If you are an expectant or a new mother, you may have heard the phrase “breast is best”.
While it is true that the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, World Health Organization and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend breastfeeding your baby for at least the first 6 months of their life and up to 2 years or more after introducing solid foods, it’s not an option for some mothers.
When should I use formula?
Not all mothers have the option of taking a year off of work to take care of her baby, and some may simply not want to. In that case, breastfeeding is not possible if the mother needs to be away from home for several hours during the day.
Some women may also experience hormonal shifts after giving birth that affect their ability to produce breast milk, and others have medical conditions that prevent them from being able to breastfeed.
In some cases, a baby may have specific or additional nutritional needs that the mother is unable to provide with her breast milk alone, and may require the added nutrients provided in some infant formulas.
Whatever your reasons may be for formula-feeding your baby, a fed baby is what matters. In some cases, breastfeeding just isn’t practical or possible, and as a mother you must do what is best for both you and your baby.
Today’s infant formulas are very comparable to breast milk, and with so many options available, you will be able to find one that works well for your baby and your budget. If you are considering formula feeding, consult with your doctor first about what the best approach is for your child.
Types of baby formula
There are three major types of infant formula available:
Cow milk protein-based formulas are the most common, and are made from milk that has been altered to resemble breast milk. It contains the right balance of nutrients, and most babies are able to digest it easily. However, some babies are allergic to dairy and therefore need a different type.
Soy-based formulas are a non-dairy option for parents who do not want to include animal products in their baby’s diet. They may also be an option for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk, however it is not uncommon for babies to be allergic to both soy and dairy.
Protein hydro isolate formulas are an option for babies who are allergic to soy and dairy. The protein in these formulas has been hydrolyzed, or broken down into smaller pieces, making them easier to digest.
There are also specialized formulas available for babies who have specific dietary requirements or special medical conditions. Be sure to talk with your doctor before purchasing to ensure you are buying the best formula for your child.
Additional nutrients and proteins are added into some brands of baby formula. Many are fortified with iron to aid in muscle growth and bone strength, and some may include DHA and ARA, which are omega-3 fatty acids that are important for healthy brain and eye development.
Some also include prebiotics and probiotics to help with digestion, however these are already present in breast milk, so they are not necessary if you are using formula as a supplement to regular breastfeeding.
How to choose a baby formula?
Baby formula is tightly regulated, so all products and brands sold in Canada must contain a minimum amount of recommended nutrients that an infant needs. Mothers can be confident knowing that whatever product they choose, their baby will be receiving proper basic nutrition. It is always important to talk with your doctor about what formula you should look for, particularly if your baby has specific nutritional needs.
Always make sure you check the expiry date, and avoid buying large quantities in case your baby develops an intolerance, so that you don’t end up throwing away formula.
How much does baby formula cost?
One of the downsides to using formula as opposed to breast milk is the cost, and for many parents price is a primary consideration as baby expenses pile up quickly.
Store brand formula cost
The average newborn will drink about $35 to $69 of store brand formula per month and a baby will drink $43 to $95 of formula per month for a total of $500 to $1,088 in its first year.
Name brand formula cost
The average newborn will drink about $81 to $158 of name brand formula per month and a baby will drink $99 to $217 of formula per month for a total of $1,152 to $2,486 in its first year.
Most manufacturers use the same recipe: 1 scoop of powder for 60 ml of water. However, scoop sizes differ slightly from brand to brand. The Enfamil A+ scoop is 8.8 g, while the the Similac Total Comfort scoop is 8.4 g and Kirkland Omega+ is 8.6 g.
|Enfamil A+ (663g)||$0.045||$0.40|
|Similac Total Comfort (638g)||$0.047||$0.39|
|Kirkland Omega+ (1.36kg)||$0.02||$0.17|
Newborns (0 to 2 months) eat 410 ml to 800 ml of formula per day and babies (2 to 12 months) eat 500 ml to 1100 ml per day during their first year. The average cost of powder formula ranges from $2 per 100 g for a store brand to $4 per 100 g for a name brand.
|Newborn – low||410||$1.18||$35.26||$2.70||$80.93|
|Newborn – high||800||$2.29||$68.80||$5.26||$157.92|
|Baby – low||500||$1.43||$43.00||$3.29||$98.70|
|Baby – high||1100||$3.15||$94.60||$7.24||$217.14|
Types of formula preparation
Baby formula comes in 3 formats: Powder, liquid concentrate, and ready-to-use. They are the same from a nutritional standpoint, but the type you choose will depend on your budget, storage capacity, and time constraints.
