Your infant’s first few years are some of the most crucial to their development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s in these early years that brain cells form through the most simple interactions, and daily tasks such as changing, playing and even feeding become the building blocks for your baby’s future health, wellness and success.
The little things you do with your baby every day make a big difference – so it’s no surprise that the breast versus bottle debate is such big news. While the CDC reports that a full 81 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, half switch to formula at the six-month mark. Baby formula is a safe, healthy choice for both moms and babies, but do you know how to choose the right formula for your little one?
Start with Cow’s Milk
While all baby formula is designed to promote brain development and growth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents use a traditional formula derived from cow’s milk unless a baby has a sensitivity or allergy. There are several reasons why cow’s milk formulas work best for most families:
- Affordability – an infant can consume to eight bottles per day, so even small differences in price add up.
- Balance – because it’s most similar to breast milk, cow’s milk is an ideal base for infant formula as it includes the nutrients and fats your baby needs.
- Adaptability – nutritionists can more easily alter the proteins in cow’s milk to make them gentler for your baby’s sensitive digestive system.
When to Choose Soy
Though cow’s milk formulas work well for almost all infants, not every baby thrives on them. Parents who wish to avoid animal proteins for ethical reasons may find soy-based formulas to be an excellent alternative. For many parents, however, allergies are the determining factor that leads them to choose soy formulas. While your doctor can help you determine whether milk allergies are an issue for your child, you can also look for some common symptoms that may indicate lactose intolerance, like severe colic, abnormal bowel activity, or excessive spitting up or vomiting after feedings.
Soy formula is a lifeline for many parents with sensitive infants. It’s important to realize, however, that babies with milk sensitivities can also react to soy formulas. If symptoms don’t improve after switching to a soy formula, ask your doctor to prescribe one of the hypoallergenic options on the market or try another brand until you find a better fit for your baby.
Go for the Big Brands
When it comes to your baby’s health and development, it doesn’t make sense to cut corners. For some products, there is virtually no difference between name-brand and generic options. Infant formula, however, is scientifically based, and the most cutting-edge ingredients are included in name-brand formulas. Pediatric researchers are constantly surprised at what they discover in breast milk, and new ingredients like lycopene and lutein are introduced first in branded formulas before they trickle down into generic and store-labeled choices.
Is Organic Worth It?
Now that you understand that small differences in ingredients matter, you might be wondering whether it pays to use an organic formula. After all, if you spend extra for chemical-free fruit, wouldn’t you want the purest formula for your baby?
While this may seem like a simple question, it’s important to understand that infant formula is a processed food. The lab-based procedures used to transform milk or soy proteins into accessible nourishment for your little one largely counteract the perceived benefits of organically sourcing the ingredients. Simply put, organic formulas are not shown to better for your baby according to sources like Parents.com, and they can even contain less than desirable additions like corn syrup solids.
Every milestone your baby reaches is important and exciting. However, all parents know a newborn baby is much different than a six-month-old who can roll, scoot and sit. Because of this, there’s no one-size-fits-all baby formula.
Pay attention to the age recommendations when you’re shopping for the right baby formula. Ingredient lists for newborns include more fats to keep up with rapid brain growth and physical development. Formulas for toddlers, on the other hand, cater more to their higher energy demands as they begin to run, play and explore. Age matters, so select the right formula for your baby’s stage of development.
Where to Find the Best Baby Formula Deals
No matter what type of baby formula you choose, saving money is a priority for almost every parent, and there’s no need to spend more to feed your little one. Because you’ll be going through a lot of formula as your baby grows, you’ll want to use money-saving strategies like the following:
- Visit the manufacturer’s website for coupons and discounts.
- Shop around at both in-store and online retailers for the lowest cost-per-serving. Prices fluctuate, meaning the best deal might be available at Target one month and Amazon the next.
- If your favorite brand is available at a big-box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, buy in bulk.
- Always choose a powdered formula over significantly more expensive pre-mixed varieties.
Because there are so many factors at play when choosing the right baby formula, it’s imperative to do your research. Finding the best price will mean potential savings of hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. Luckily, a small investment of time and energy up front will help you make the right feeding choices for your infant, allowing you to devote your time and energy to the most important part of parenting: loving and caring for your little miracle. No matter how you feed your baby, your care and connection is the most critical aspect of their development.
Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.