The Best Baby Formulas

By Sherene Chen-See

February 8, 2021

Although breastfeeding is considered the best choice for babies, there are many reasons why a new mom might choose or need to use formula instead. Some new moms cannot make enough breastmilk or have medical conditions that prevent them from being able to breastfeed. Some babies have specific dietary needs that require added nutrients from formula. Some mothers cannot take an entire year off for maternity leave and they may not be able to breastfeed during the day.

If, for whatever reason, you need to use formula, you can rest assured the options available are very comparable to breast milk. Let’s find out about some of the most popular brands of formula available on the market today.

1. Editor's Pick: Enfamil Infant Formula Powder

ProsCons
  • Easy to digest
  • Iron-fortified
  • Cow’s milk-based formula for birth to 12 months
  • Contains a mix of nutrients to ensure healthy growth and development
  • Good source of DHA, which is an omega-3 fat needed for brain development
  • Requires vigorous shaking in order to dissolve
  • Not suitable for premature babies unless directed by physician

Key Specs

Infant age: Infant to 12 months
Amount: 920 g
Added nutrients: Omega-3, DHA
Other features: N/A

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This cow’s milk-based baby formula is easy to digest and contains a blend of nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop normally. It is iron-fortified and it provides your baby with 5.3 grams of DHA omega-3 fat per serving, which he/she needs for healthy brain development.

This formula is suitable for babies from birth to 12 months of age and the instructions are easy to read and follow. Simply mix the recommended amounts of water and powder, as indicated on the label. Each can contains 920 grams of powdered formula. The powder has an expiry date of five to six months after manufacture, so it lasts quite a while.

One drawback is the powder does not dissolve easily. You have to shake it vigorously first to fully dissolve properly. Do not use it for a premature infant unless directed to and supervised by your paediatrician.

2. Best Hypoallergenic Formula: Nutramigen A+ with LGG Hypoallergenic Infant Formula

ProsCons
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Contains extensively hydrolyzed protein for digestion
  • Clinically proven to reduce colic due to cow’s milk protein allergy
  • Contains DHA, an omega-3 protein important for brain development
  • Contains the bacteria LGG culture, which helps in management of allergies
  • Some parents do not like the taste
  • Some cans may arrive close to their expiry date

Key Specs

Infant age: Infant and toddler
Amount: 561 g
Added nutrients: LGG culture Omega-3, DHA
Other features: Hypoallergenic; reduces colic; includes hydrolyzed protein

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This baby and toddler formula is hypoallergenic, and has been clinically proven to quickly reduce colic due to cow’s milk protein allergy. It also contains LGG culture, a bacteria that is useful for management of dietary allergies.

Nutramigen A+ contains extensively hydrolyzed protein as well. While this formula is not recommended for use with premature babies unless directed and supervised by a physician, it is suitable for newborns and children up to the age of 1. Another key reason to buy Nutramigen A+ is that it has omega-3 fat DHA, which is important for normal development of the brain. Each can contains 561 grams of baby formula. All you have to do is make sure not to warm the formula past 40 degrees Celsius as this can limit the benefits of the LGG culture.

One drawback is this formula is quite expensive. Also, some parents do not like the taste; however, babies do not seem to mind it, especially since it reduces their colic pain and constipation. Parents also recommend not buying a lot of this product at once because it can arrive close to the expiry date.

3. Best Omega-Protein Formula: Similac Total Comfort Omega-3 & Omega-6 Baby Formula

ProsCons
  • Contains all nutrients for baby’s first year of life
  • Contains broken down whey proteins to help with digestion
  • Helps promote healthy bowel movements and reduce constipation
  • Iron-fortified and contains the omega-3 DHA for brain development
  • Non-GMO; does not contain artificial growth hormones or additives
  • Gets very foamy after shaking
  • Baby’s poo may come out dark green
  • Unpleasant smell due to broken down proteins

Key Specs

Infant age: Infant to 12 months
Amount: 964 g
Added nutrients: Omega-3, DHA Iron
Other features: N/A

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This baby formula contains all the nutrients your baby needs for their first year of life. It is especially good for gassy babies as it contains broken down whey proteins to help with digestion.

Similac Omega-3 and Omega-6 formula helps promote healthy bowel movements and reduces constipation. It also contains DHA, which is an omega-3 protein helpful for normal brain development. It is also iron-fortified. Its cow’s milk-based formula is non-GMO and does not contain any artificial growth hormones or additives. This formula comes in a tub instead of a can, and has a convenient grip on the side so you can carry it with one hand. It travels well, and has a sturdy lid and an easy-to-use scoop.

Each tub contains 964 grams of dry powder baby formula. You can also buy a smaller tub that contains 638 grams of powder. One drawback is this formula has an unpleasant smell. This is due to the broken down proteins in the formula, which have a particular odour. Also, it gets very foamy after shaking and if baby drinks a lot of this formula, her poo may come out dark green.

