Best Formula for Preemies

Best Formula for Preemies and Answers to Your Questions

by Brittany Spalding |

Congratulations! You’ve graduated from the NICU! You’re excited, scared, exhausted, and overwhelmed. One question you may be asking is, “What should I feed my baby once we get home?” Most often, you will be discharged with a home feeding plan. If not, or if you just want to explore your options, I have outlined the three best preemie formulas for you to consider.

Drawing on my own experience as a former medically-complex foster parent, hours of research, and speaking with current preemie parents, I’ve also included hypo-allergenic alternatives and answers to the most frequently asked questions.

ProductWhy It Is BestMom Rating
Similac NeosureBrand recommended most by pediatricians and NICU. Lowest priced formula for premature infants. Proven growth benefits.♥♥♥♥♥
Enfamil EnfacarePediatrician recommended. Proven growth benefits.♥♥♥♥
Enfamil Human Milk FortifierAllows you to continue breastfeeding by fortifying breast milk with added protein and nutrients needed for low birth weight babies.♥♥♥


Similac Neosure

Image of the Similac NeoSure Infant Formula with Iron, For Babies Born Prematurely, Powder, 13.1 ounces

Similac NeoSure promotes excellent catch-up growth in your premature baby. This includes better gains in weight, length and head circumference, when compared to premature babies fed term infant formulas. It is an easy-to-digest milk-based formula that contains extra calories and increased protein, energy, vitamins and minerals when compared to standard infant formula for growth in baby’s first year.

  • This formula includes:
    • DHA and ARA – special nutrients found in breast milk that are important for helping support brain and eye development
    • Calcium and Phosphorus – for baby’s growing bones
    • Lutein – to support eye health
    • Vitamin E – an important nutrient found in breast milk to support developing cells 

Preterm infants fed Similac NeoSure through the first year of life showed significantly increased lean body mass and less fat mass at 12 months corrected age. Studies have shown that preterm infants using this formula had improved visual acuity at 6 months corrected age, as well as improved early language development at 14 months corrected age.

It should be noted that some parents reported excess gas and increased constipation upon starting this formula. However, this seemed to resolve itself after continued use. Similac Neosure comes in three preparations – 2 fl. oz. ready to feed bottles, 1 qt. container of ready to feed formula, and a canned powder to be mixed with water.  

This preemie formula is named “Best Formula for Premature Babies” on our Best Baby Formula list, too.

Enfamil Enfacare

Image of the 2 pack - Enfamil EnfaCare Infant Formula, 2 - 12.8 OZ Cans of Powder Formula, For Babies Born Prematurely

Enfamil Enfacare is scientifically designed to support development and growth for premature babies during their first year of life after leaving the hospital. With enriched nutrition and expert recommended levels of DHA amd ARA, Enfamil EnfaCare is a milk-based formula that supports your baby’s healthy development.

Premature babies fed this formula during the first year have achieved catch-up growth similar to that of full term, breastfed infants. This formula comes in three preparations – 2 fl. oz. and 8 fl. oz. ready to feed bottles, and a canned powder to be mixed with water. Parents reported more stomach discomfort with this formula versus its competitor.

Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier

Image of the Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier, Powder .71g Foil Sachets 0.02 oz

Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier Powder fortifies breast milk with extra nutrients for babies who are born prematurely or with a low birth weight. It provides enriched nutrition needed by these special babies while still allowing them to receive their mother’s milk. This supplement is milk-based and, when mixed with mother’s milk, increases the levels of protein, energy, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients. This produces a diet more suited to the nutritional needs of the rapidly growing premature infant. Each foil sachet contains essential fatty acids and added iron to reduce the need for additional iron supplementation. Breastfeeding moms of preterm infants love this product as it allows them to continue breastfeeding instead of switching to a higher calorie content formula.

Guide to Selecting a Formula for Your Preterm Infant

Science Direct, a leader in scientific, technical, and medical research, states that many very preterm infants receive formula milk as a major source of nutrition during their hospital stay because human milk is not available. Standard term formula is designed for term infants, based on the composition of mature breast milk. The concentrations of protein, calcium, and phosphate are not sufficient to provide the recommended nutrient needs for stable and growing preterm infants.

Therefore, preterm infant formulas should be used. According to Gerber Medical, the overall goals for ongoing nutrition of the preterm infant are to continue to meet their increased nutritional needs to safely support catch-up growth and development while supporting GI function and helping to build their developing immune system.

