The Indiana Jones Guide to Finding the Right Baby Formula

I’ve been asked to become a Similac StrongMoms Ambassador to share formula tips with parents.  In fact, they’re sponsoring this post and provided me with research.  My opinions, like encouraging all moms to give breastfeeding a try, are completely my own.  Enjoy!

The Indiana Jones Guide to Finding the Right Baby Formula -

Sometimes I like to daydream over what the “unwritten” chapters of a beloved character’s ho-hum everyday life would look like.

For example:  how would Harry Potter change diapers?

Would he “leviosah” everything away?  Or actually get his hands dirty?

Who did Yoda’s laundry?  Was there a neglected “Mrs. Yoda” tucked away, all neglected and bitter, using the Force to spike his coffee with ex-lax?

What does it look like when Marianne sends Indiana Jones to the grocery store to purchase baby formula?

I can clearly see him, in his weathered fedora, studiously examining the enemy of all parental confidence: too many choices.

*extreme close-up of sweaty pores*

He moves closer, looking up at the wall of cannisters about to tip over and crush him. (He’s an action hero. Danger lurks everywhere…)

It’s tottering…the music is swelling….

At the last minute he wraps his whip over a ceiling beam and swings through, grabbing the first Similac can he spots.

*dun da-da-DAAA dun da-dunnnn*

It’s so much more exciting than the usual close-your-eyes-and-point method of choosing a baby formula.

Unfortunately, we all can’t be whip masters. *grumblegrumble*

So in today’s post, I’m going to guide you straight to your baby’s Holy Grail.  

No snakes.

No bugs.

No rats.

No problem.

Choosing the Right Baby Formula Step 1:

Finding the Right Baby Formula:
Start in the Right Spot

The first step in deciphering our Grail Map is to start in the right spot.  What’s the “right spot”?  Exactly the way your life is, right now.

Which form of formula would serve your family best?

  • Are you a working mom?  Do you need convenience over cost?
  • Are you on a tight budget?  Is cost your biggest formula consideration?
  • Is your baby the Gestapo of Gas?  Is there a medical condition that’s driving your option cart?

You’ve got three options:  ready-to-feed, concentrated liquid, and powder.

Ready to Feed Baby Formulas

This is a great time for you to break out your paper and pencil.  These instructions can get pretty confusing. (Don’t worry, I’ll wait.)

*humming Elsa’s Let It Go*

Okay.  Poise that pencil, darlin’, and try to keep up.

  1. Open container.
  2. Pour into bottle.

Finger cramping yet?  *concerned face*

The Ready-to-Feed baby formulas (often referred to as RTF) are great for parents who are go-go-GO.  If the thought of stopping to do the “powder and mix” thing causes you to burst out into stressed-out tears, the RTF solution may be exactly what you need.

They are also GREAT for when you are traveling and need a quick-shut-up-the-baby solution (like on airplane) or want to stay in a semi-unconscious state during nighttime feedings.  (Yes, please!)

Powdered Baby Formula

The most common starting point for formulas is the powdered version.  It’s the cheapest way to buy formula in bulk and lasts the longest on the shelf.

I’m guessing 101% of you reading this already know about powdered formula, so I’m going to move on.  (The extra 1% is for my ghost readers.)

Concentrated Baby Formula

Concentrated baby formulas are different than the RTF formulas in that they are super-de-duper (your technical term of the day) thick.  You’ve got to add water to thin it out.

Why choose the more-expensive concentrated over powdered? After all, they both require water.  The easy answer is this: no bubbles.

Ask any parent who’s struggled with the Gas Gestapo and you’ll hear what a big difference “no bubbles” can make.

Choosing the Right Baby Formula - Understand the Ingredients

Finding the Right Baby Formula:
Understand the Ingredients

One of the biggest surprises regarding infant formulas is that not all formulas for infant formulas are the same.  (Man, that was fun to type.  Go ahead.  Read it again.)

Baby formula is like a tower of Legos.  The red Legos are carbohydrates, the blue are proteins, yellow are fat, orange are minerals, and the green are bonus nutrients (like lipids).

Line five people up with the same number of colored Legos and I will guarantee that when they’re finished, they’ll have five completely different Lego buildings.

The FDA regulates how many “Legos” should be in every baby formula bucket (in fact, here’s their latest report).  They don’t, however hand out specific building instructions on how every “Formula Tower” is going to look.


