Making sure your baby has healthy, nutritious food is one of the most important things a parent can do during their baby’s first year. Conventional wisdom says that the best way to do this is by breastfeeding, but advances in baby formula have made it so that no parent ever has to feel guilty for supplementing or replacing their infant’s food with formula. A good baby formula provides all the nutrition a baby needs for the first 12 years of their life. Parents have a huge selection of formulas that address a wide variety of health and developmental needs. To help you pick the right one for your newborn, here are the 10 best baby formulas to buy in 2020.
What to Know Before Picking a Formula
The first year of your baby’s life is an exciting time, but it can also be confusing. With so many decisions to make, most parents don’t have the time to research every ingredient in their baby’s food, leading them to fear that they are feeding their babies the wrong thing. Thankfully, baby formula and its ingredients are not as complex as it may appear at first glance. Here are the basics you should know before picking one.
Types of Baby Formula
The first decision parents need to make concerning their baby’s formula is what the base ingredient can be. Here are some of the common ingredients used as a base for baby formula.
- Cow’s Milk: The most common and least expensive type, baby formulas made from cow’s milk should be most parents’ first choice unless their pediatrician suggests one of the alternatives below.
- Soy Milk: The most frequently used base for vegan formulas, Soy milk is often used for ethical or environmental reasons. Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant Formula is our favorite soy-based formula.
- Lactose-Free: Allergies to cow milk can cause colic, intense crying for three or more hours per day. Enfamil Nutramigen is our pick for babies with allergies
Now that you have an idea what kind of ingredients you are looking for, the next thing to consider is preparation. As a new parent, you will be making lots of baby formula over the course of the next year. You have a few options when it comes to how you’ll be preparing your baby’s formula.
- Powder concentrate: This is the most common type of baby formula, the least expensive, and the one we strongly suggest most parents choose, especially if they want to order formula online. Preparing this formula is done by mixing equal parts of powder and water in a bottle.
- Ready-to-use: Usually delivered in individual bottles, ready-to-use formula arrives in liquid form and requires no preparation. While this can be useful in some situations like while traveling or at a theme park, the large increase in cost means that most parents will want to pick powder for their everyday feeding. Our favorite ready-to-use baby formula is Similac Alimentum.
- Liquid concentrate: The worst of both worlds, liquid concentrate is more expensive and still requires mixing! Especially when buying formula online, be sure to avoid this kind of baby formula.
Added Nutrients and Benefits
Finally, once you have it narrowed down to a few different formulas, you’ll want to make your decision based on the additional nutrients and benefits offered in each formula. Some are meant to address specific conditions and needs, while others are intended to provide a more general boost to your baby’s development. Here are some common additives seen in baby formula.
- Iron: Iron is an important mineral that aids in muscle growth and bone building. Iron has a reputation for causing constipation, but this is a bit of a misconception as the amount contained in baby formula is usually not enough to cause this.
- Prebiotics/Probiotics: These ingredients are made to aid in digestion and soothe babies who are having tummy troubles. While most baby formulas contain some of these, formulas like Similac Pro-Sensitive are specifically designed for sensitive stomachs.
- DHA/ARA: Synthesized fatty acids originally found in breastmilk, one or both of these additives are found in most formulas available. They are important for healthy brain and eye development.
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, here is our list of the top baby formulas for 2020.
Top 10 Best Baby Formulas 2020
Why we like it: Similac Pro Advance is our top overall baby formula pick. It is also the only available formula that includes HMO, an immune nourishing prebiotic.
Type: Cow’s milk
Style: Powder concentrate
The Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO formula is the #1 choice of mothers and the most used formula in hospitals. It contains excellent levels of nutrition that will support healthy growth and development in your baby through the first year.
Ingredients: This is the only brand of formula that contains 2’-FL HMO, an immunity-boosting probiotic that can only be found in breastmilk. The gap that can be found between breastfeeding and formula feeding is narrowed with this product that is the closest match to a mother’s milk.
The Similac Optigrow formula contains healthy levels of DHA, lutein, and vitamin E to promote excellent brain, eye, and bone development. There are no growth hormones in this formula and all its ingredients are tested to contain only the highest levels of nutrition—though the powder does have a slightly off milky order.
Benefits: By developing a strong immune system in your baby, you are protecting them in the most critical stage of their development. The presence of the 2’-FL HMO probiotic is a step ahead of other products in keeping babies safe from infection and viruses.
For the parent’s convenience, this formula comes in a choice of powder or Ready to Use formats. When making the transition from breast milk to formula, parents agree that this product was easy to integrate into their baby’s routine.Pros
- Highly recommended by doctors
- Non-GMO product
- Easy to transition
- Reduces gas and fussiness
- Has a slight odor
- Baby may get constipation
Why we like it: Made with a unique blend of brain-building proteins, Enfamil NeuroPro Baby Formula is our favorite formula for parents looking to enhance their baby’s mental development.
Type: Cow’s milk
Style: Powder concentrate
Enfamil NeuroPro Baby Formula was created in response to emerging research showing the powerful effect that MFGM has on cognitive development in babies. Offering complete nutrition for babies under 12 months, this formula is a great example of why Enfamil is routinely rated #1 among pediatricians. This formula is made using only non-GMO ingredients and each container has enough powder to fill about 18 eight-ounce baby bottles.
