a win.
Next comes the oils, then the lactose, we will get back to the fourth ingredient maltodextrin below, and then the vitamins. The portions of vitamins and minerals are all quite similar to other brands of formula.
I know I sound like a broken record, but there is no legitimate reason to put such a sketchy ingredient as corn maltodextrin as an ingredient. Nor should it be one of the first ingredients. At least Gerber is consistent.
The fat content in this formula is lower than other brands, which is frustrating, as babies need fat to grow and none of the formulas keep up with the fat content in breast milk.
The carbs in this formula are higher than others, closer to Similac brand.
A good chunk of babies seemed to reject the smell and flavor. Not that any formula really tastes good, but both are necessary components. Many babies had an upset tummy from the formula as well. If they were new to the formula, that could be the reason, or they could have a very sensitive tummy.
Finally, the formula tends to clump quite a bit, which is frustrating, especially in the middle of the night.
Sadly, the formula isn’t even more affordable for the lack of quality.
If you’ve read through this list of the best baby formula choices, but are still left wanting, here are a few that almost made our list. They’re good options for special needs.
- For babies allergic to milk and soy, try Neocate Infant With DHA and Ara.
- A toddler formula with dairy to try is Baby’s Only Organic Non-GMO Dairy with DHA & ARA Toddler Formula.
- An organic Similac formula is Pure Bliss by Similac Infant Formula.
- The Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula was a decent option, but we felt the fat levels were a bit too low.
How We Chose the Best Baby Formula
The main purpose of baby formula is to provide proper nutrition to help a baby thrive and live a long life.
Cow’s milk is the next best option to breast milk, but not all babies can tolerate cow’s milk. Some moms need to look to soy-based options or other non-lactose varieties, which are hard to find and can often be expensive.
There are also many parents out there that need a gentle formula, or a formula to treat a specific problem.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of the best options for special needs. We found options for the following:
- Organic baby formula
- Formula for supplementing breastfed babies
- Vegan baby formula
- Non-GMO formula
- Best formula for preemies
- Best formula for newborns
- Formula for milk allergy
- Best formula for toddlers
- Best soy baby formula
- Baby formula for sensitive tummies
- Best formula for constipation
- Best formula for gas and reflux
We know that brand and reliability are important to parents. That’s why we’ve also given you the best formula option by each of the most well-known brands including Happy Baby, Enfamil, Similac, Earth’s Best (often confused with Nature’s Best), and Gerber.
For each of our favorite baby formulas, you will find some important information to understand the makeup of formula. We’ve analyzed the ingredient list and given you our thoughts, based on lots and lots of research.
In our research, we’ve found that many baby formula brands use less-than-desirable ingredients in an attempt to recreate a modified version of breast milk. Corn syrup, maltodextrin, and soybean oils are a few of the worst ingredients for your baby.
Sadly, bad ingredients are found in many formulas, even in the most popular brands. We’ve done our best on this list to find formulas that reduce these ingredients.
Lastly, we’ve used our mommy experience. We’ve taken our own knowledge and experiences, combined it with the experiences of all the mommies that we know and talk to, and used it as a filter to weed out the bad formulas.
The resulting list contains all the formulas that are best for your baby.
What’s In Baby Formula
Baby formula is made up of several different components to replicate breast milk. Most of these components are a mystery to many people. We hope to enlighten you on the different elements of formula here.
Hopefully, gaining a better understanding of the elements in your baby’s diet will make you feel more comfortable in deciding which best baby formula you want to use to help your baby thrive and grow over the course of their first year of life.
Let’s first take a look at breast milk, and then move on to formula components. Do remember, ingredients in the formula are listed from largest amounts to smallest amounts, with the most used ingredient first and the least used ingredient being listed last.
What’s in Breast Milk?
The list of ingredients in breast milk is almost endless! Human milk contains a whole host of water, carbs, proteins, non-protein nitrogens, fats, vitamins, minerals, metal, peptides, hormones, enzymes, antiproteases, and antimicrobial factors.
