ABCs of Formula

While breastfeeding has been widely cited as the best practice for feeding babies, some mothers may not have this option due to post-partum depression, inability to produce milk, lack of milk production, premature birth, pain, mother’s need to take medication, the list goes on and on. Therefore, it is important to know all the facts about the various formula types on the market. There are three main types: cow’s milk formula, soy-based formula and protein hydrolysate formula.

Cow’s milk formula: This is the most common and popular formula, but some babies are allergic to a type of protein found in cow’s milk.

Soy-based formula: Although less common, this is a good option for babies who may be lactose intolerant or for parents who want to exclude animal products from their babies’ diet.

Hydrolysate formula: This is known as “hypoallergenic formula” and is for babies who are allergic to both cow’s milk and soy products. It is easier to digest, but also a bit more pricey.

Other Things to Consider

  • It can be easy to overfeed a baby on formula so be sure to look for cues that the baby is full.
  • Make sure that the environment is sterile when preparing bottles.
  • Plastic or glass bottles.
  • Don’t use expired formula.

A New Study

A recent study conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia tracked infants from 0.5 to 7.5 months of age. They were randomly assigned a formula type, cow’s milk or protein hydrolysate, and were weighed and measured each month. Interestingly, those fed the hydrolysate formula ate less than those fed cow’s milk formula. They also found that infants fed cow’s milk formula gained more weight at a faster rate than infants fed the protein hydrolysate formula. Though more research is needed, it was found that it was easier for infants to digest the protein hydrolysate formula and they gained less weight than those on the cow’s milk formula.

The Take-Away:

Experts agree that breast feeding is the healthiest option for babies, but not all mothers are able to breast feed. If you decide to use formula, it is important to know the differences and discuss feeding options with your doctor.


Infant formula: your questions answered. (2010). Retrieved from:

Mennella, J. A., Ventura, A. K., and Beauchamp, G.K. (2010). Differential Growth Patterns Among Healthy Infants Fed Protein Hydrolysate or Cow-Milk Formulas. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from:

Neighmond, P. (2011). Some baby formulas may cause faster weight gain. National Public radio. Retrieved from: