Buying Baby Formula

Ensuring your baby receives the best nutrition available is a priority for all parents. This baby formula guide offers tips and factors to consider when deciding which baby formula is ideal for your little one.

Baby Formula 101: How to buy the right formula

Formula is a great way to give your baby the nourishment he or she needs for healthy growth, or to supplement breast-feeding. Factors to consider before buying formula include your child’s feeding experience, developmental stage, dietary needs and response to feeding. Baby formula also comes in several different formats: some offer value-sized savings, while others can save you time on formula preparation. Of course, the final approval rests with your baby. Experimenting with the different types of formula, and noting your baby’s response, will ultimately determine which formula balance best suits your child.

Types of Baby Formula



Formula with cow’s milk as its main ingredient is the most common type available on the market. While most cow’s milk is indigestible by babies until their first birthday, the protein of the milk in the formula is altered to make it much easier to digest. This type will work best for most infants, as it possesses the ideal amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats – everything that your baby needs.


Some parents choose soy-based formula for cultural, religious or health reasons. If your family is vegan or your infant cannot process milk, soy-based formulas are a great alternative. Just like in cow’s milk-based formula, the protein has been modified to make it easier on the young digestive system. One important note: half of babies who are allergic to milk are also allergic to soy, so it’s still a good idea to carefully monitor your baby’s digestive health throughout any transitions.

Lactose-Reduced or Lactose-Free

Although rare, some babies can suffer from lactose intolerance. In these situations, a family doctor can recommend a formula in which the lactose is replaced with an alternative type of sugar, such as corn syrup.

Thickened Formula

This formula is helpful for infants that spit up frequently (more than four times per day). The formula is designed to thicken in the stomach to help your infant keep the formula down.

Amino Acid-based Formula

This specialized formula requires doctor supervision. It is for infants who have physician-confirmed severe cow’s milk protein allergies and/or multiple allergies.

Extensively Hydrolyzed Cow’s Milk Protein Formula

This specialized formula is appropriate for infants who have physician-confirmed cow’s milk protein allergy or malabsorption syndromes. Usage requires doctor supervision. 

Specialized Development

There are a wide range of alternative formulas that support specific aspects of your child’s development. These include metabolic boosters, formula for low-birth-weight and premature newborns, and formula that uses the mother’s own milk (especially good for infants with developmental disorders). If your baby has special requirements of any kind, it is even more important to speak with your doctor about the best nutritional strategy.

Preterm Formula

This type of formula requires doctor supervision. It is specifically designed with extra calories and increased nutrient levels that are important for the growth and development of preterm or low birth weight infants.

Baby Formula Formats



These formulas are easy and convenient to prepare — simply unseal the bottle and serve. There’s no mixing required, which cuts back on the preparation time, but that also means that you can’t balance the consistency to suit your infant’s needs if necessary. Also, ready-to-use formula has a 48 hour shelf life and needs to be consumed soon after being opened.  Ready-to-use formula is also an ideal option for traveling, or when access to quality drinking water is not readily available.

Liquid Concentrate

This requires a mix of equal parts water and formula. Always carefully read the instructions before mixing. Less convenient than pre-mixed formula but less labour-intensive than powdered, liquid concentrate offers a happy medium between effort and price.


Powdered formula requires careful preparation and strict adherence to the manufacturer’s directions. This attention to detail has advantages: powdered formula can last up to a month after opening, takes up relatively little cupboard space, and you can prepare as little or as much as needed. This last benefit is especially useful to breastfeeding moms who simply want to supplement their own milk.

Formula Dos and Don’ts

  • DO sterilize bottles, nipples and equipment
  • DO follow the preparation instructions on the formula package carefully
  • DO use the formula before the expiration date on the label
  • DO wash your hands before handling baby bottles or feeding your baby
  • DO throw away any unused formula left in a bottle after a feeding. Germs and bacteria from your baby’s saliva can live and breed in the warm liquid.
  • DON’T heat formula in a microwave. The microwave creates an uneven temperature in the liquid that could burn your baby’s mouth.
  • DON’T put cereal in a bottle. It could cause choking.
  • DON’T leave your baby to feed unattended by propping up the bottle. It could make the baby choke.
  • DON’T let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his/her mouth. This can cause tooth decay. If your baby falls asleep while feeding, gently remove the bottle from your baby’s mouth.

Baby Formula Features

Proteins +

Natural human breast milk contains roughly 40% casein protein and 60% whey protein. Many formulas contain similar protein ratios, though some can contain up to 100% whey protein. Soy-based formulas contain soy protein isolate, and many brands have partially-hydrolyzed soy protein for better digestibility.

DHA & ARA (Omega-3 & 6) +

DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and ARA (an omega-6 fatty acid) are both long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (considered the “good” kinds of fat) that may be important building blocks of brain and eye tissues. The brain and nervous tissue undergo the most rapid growth from the last trimester of pregnancy to about the first 18 months of life. During this time, a good supply of fatty acids is helpful to meet these needs for growth.

Probiotics +

Probiotics (considered “good bacteria”) are live microorganisms which can provide health benefits to your infant. Probiotics naturally contribute to baby’s healthy digestive tract flora and are found naturally in breast milk.

Carbohydrates +

The primary carbohydrate in both natural breast milk and formula is lactose. Some formulas also use corn maltodextrin as a secondary source of carbohydrates. Some specialized formulas (lactose-free or soy-based types for example) may contain additional carbohydrates like modified corn starch, corn-based solids and sucrose.

Fats +

Natural breast milk contains a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat. Baby formulas employ a wide range of different oils to match this important fat content. These can include palm oil, soy oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil.

Vitamins and Minerals +

The vitamin and mineral content of formula can be found on the packaging. It is recommended that infants who are not breast-fed receive an iron-rich diet, which many formulas can accommodate.

Feeding Cues & Concerns

Feeding your baby is an important task for a new parent. Apart from giving your baby the nourishment he or she needs, feeding can be a special bonding experience. There can be some challenges though, so here are some symptoms to record. Any concerns that you may have specific to your child’s health should be discussed with your treating physician.
  • Satis­fied after eating
  • Sleeping well
  • Lots of wet/poopy diapers
  • Spitting up
  • Vomiting after feeding
  • Stomach pain
  • Excessive gas
  • Seems hungry after feeding
  • Fussy and crying at the beginning or end of feeding
  • Colicky behavior
  • Isn’t gaining weight (after 2 weeks)
  • Isn’t wetting ­ five to six diapers a day
  • A rash, hives or eczema
  • Is gagging or gulping formula
  • Trouble sucking from the bottle
  • Won’t take a bottle
  • Constipation, or stool is unusually hard
  • Diarrhea, or stool is loose, watery or foul smelling
  • Stool that is mucus-like and mixed with blood

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How to prepare ready-to-feed & liquid concentrate

Always carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions before preparing any formula. Boil and cool any water before mixing with liquid concentrate formula to ensure a safe, hygienic mix. Never add any additional water to ready-to-use formula.

Storage Tips

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when storing baby formula
  • Secure lid tightly and store powdered formula in a cool, dry place
  • Refrigerate unused formula at 4° C (39° F) or below
  • Refrigerate unused ready-to-serve formula after opening and discard after 48 hours
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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