So far, baby formula brands have only been able to keep up with about a fourth of the ingredients in breast milk. But don’t worry, babies thrive on formula because they still get the basic necessities, like fat, protein, carbs, and nutrients.
Let’s look now at the main ingredients taken from breast milk in order to re-create the same nutrition and benefits for baby formula.
Carbohydrates are complex proteins or sugars, starches, and fibers that help babies to obtain energy or calories to grow properly. They contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
The most prevalent carbohydrate in breast milk is lactose. This is a milk sugar and carb that cows also make. Lactose is usually, and preferably, the first ingredient in baby formula.
But lactose is not the only carbohydrate used in baby formula. Other less desirable options include corn syrups or corn syrup solids, maltodextrin or corn maltodextrin, glucose or glucose syrup (this is fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and more rarely brown rice syrup. These other carbs may be easier for babies to break down in their tiny tummies than lactose, which is milk sugar.
Lactose is preferable because it helps to aid in the absorption of calcium and feeds good bacteria in the gut. Other types of sugars do not help with either. Too much sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and lead to type 2 diabetes. Not to mention, they can give babies a sweet tooth. We do not want to make children less likely to try savory foods like vegetables.
Like breast milk, formula gets roughly 4o percent of the calories from carbohydrates.
Proteins are next in the makeup of formula.
Milk proteins come in two groups, either casein or whey. Casein tends to be more reactive when digested and whey empties the stomach faster.
Cows milk breaks down into a 2o percent whey and 80 percent casein ratio. Meanwhile, breast milk is 60 percent whey and 40 percent casein. Casein and whey from cows are different than breast milk proteins, but cow’s proteins are still preferable to other protein sources. Finding formulas with added whey is always beneficial for this reason.
Partially hydrolyzed proteins are easier to digest, as they are basically already partially broken down in order to be easier to process. Because cow’s milk proteins are bigger than breast milk proteins the hydrolyzed proteins make cow’s milk easier for baby bellies to consume. They might also help against allergies, diabetes, and illness in babies.
Wouldn’t it be great if we moms could suck the fat out of our bodies and give it to our babies? After all, babies need to eat a high-fat diet. Around fifty percent of their calories are from creamy, fatty goodness. Sadly, giving them our fat is a fantasy.
Most baby formulas provide about the same amount of fat calories as breast milk, which is definitely a good sign.
Baby formulas use a blend of different oils to fulfill the fat composition needs of babies. The most common oils used are palm olein, soy, coconut, high oleic sunflower, high oleic safflower, and MCT oil.
None of these are oils that are found in breast milk. Either way, most fatty oils are easy enough for babies to digest and not normally the cause of any issues.
Palm olein oil is the most prevalent oil used in baby formulas, as it’s a fatty acid similar to one found in breast milk. It comes with some controversy because of the way it’s added into the formula. The method may be more difficult to absorb than breast milk. This can lead to intestinal issues in some babies or lead to the binding and malabsorption of calcium. This is not dangerous, but more uncomfortable.
Finally, babies can easily digest coconut oils (including MCT oil). MCT oil only seems to show up in newborn or preemie formula, though.
The last two fats that are very important are DHA and ARA. The majority of the formulas listed above contain these ingredients. While not essential, breast milk has them, they and help with brain and eye development. You probably have heard of these more commonly as fatty acids.
Lastly, Enfamil has a formula with MFGM which is also fat, perfect for boosting the baby’s brain.
Vitamins & Minerals
Most people know what vitamins and minerals are, except for the babies, they have no clue. They just want food in their belly.
Less than two percent of most formula is made up of vitamins and minerals. This seems kind of low, considering how much our moms spouted on and on that we needed to eat our veggies to get vitamins.
Now we have the FDA mothering our vitamin count and they keep track of the minimum amounts of 27 different vitamins. Some brands add in extras like lutein, which is a good thing for growth and isn’t required by the FDA.
Most formulas contain more iron than necessary as a way of overcompensating for a historical lack of iron in Americans. Most blends contain 1.8 mg of iron. This high amount is usually the reason why most babies get upset stomach and constipation from a formula.