- Powder: is the cheapest option, but it requires the most work to prepare. Since it is dry the powder can be stored for a long time without going bad, and needs to be mixed with water for your baby to drink.
- Liquid concentrate: is more expensive than powder, but is easier to prepare because it blends more readily with water than a dry powder. Once the container is open, however, it must be used within 24 hours.
- Ready-to-use: are the most convenient because they do not have to be mixed with water, however they are the most expensive.
Best organic – Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula (Milk)
- Container Size: 658g dry powder
- Cost/100g: $4.10
- Certified USDA organic and non-GMO
- No added corn syrup solids, glucose, or cane sugars
- Fortified with iron
- Contains omega-3 and omega-6
- Offers a gentle formula, a reduced lactose formula, and a plant-based soy formula
- Not always widely available
If organic ingredients are an important factor when you’re considering purchasing baby formula, Earth’s Best should be on your list. Designed to be as similar as possible to breast milk, it is made with no artificial growth hormones, and is one of the few products on the market that does not contain corn syrup or added sugars.
This formula contains high-quality ingredients, so you can be sure that your baby is getting protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals from good sources and in the right amounts to fuel their growing bodies.
This brand also makes a special formula for babies with sensitive tummies, as well as a lactose-free version and a plant-based soy formula.
Best for breastfed babies – Enfamil A+ Infant Formula
- Container Size: 663g dry powder
- Cost/100g: $4.97
- Closest formula to breast milk
- Enriched with DHA
- Helps to soften stools
- Easily digestible
Enfamil is the number-one most-recommended formula brand by pediatricians, and for good reason. This formula has been developed to closely resemble breast milk, and contains a good dose of the brain-building omega-3, DHA.
This formula also contains a blend of 2 dietary fibres (GOS and polydextrose), which have been shown to soften your baby’s stools to prevent constipation, and make the formula easier for them to digest.
The only downside to this product is the price, so if you are under a strict budget you may be better off looking for a similar store brand.
Best for gassy babies – Similac Total Comfort Infant Formula
- Container Size: 964g dry powder
- Cost/100g: $4.15
- Broken-down proteins for better digestion
- Contains DHA
- No artificial growth hormones or additives
- Unpleasant smell
Similac is one of the most trusted brands on the market for infant nutrition. This non-GMO formula contains all of the nutrition your baby requires during his or her first year of life, and is made with proteins that have been broken down to make them more easily digestible for your baby, which can help to reduce gas.
The Total Comfort formula can also help to promote healthy bowel movements for you infant, and reduce or prevent constipation.
One drawback to this formula, however, is the smell. The broken-down proteins in the product can often have a distinct odour that is not pleasant, so most mothers will choose a formula with hydrolyzed proteins only if their baby needs it.
Best for premature babies – Similac Neosure Formula
- Container Size: 363g dry powder
- Cost/100g: $4.67
- Higher amounts of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals
- Higher in calories
- Contains calcium and phosphorus for bone growth
- Contains corn syrup solids
Although Similac Neosure was designed for premature babies, it may also be a good option for your child if you are breastfeeding in the first six months of their life. This formula contains a higher amount of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals as your baby may be missing out on if you are unable to feed him or her with breast milk.
The downside to this product is that some of the added calories come from corn syrup solids, which many mothers prefer to avoid. The price of this product is high compared to other store brands, and this formula cannot be purchased in larger containers the way others can, which may be less convenient for some mothers.
Most affordable – Kirkland Signature Omega+ Infant Formula
- Container Size: 1.36kg dry powder
- Cost/100g: $2.06
- No artificial growth hormones
- Contains 2’-FL HMO
- Contains DHA and lutein
- Must have a Costco membership to purchase
This Kirkland formula is very comparable to other brand-name formulas, like Similac or Enfamil, but is half the cost. It can also be purchased in larger amounts, which means fewer trips to the grocery store.
It contains no GMOs or artificial growth hormones, as well as 2’-FL HMO, a prebiotic found in human breast milk that strengthens your baby’s immune system. It also provides a good dose of DHA and lutein, both of which support the healthy development of your baby’s brain and eyes.
Arguably the best part about this product is the price, since it is half the cost of most other name brand products on the market. The downside, however, is that you must have a Costco membership in order to buy it. Costco is an excellent resource for parents, as they can also buy many other baby supplies there in bulk, like diapers and other necessities, so it may be worth getting a membership while you’re raising young children.