Find the right formula

Q: Which baby formula should we choose?

A: Though the formula options available on store shelves can be dizzying — organic, iron-fortified, non-GMO, probiotic- and DHA/AHA-enhanced — the good news is, the major “brand name” formulas contain all the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed for healthy infant growth and development. 

Adequate iron is included in all formulas at this time — and that’s a good thing because the mineral is actually very important for brain development. 

Many of the major store brands — such as Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, CVS — are also manufactured by the major established companies. 

Standard infant formulas should be used until a year of age, at which time toddler-designated formulas can be used if desired, although most toddlers are ready to transition to milk by the time they reach 12 months.

Choosing among the more specialized features of infant formulas really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

DHA/AHA fatty acids are an essential component of all infant formula, but it isn’t known if the enhanced levels (heavily promoted on some formulas) really enhance infant brain development.

On the other hand, these enhanced levels shouldn’t cause any problems, so some parents may prefer to buy them. 

Probiotic-enhanced formulas are especially helpful if an infant is recovering from a course of diarrhea, and they may also be of some help if a child is taking antibiotics. 

Beyond that, it isn’t known if the probiotic enhancement is needed or is of benefit. 

Organic, non-GMO and other features of individual formulas are also a matter of personal preference. Their overall contribution to healthy infant growth and development isn’t fully known and hasn’t been thoroughly studied.


Dr. Peter Dehnel is a board-certified pediatrician and medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Send questions to drdehnel@mnparent.com. This column is intended to provide general information only and not medical advice. Contact your health care provider with questions about your child.