Of course, breastmilk is best for just about all babies.
So when choosing a baby formula, you should first think about the more important choice of whether to breastfeed or give formula.
If you are thinking about a formula to use to supplement your breastfeeding baby or because breastfeeding isn't going well, try to get some help from your Pediatrician or a lactation consultant before you start giving your baby formula.
Choosing a Baby Formula
Once you decide that you are going to feed your baby formula, you have the difficult choice of which one to use.
If you include all of the different store brands of formula, there are literally 100's of different formulas to choose from.
What makes them all different?
What should influence your choice?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that all infant formulas are regulated by the FDA and so the 'safety and nutritional quality of infant formulas are ensured by requiring that manufacturers follow specific procedures in manufacturing infant formulas.' Under the Infant Formula Act, all formulas marketed in the United States must meet minimum nutrient requirements.
So any baby formula you buy should be safe and provide all of the nutrition your baby needs.
Each formula company has their own proprietary formulation or 'recipe' for making their formula, so all baby formulas aren't the same though.
Baby Formula Prices
In addition to having different 'recipes,' it is easy to see that the various brands of baby formula have different prices.
Should you let price influence your choice of buying a formula?
Sure. Buying baby formula is a significant cost for a family (and highlights one of the benefits of breastfeeding), so you should consider the price of a formula when making a choice of which one to buy.
That doesn't mean that you should simply buy the most expensive or the cheapest formula though. Just keep in mind that since all brands of baby formula must meet the minimum nutrient requirements of the FDA, a more expensive formula isn't necessarily 'better' than a cheaper formula.
And would you feel more comfortable buying a store brand formula, which are generally less expensive than name brand formulas, like Enfamil Lipil, Similac Advance, or Nestle Good Start Supreme, if they simply raised the price a few dollars?
Baby Formula Differences
There aren't really any convincing studies that prove that one formula is better than another, so you kind of have to go by what the formula companies say about their 'recipes' and see what works for you.
Among the major brands of formula:
Enfamil Lipil is one of the latest formulas from Mead Johnson, which 'has been dedicated to patterning infant formula after the nutritional composition of breast milk.' It provides a 'whey-to-casein ratio of 60:40. Just like breast milk' and they claim that 'no other formula is closer to breast milk than Enfamil LIPIL.'
Nestle Good Start Supreme contains 100% whey, partially hydrolyzed 'comfort proteins' that are supposed to be easier to digest. It is also supposed to have a faster gastric emptying time, which may help children with reflux, and promote soft stools, which may help infants who are constipated. Instead of creating a formula that is like breastmilk in composition, they seem to be trying to make a formula that behaves like breastmilk.
Similac Advance is made without palm olein oil, which they claim helps their formula promote increased calcium absorption and greater bone mineralization. Similac Advance also contains 'special breast milk nutrients called nucleotides' that are supposed 'to help support the development of a baby's immune system,' however, even their website says that 'whether this development provides immune protection like breast milk has not been shown.' And all formulas contain nucleotides.
Store Brand Formula, like from Albertsons (Baby Basics), Target (Healthy Baby), and Wal-mart (Parent's Choice), are made by Wyeth Nutrition and are based on the old SMA formula. They provide a 'nutritionally complete, sensibly priced formula option' for parents.