4. Best Infant Milk Formula: Nanny Care First Infant Milk

ProsCons
  • Soy-free
  • Goats are pasture-fed, with no hormones or stimulants
  • Can also be used to make baby cereals and cooked dishes
  • Babies who refuse other formulas tend to like the taste of this one
  • Made from a goat’s milk base; more easily digested than cow’s milk
  • Long delivery time of four to six weeks

Key Specs

Infant age: Infant
Amount: 400 g
Added nutrients: N/A
Other features: Nice taste, no hormones or stimulants

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This infant milk is made from a goat’s milk base, which is known to be more easily digested than cow’s milk. It's also soy-free.

Nanny Care's First Infant Milk is made from New Zealand goat’s milk, and the goats are pasture-fed without hormones or stimulants. The list of ingredients is very short, which means there are few additives to worry about. This milk base tastes great and can be used not just for baby but also when you're starting to feed your baby some soft, solid foods. You can also use it to make baby cereals as your child gets older.

One drawback is the long delivery time when you are ordering from Canada. It usually takes four to six weeks to arrive. Still, the milk lasts about one year from production so it'll do its job.

5. Best Formula for Infants for 6m+: Nestle Good Start Plus 2 Baby Formula

ProsCons
  • Non-GMO
  • Contains B. lactis, a probiotic to help strengthen baby’s gut flora
  • Contains DHA, an omega-3 fat to help eye and brain development
  • Added iron for making red blood cells and calcium for strong bones and teeth
  • Contains 100% whey proteins which are partially broken down for easier digestion
  • Lid is hard to open
  • Scoop is too wide for some bottles

Key Specs

Infant age: 6 months to toddler
Amount: 1.18 kg
Added nutrients: Iron, Calcium, Omega-3, DHA, Probiotic B. lactis
Other features: Reduce constipation

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This formula is for the next stage in your baby’s life — six months or older. It has added iron, which is important for making red blood cells, and added calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

Like all Good Start formulas, this mix contains comfort proteins, which are 100 per cent partially broken-down whey proteins, to make digestion easier. It also contains the omega-3 fat DHA, which is important for normal eye and brain development in babies. This formula contains the probiotic B. lactis, which can help strengthen your baby’s gut flora and aid in digestion. Babies who have had constipation with other formulas tend to do well with this one.

This is a non-GMO baby formula and each tub can contains 1.18 kilograms of formula. This is a good size and just in time, as your baby will be wanting more to eat. Two drawbacks are the lid is hard to open and the scoop is too wide for some bottles.

How to Choose a Baby Formula

There are a few things to consider when choosing baby formula, most importantly, type of formula and cost.

Types of baby formula: The main types of formulas are those made with cow’s milk, soy milk, hydrolyzed formulas, those with added nutrients, and special diet formulas. Cow’s milk protein-based formulas are most common, and the milk has been altered to resemble breast milk. It has the right balance of nutrients and most babies can digest it.

For babies that are allergic to dairy, or if their parents are averse to having baby consume animal products, there are the soy-based formulas. For babies that are allergic to both dairy and soy, there are formulas where the proteins in the milk have been broken down into smaller pieces, or hydrolyzed. This makes these formulas easier to digest.

Some formulas have added nutrients and proteins. Many have added iron, which is good for building muscle and bone. Some include omega-3 fatty acids like DHA or ARA, which are important for brain and eye development. Some have pre- and probiotics which help with digestion, although if you are also breastfeeding your baby, these are already in the breast milk so she does not need these added ingredients.

Goat’s milk formulations may also be an option. A few babies have medical conditions with specific dietary requirements which are fulfilled with specialized formulas.

Cost: Baby formula costs can add up pretty quickly, and this is one downside of using formula rather than breastfeeding. On average, a baby will consume between $500 to $1000 worth of store brand formula in the first year. If you are using a name brand, those costs will increase to $1000 to $2500 per year.

The type of formula can affect the cost. Baby formula comes in either powder, liquid concentrate, or ready-to-use formats. They are equal in nutritional value but vary in cost, time to prepare, and ability to be stored. Powder is least expensive, requires the most effort to prepare, and can be stored for a long time. Liquid concentrate is more expensive, is easier to prepare than powder, but once opened cannot be stored for more than 24 hours. Ready-to-use formulas are easiest to prepare and most convenient, but they are the most expensive.

Some tips for saving costs include:

  • Don’t buy too much at a time. Your baby might not like a formula or be intolerant, in which case you will have to change to another formulation
  • Buy from a larger retailer. They can offer better discounts
  • Consider store brands. As illustrated above, they can be less expensive than name brands. They have the same nutritional value.
  • Purchase powders
  • Make sure to check the expiry date before buying any baby formula

Keep in mind that all baby formulas on the market in Canada have to pass the same high-quality standards. They are regulated by the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations (SFCA and SFCR), and the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (FDA and FDR). All formulas sold in Canada contain at least a minimum amount of recommended nutrients your baby needs.

You can feel confident knowing any formula you choose will provide your baby with the proper basic nutrition. Of course, if your baby is allergic or has special dietary needs, special formulas are available. Speak to your doctor to find out which formula is right for your baby.

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