Important Benefits

  • Higher calorie count
  • Increased amount of protein
  • Enriched nutrition
  • Proven growth benefits


  • Never use a microwave oven to warm formula. Serious burns can result.
  • Powdered infant formulas are not sterile and should not be fed to premature infants who may have immune system problems, unless directed and supervised by your baby’s doctor.

FAQ’s about Preemie Formula

  • How do I use the ready to feed bottles?

    • Do not use if breakaway ring is missing or broken.
    • Do not add water. Ready to feed formula, if mixed with water, may not provide proper nutrition and repeated use of such feedings could cause illness.
    • Shake very well.
    • Twist off cap.
    • Twist on clean nipple and ring. (Since this formula is commercially sterile, use clean hands to attach any clean standard nipple and ring.)
    • Once feeding begins, use within 1 hour or discard.
    • Store unopened at room temperature; avoid extreme temperatures.
    • Do not reuse this bottle.
    • Protect from light.
    • Store in carton until ready for use
  • How do I use the ready made formula?

    • Do not use if the band around cap or inner foil seal is damaged.
    • Do not add water.
    • Shake very well before each use.
    • Remove protective band, twist off and clean cap.
    • Invert cap; press down to pierce foil, then turn cap a half turn.
    • Remove foil.
    • Pour formula into the bottle; attach clean nipple.
    • Once feeding begins, use within 1 hour or discard.
    • Prepare and feed all formula from the 1 QT container within 3 days after opening.
    • Once opened, store quart bottle in the refrigerator.
    • Store prepared bottles in refrigerator and feed to baby within 48 hours.
    • Store unopened containers at room temperature; avoid extreme temperatures.
    • Do not reuse container.
  • How should I use the powder preparation?

    • Your baby’s health depends on carefully following these directions. Proper hygiene, handling and storage are important when preparing infant formula. Failure to follow these directions could result in severe harm. Ask your baby’s doctor if you need to use cooled, boiled water for mixing and if you need to boil (sterilize) bottle, nipple and ring before use.
    • Wash your hands, surfaces, and utensils.
    • Pour desired amount of water into clean bottle.
    • Add 1 unpacked level scoop to each 2 fl oz of water.
    • Return dry scoop to can.
    • Cap bottle; shake well; attach nipple.
    • Once feeding begins, use within 1 hour or discard.
    • Once mixed, store bottles immediately in the refrigerator; feed to baby within 24 hours.
    • Store unopened or opened container at room temperature; avoid extreme temperatures.
    • Use opened can contents within 1 month.
  • What if my preemie can’t tolerate these and needs a hypo-allergenic formula?

    • If your baby needs a hypo-allergenic formula, I urge you to consult with your child’s pediatrician or nutritionist. There are many options available to you. Most commonly, it will be suggested that you try Similac Alimentum, Enfamil Nutramigen, or Neocate. However, instead of the standard preparation, your baby’s healthcare provider will suggest a specific recipe for preparation to ensure that your baby gets the correct amount of intended calories. Please speak with a healthcare provider before making this change. Not enough calories will result in poor weight gain. Too many calories may result in a host of tummy troubles.
  • Where can I get more information about caring for my premature infant?

    •, powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a wonderful website filled with informative and helpful information for parents of premature infants. This website goes beyond how to feed your preemie, and even includes a section about how to deal with the stress of being in the NICU.

Final Thoughts

You’ve ridden the NICU roller coaster and came out on the other side. It wasn’t an easy ride. During this time, you most likely experienced some of the scariest moments of your life. If I could offer you one piece of advice, I would tell you to take the help. Anything they offer you – therapists, nutritionists, social workers, assistive devices, etc – to ease your transition home, take it. Let them help you. It will make your days and nights easier while giving you extra peace of mind. It takes a village to raise a baby. Take their help and build your village.

Embrace each tender, God-given moment with your precious little one. He chose you, Momma. He handpicked you to care for this tiny, new life. You can do this. You were made for this. Throughout your journey, I want you to remember this one thing – although we don’t know you personally – all of us here at Experienced Mommy, myself included, are praying for you. Parents of preemies and special needs children are our unsung heroes. May God bless you on the days, nights, and years ahead!

Brittany Spalding
Brittany Spalding is a wife, homeschool mom, writer, editor, and food allergy awareness advocate. She enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, restoring antique furniture, St. Louis Cardinals baseball, and fishing on the beautiful Kentucky Lake.

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