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How to Buy: Baby Formula

Premade or concentrate? Soy-based or lactose-free? Get the lowdown on all the questions to ask yourself when it comes to buying formula.

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If breastfeeding isn’t in the cards for you, the formula aisle is your next stop. With all the different forms and types of formula it can seem pretty overwhelming at first, but with a little patience and your pediatrician’s help, things will fall into place.

Formula comes in three main forms: premade, concentrate, and powder.

Premade
While premade is the easiest type of formula to prepare (premade = no preparation), it’s also the most expensive and will take up lots of room on your shelves. You might want to splurge on a few cans for those moments when you just don’t have the time or energy to mix another bottle.

Concentrate
This liquid form needs to be mixed with equal parts water. It’s easier to prepare than powdered formula, but also more expensive.

Powdered
Most parents go this route -- it’s cheapest, as well as the most eco-friendly. It’s also very easy to transport and store, although it takes longer to prepare. And there’s the added benefit of being able to mix exactly as much as you need.

There are tons of different types of formula (soy-based, lactose-free, protein-hydrolyzed…and the list goes on). Generally, though, a cow’s-milk based formula is safe to start with unless your doctor says otherwise.

Some things to consider for powdered formula users:

Water
Mix with fluoride-free water until your baby is 6 months old. Most bottled water will do.

Mixing
Shake well! Unless you’re into undissolved formula clumps on the sides of your bottles…yuck. 

Mixing pitchers
Use these to mix a day’s worth of formula at a time, and to help reduce air and bubbles. 

Premeasured packets
This saves you from having to measure out each time you mix, though it also creates more garbage. For on-the-go moms, these are great to keep in the diaper bag.

Travel
Pack your diaper bag with premeasured amounts of water and formula. Then, when it’s time to feed, just mix the two. Bottles that come with caps are great, because you can remove the nipple and just leave the cap on when you shake to prevent anything from getting caught in the nipple and clogging it up.

Lifespan
After formula’s been prepared, it’s good for two hours out of the fridge. Toss any formula left in the bottle after a feeding.

-- Paula Kashtan

See More: Baby Registry , Baby Gear , Bottlefeeding