Finally, here is a list of the main vitamins and minerals you will find in most formulas:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid (Folacin)
- Pantothenic Acid
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Side note: soy-based formula can inhibit the absorption of some minerals, so it should be used with caution.
Prebiotics are similar to probiotics in that they are good bacteria meant to keep the gut happy. Probiotics are live bacteria, not often found in formula, and will have to be supplemented if you want to add this to your baby’s diet.
Prebiotics are practically becoming standard in formula now. They are indigestible fibers that allow good bacteria to grow in the intestines. A good way to remember the difference is to remember that probiotics eat prebiotics.
Both of these are in breast milk and named oligosaccharides (found in Similac Formula). Oligosaccharides protect babies from infection and boost the immune system.
Two common prebiotics found in formulas today is galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Another prebiotic is polydextrose. As previously mentioned, polydextrose is sugar-based and not the most preferable prebiotic. Try to avoid this prebiotic for the more nourishing options if possible.
Nucleotides are the more commonly known name for the other super-long, complicated words you see in the list of formula ingredients. They show up as Adenosine 5′-Monophosphate, Cytidine 5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5′-Monophosphate, and Disodium Uridine 5′-Monophosphate.
Sometimes, they do have the decency of announcing themselves as a nucleotide. But what are these strange tide thingies? They are the building blocks of DNA and RNA.
Breast milk, of course, contains these in abundance so it stands to reason they show up in the formula, too.
FAQs – Formula for Babies
What ingredients should I avoid in baby formula?
If possible, Experienced Mommy recommends that you avoid soybean oils, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin. Many formulas do contain these ingredients, however, and if your baby has trouble with milk, or if you have other requirements such as organic, non-GMO, or vegan, you are more limited in the number of formulas available to you.
What is really in baby formula?
It depends upon the particular formulation, of which there are many. Cow’s milk is the top choice for most babies, while soy is common for babies who are lactose intolerant.
Is Nan formula good for babies?
Nan is a Nestle formula. (Nestle formulas also include the Gerber Good Start Formulas.) Experienced Mommy cites only one Nestle formula as a top formula, and that is Gerber Good Start Gentle for Supplementing Powder Infant Formula (which Experienced Mommy identifies as the best of all Nestles’ formulas).
Even this one contains maltodextrin. There’s a similar (but not so highly recommended) formula for babies 6-12 months: Gerber Good Start Gentle 2 (HMO) Powder Infant Formula. Note that the first mentioned above is for supplementing breastfeeding only, and the second is for non-breastfed babies.
Is it okay to put vanilla in baby formula?
Some parents talk about adding vanilla. I would not add vanilla extract, since it contains alcohol. The (nonalcoholic) vanilla flavor might be alright, but I would not add it without the approval of your pediatrician.
How can I make my baby’s formula taste better?
The general recommendation is that you not alter your baby’s formula in any way without your pediatrician’s recommendation.
Do baby formulas taste different from one another?
Yes, they do taste a little different, so, if your baby will not take one formula, your doctor may recommend that you try another.
Now that you have a fuller understanding of the makeup of formula and a long list of best baby formula options, you have a choice to make. At least now you have enough information to make a well-informed decision.
Overall, our recommendation is still Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula with Iron Stage 1.
With the whey protein concentrate, lack of corn syrup, and all organic ingredients, you cannot go wrong. Not to mention a brand that is dedicated to making a formula as similar to breastmilk as possible.
Enfamil and Similac do have more research behind their brands. We’ve already put them head-to-head, so check out this article comparing and contrasting Enfamil and Similac.
Gerber is not impressive and I would avoid their brand completely- even their organic versions- because of the excessive use of maltodextrin.
If you are brand loyal to Similac, pick a blend without corn syrup. Nobody needs a diet with corn sugar as the main ingredient. The best Similac option is Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO Infant Formula because of the added prebiotics.
For those brand loyal to Enfamil we highly recommend the Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula for their brain-boosting MFGM.
Go forth and feed with the best formula for your baby.