Ingredients: The result of years of research by Mead Johnson, Enfamil NeuroPro Baby Formula is the only formula to contain a blend of MFGM & DHA. MFGM stands for Milk Fat Global Membrane. It is a three-layered membrane that is normally found in breastmilk. The MGFM in this formula is made from cow’s milk. There are no artificial growth hormones, but there the formula does contain dual prebiotics.
Benefits: Because Enfamil NeuroPro Baby Formula is so closely inspired by breastmilk, it also offers many of the same benefits. The MFGM & DHA combine for a boost to your baby’s mental development. Additionally, the prebiotics has an HMO effect on your baby’s immune system. This formula is also easy to digest.
Value: Sold at a moderate price, Enfamil NeuroPro Baby Formula is a great choice for parents who are willing to pay a few extra dollars on their baby’s formula in order to give their brains a developmental boost.Pros
- Contains MFGM
- Promotes positive brain development
- Boosts baby’s immune system
- More expensive than some other baby formulas
Why we like it: Similac Pro-Sensitive uses only non-GMO ingredients to address lactose sensitivity issues with your newborn. Great for easy digestion and happy babies.
Type: Cow’s milk
Style: Powder concentrate
This Similac Pro-Sensitive formula is the only product on the market that has 2’-FL Human Milk Oligosaccharide (HMO). This is a prebiotic that helps to boost the immune systems of infants and could only be found in breast milk. This allows some of the immunity function gaps between formulas and breastmilk to become much smaller.
Many parents are hesitant when they find they need to use formula with their babies. Whether you are unable to breastfeed or are going through the transition that comes with going back to work, this formula can help make things go a lot smoother.
Ingredients: All ingredients in this formula are strictly non-GMO and include no trace of artificial growth hormones. It’s formulated with the Similac patented Optigrow ingredients of DHA, lutein and vitamin E, supporting brain, eye and rapid cell development.
This milk based infant formula is specifically designed to address issues of lactose intolerance in infants. By breaking up the lactose proteins into tiny particles it makes it much easier to digest without a harsh reaction. It is not for use for children or babies with galactosemia, and it has been known to cause constipartion.
Benefits: Found to reduce the occurrence of feeding time spit ups, this formula helps babies improve their tolerance for lactose products and is gentle on their stomachs. Less mess equals more food staying in your baby’s tummy.
This is the #1 brand that is recommended by moms. It comes in a choice of plastic refillable container or a classic cardboard and tin can. Both options have a convenient scoop holder on the outside so the scoop doesn’t have to be put back into the powder.Pros
- Widely available
- High nutritional value
- Easily on sensitive stomachs
- Can cause constipation
Why we like it: Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Colic Baby Formula is our favorite for babies who suffer from colic due to allergies. It also contains many ingredients designs to assist your baby’s development.
colicky baby can be incredibly stressful. More than simply crying, a baby suffering from colic may scream so intensely that it seems like they are in pain. Babies affected by colic may cry three or more hours every day. One of the most common causes of colic is food allergies. Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Colic Baby Formula is lactose-free and provides quick relief for babies who have an allergy to lactose.
Ingredients: Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Colic Baby Formula is the only formula with Enflora LGG, a compound that assists in managing colic that occurs as a result of allergies. This formula also contains ingredients designed to boost your baby’s development in a variety of ways. This includes iron, DHA, and ARA.
Benefits: Enflora LGG is proven to relieve colic caused by cow’s milk allergy in less than 48 hours. This can be an absolute lifesaver for parents who are being kept up at night by crying babies. Additionally, because babies who are allergic to cow’s milk are more susceptible to other kinds of allergies as they grow older, LGG is formulated to help reduce the chance of future allergies by up to 50%.
While it’s not the most expensive formula we reviewed, parents do have to pay a premium for the hypoallergenic ingredients in this baby formula. We still think it’s an excellent value for parents of babies with allergies.Pros
- The best formula for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk
- Provides relief for colicky babies
- Contains DHA, ARA, iron, and Enflora LGG
- More expensive than other formula options
Why we like it: Gerber Good Start Soothe Powder is specially formulated with Comfort Proteins to be extra gentle on sensitive tummies.
Type: Cow’s milk
Style: Powder concentrate
Babies only start using their own digestive systems after they are born. Prior to birth they are solely reliant on the umbilicus to provide them with their nutrients straight from their mother.
After babies are born, it can take some a little while to adapt to eating differently. Some time is required to allow the digestive system to adapt. It can take some time for the proper bacteria to accumulate in the digestive tract causing some sensitivity to some formulas.
Gerber Good Start Gentle Powder is specially engineered to protect sensitive stomachs from any harsh ingredients that may be irritating. Gerber uses their patented Comfort Proteins that have been broken down to help ease the digestion process. Smaller particles are easier for the new digestive systems of infants to digest making them less fussy and unhappy, though it may cause some light gas or constipation.
Ingredients: This formula is closely modeled after natural breast milk. It is the only one that has DHA, pre- and probiotics as well as antioxidants to aid in the breakdown of protein. The formula is milk-based and is formulated using only non-GMO ingredients.
Benefits: There is no strong odor with this product that is commonly found in other powder formulas. Sometimes a strong odor from a formula can translate to the taste causing your baby to reject it. It is suitable for infants from birth to 12 months without having to change up a level.
It can greatly reduce the amount of spit up accidents during feedings. This helps ensure that your baby is getting the proper amount of nutrition and not wearing most of a bottle on their bibs.Pros
- No messy feeding times
- Mixes smoothly with no bubbles
- Affordable and widely available
- Occasional constipation
- Can cause gas or fussiness