Because everything is awesome there is no single formula that every baby will react to in exactly the same way.

When it comes to infant formulas, variety is more than just the spice of life.  It is the lifeline that keeps the parents of fussy babies going.  It’s the light at the end of a very long tunnel of upset tummies.

Some baby formulas have extra nutrients (you know, the green Legos) that other formulas don’t have.  For example, Similac formulas have Lutein (a carotenoid vitamin found in kale, broccoli and other green veggies) that helps in vision development. 

Choosing the Right Baby Formula - Watch the Water Source

Finding the Right Baby Formula:
Watch the Water Source

Most U.S. doctors would say that city tap water is safe to use for powdered and concentrated formulas.  If you are living on well-water, or live in a 3rd world nation, it’s a good idea to boil your water first or purchase water.

Despite a valiant marketing campaign, Nursery Water is, in fact, not for babies and should never be used to mix formula.  Read more about this surprising truth.

Here’s the low-down on what these popular water terms actually mean:

Drinking Water ~ Tap water from the city that’s in a bottle. (Read: WASTE OF MONEY.)

Purified Water ~ Water that comes from anywhere, but has been purified to remove chemicals or contaminants. The negative here is that in that process, some of the beneficial minerals may have been removed as well.

Distilled Water ~ Water that’s gone through a rigorous filtration process to strip it of contaminants and any natural minerals. Good for small appliances (like steam irons) because it won’t eventually create that crust you have to clean up. It’s purified water amped up to 11.

Spring Water ~ Water that is brought up from an underground source and may or may not have been treated and purified.

Choosing the Right Baby Formula - Time for Trial and Error

Finding the Right Baby Formula:
Time for Trial and Error

This is, by far, the hardest part of the journey.

You take the bottle.

You feed your baby.

And then you wait to see if…

You Chose Poorly

Sometimes that happens within a day or two.

Sometimes it can take a week.

The longer you wait before switching, the more confident you can be that these issues are formula related and not something else!  Try to last a week between switches, if you can.

I highly recommend keeping a feeding journal (and sleeping, but that’s for another article…) so you can look back and see if you notice any changes in his poops or temperament.

This way you’ll have written-down proof, and not just zombie-tired “recollections,” to share with your doctor as you start making formula adjustments.

Finding the Right Baby Formula...Age Matters

Finding the Right Baby Formula:
Age Matters

The final clue necessary in your Quest for the Holy Grail of baby formulas is your baby’s age.

Different ages have different nutritional needs, so it’s a good idea to make sure the formula you’re using is created with your baby’s age range in mind.

If you’re still feeling a bit like a damsel in distress about this whole “choose a baby formula” thing, The Formula Finder will sweep you off your feet for sure.  Just answer a few basic questions and it will pick out a good formula for you to start with.  Easy peasy.

All this talk about the Holy Grail of infant formulas has made me curious.

What was your experience with choosing a baby formula?

  • Did you scoop it up on the first try?
  • Or did you get run over by a few boulders first?

Meet Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor

Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007.  She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like,, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others.  If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.  


 I ♥ honesty. Affiliate links may be present. (See what this means.)

These suggestions were provided by the Nationally-syndicated pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard, “The Kid’s Doctor”.  Dr. Hubbard is a member of the Pediatric Associates of Dallas.  She’s been practicing medicine for 20 years and has her medical degree from The University of Texas Health Science Center Medical School, where she graduated with honors and was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honors medical fraternity.  Dr. Hubbard has an agreement to serve as a subject matter expert on behalf of Similac, who sponsored this post. 

The Indiana Jones Guide to Finding the Right Baby Formula

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  1. We tried several different formulas, all powdered. Our doctor had a bunch of samples and no other babies in his practice at the time, so I went home from the visit where he told me to start supplementing due to insufficient milk supply with a dozen of those sample cans (the ones that are something like 400 g). I don’t think we had to actually purchase formula until a couple months after we started supplementing, between those samples and the ones we got in the mail. We tried Nestle (=bright green poop, lots of gas, and she wasn’t keen on the taste) and Similac (both regular and sensitive). Eventually we ended up with the Costco brand of formula, since other than the gassiness we ran into with Nestle, our daughter didn’t seem to care much about the kind of formula she drank, and cost was a consideration for us. She’s had the sensitive formula when it was on sale, and the regular formula most of the rest of the time. We never got around to trying Enfamil and never needed to try the non-dairy kinds.

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