Few things in life are as thought-consuming and agonizing for new parents as choosing the right baby formula. This is one of those decisions you didn’t give a crap about pre-baby, and now, it’s everything. Just like choosing from the best diapers and safest foldable cribs, these now monumental decisions can overwhelm any first-time parent as much as parents entering baby-land for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th (you get it) time.
We spoke to pediatrician, Alice Merkrebs, M.D. (aka, Dr. Alice) about all the brands and all the confusion. She reassured us that, “there is not much that you can do to harm a child if you use common sense.” Deep breath. (We didn’t get the baby-guide at the hospital either.)
There seem to be two camps when it comes to deciphering this baby formula thing. Most moms (Camp A), look to buy formula that’s reputable and easily available. There are the usual brands like Similac and Enfamil, plus newer, organic brands like Earth’s Best and Happy Baby. These moms study the packaging and match all of the key features to fit their BB’s needs. Over in Camp B, however, are a newer generation of moms who spend time in mommy chat-rooms, listening to all the latest talk about impressive European brands. These brands are in high demand right now being that we see them as meeting a higher standard (more clean, less ingredients, etc). The problem is that these are pricey and hard to find. This leaves many moms routinely shipping formula over from Europe (sometimes on the black market). That said, there is a brand-new formula option called Bobbie that’s European-style but made in the US (see below).
It’s a lot to digest (or drink) so we’ve put together a list of our favorite, mom-approved formulas that you can feel good about. There’s a lot of choices, and you may have to try a few brands/formulations to find the best match for your baby—but you’ll get there.
Best Formula for Breastfed Babies:
Dr. Alice doesn’t get caught up in the hype when it comes to choosing a brand to supplement/replace breastmilk. She says, “I don’t think there is a definitive answer to best formula to replicate breast milk. Breast milk is breast milk. Each mom makes her own brand.” When it comes to choosing formula, “One company may tweak something in their formula and market it with a headline closest to breast milk or excellent for brain function. The formulas really are the same.”
Similac is a well-known, trusted brand amongst moms and hospitals. This is the Pro-Sensitive, known for its exclusive blend of nutrients specific for brain and eye development. Moms rely on Similac, and this is a great option for baby as the full-time formula or to supplement breastfeeding. This is a large size powder version (great value), but you can also buy it as a pre-made Ready-To-Feed liquid formula.
Nicole, mom of four told Scary Mommy, “I only ever used Similac, the hospital sent us home with it and we never experienced any issues so we stuck with it!”
Target never disappoints, especially in the baby department. Their formula is a great buy, and is on par with all of the top brands. This milk-based formula comes ready with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, plus more than two dozen vitamins and minerals for brain, growth, and immunity. This infant formula also has iron, dual prebiotics, and is closer to breast milk than their previous formulation.
Mom Zoey raves, “Target’s brand is actually amazing. Every doc I talked to recommended it too. “
Best Organic Baby Formula:
Dr. Alice says choosing organic vs non-organic is an entirely “personal choice.” She says we should, “take into consideration the increased cost for these formulas. Baby formula and baby foods have strong guidelines and specifications for what can or cannot be used in them.” That speaks to non-organic as much as organic.
The first organic baby formula to receive FDA approval in five years, this mom created formula brings newness to moms across the country. With only the ingredients we do want, and NONE of the other fillers, Bobbie brings the “euro” quality formula straight to your front door as a subscription, or anytime purchase. Whether you’re exclusively formula feeding or supplementing, Bobbie is bringing their A-game so you can worry about what’s really important- BB.
If you’re looking for organic, Happy Baby is made with carefully sourced premium ingredients— organic lactose being the principal carbohydrate found in breast milk. It provides key vitamins and minerals that are found naturally in breast milk. We love the 4x more prebiotics, which is great for gut bacteria in infants. Stage 1 is designed for the first year, but you can shift into Stage 2 after that.
Mom Karen told us, “We’ve loved Happy Baby Organic since we transitioned our little one from breast milk at 5 months old (he’s about 7 months now). We were looking for a high-quality, natural, organic option, and Happy Baby fit the bill. It also had great customer reviews. Thankfully, our baby never had major gas or reflux issues, and we’ve continued to be tummy trouble-free with this formula. I even recommended it to my sister, and now her baby drinks it!”
Earth’s Best is loved when it comes to organics, and not just in the world of bb formula. This all lactose milk-based powder formula is their version nearest to actual breast milk. It contains Omega 3 DHA and Omega 6 ARA fatty acids, as well as iron, lutein and prebiotics. It’s Kosher, too, and non-GMO, of course. One mom said she loved this because it was organic yet still readily available.
Best Baby Formula for Gas, Constipation & Sensitivity Issues:
Dr. Alice says finding the best formula can be “trial and error” when it comes to gas and constipation. She points out that “how one holds a bottle/the baby during feeding is important.” Knowing the “proper technique for feeding helps, as well as frequent burping.”
Enfamil has been a go-to for years, and this is as much a go-to for sensitivity. This hypoallergenic formula is made for lactose intolerance. If your baby has got an allergy to cow’s milk, look no further. Enfamil’s alternative leaves in all of the good— including DHA and ARA for brain and eye development.
One mom we know whose baby had major allergy issues due to a dairy allergy swore by this one!
Similac’s Pro-Total Comfort is an easy to find solution for gas and fussiness. This gentler formula is easy to digest and could be the quick switch your bb needs for happier mealtime. These Ready-To-Feed bottles mean you’re ready, no powder mixing, no measuring, nada. Grab your nipples (have them on hand), screw them on and give a good shake. For visits to grandma or playdates at the park, you can be ready as soon as you hear the first cry for food.
Organic is a yes, but bb is a little sensitive? Here’s the combo you’ve been needing by Earth’s Best— Organic Low Lactose Sensitivity Formula. The reduced lactose helps with fussiness, gas and crying. Less sensitivity means happy baby and happier you, of course. This has all the good stuff that makes Earth’s Best beloved, including Omega-3 DHA, Omega-6 ARA, iron, lutein and those prebiotics all babies (especially sensitive ones) need. This will get you through the first year of full-time feeding or supplementing.
Best European Brand Baby Formula:
Dr. Alice reminds us that although she knows Germany’s brand seems to be the forerunner at the moment, “we have many different specialty formulas here (you can now get a goat’s milk in powder form here at home).” When asked if the Euro brands are better, she said, “The thing is—do we hear (or truly investigate) past the hype?” Hmmm….valid point.
HiPP Hypoallergenic formula Combiotic 1 is made for babies from birth onwards— whether as a supplement or full time formula. This made -in- Germany formula follows the strict European guidelines. Within that you can count on all of the nutrients you DO want while skipping all the ingredients you don’t (no added sugars). It is wheat, gluten, and peanut free. Non-GMO, of course.
Mom Jing said, “I personally prefer non US brands for many reasons. I used Holle for my 1st child and Hipp for the 2nd, both as add-ons at 8 [months] and onwards as I started to wean.”
Another European brand (100% made in Germany) high on our list is Holle. This brand is known for their holistic, sustainable production (their milk comes from cows raised on biodynamic Demeter farms). This is the highest European quality formula you can get for bb up to 6 months. No starch, no gluten, no soy and no corn syrup, it’s got all the good without any of the bad.
Alison P said, “I was unable to breastfeed and used Holle formula. It’s organic and from Germany. I was told it’s the closest formula to breast milk. My baby did really amazing on it!”
Best Formula For Toddlers
We get it: Sometimes toddlers need a boost, too. Maybe they’re finicky eaters or food allergies or sensitivities prevent them from eating a fully balanced diet. For that, you’ll want a toddler-specific formula to round things out.
Have a picky eater on your hands? How about a tot with allergies that restrict certain foods from their diet? Fill in the gaps with a formula that’s specifically designed for toddlers over 12 months old. This clean formula is plant-based and contains no hormones, GMOs, or antibiotics; it’s also free of common allergens including dairy, soy, and gluten (it’s also corn syrup and cruelty-free). With over 250 5-star reviews on Amazon, most buyers agree: This stuff is good.