There are really two parts to this question: Which type of infant formula is right for my baby, and which brand should I use?
Which Type of Formula?
Which type of formula largely depends on the stage of development of your baby but there are other factors which you may want to take into account. Here is a list of the types available:
Preterm formula is for babies who are premature or have a low birth weight. This formula is densely packed with nutrients to enable the baby to get the nourishment it needs from a smaller volume of milk.
First Stage formula is suitable from birth and is designed to be a good replacement for breast milk. Most brands are based on modified cow's milk and contain all the necessary nutrients whilst being easily digestible for young babies. It can be used until your baby is 12 months old, but is generally only used up until parents begin to wean their baby at 6 months.
Hungry Baby Formula - is for hungrier babies and contains a different balance of proteins which help make your baby feel fuller for longer. It can be useful if a baby is too young to wean but whose hunger is not satisfied by First Stage formula.
Follow on formula milk is designed to nutritionally support infants of around six months while they are being weaned. The milk is mostly based on modified cow's milk and is supplemented with protein, vitamins, pre-biotics and minerals to help promote healthy digestion.
Soya-based formula milk can be used for babies and infants who have an intolerance of or are allergic to cow's milk. It is made from soya beans and contains protein, vitamins and minerals. It should only be used after consultation with your midwife or doctor as it may not be suitable for all babies.
Cow's milk is not suitable for babies and infants under 12 months. This is because cow's milk contains complex proteins which are difficult for younger babies to digest.
There are many different brands on the market now and supermarket shelves can be very confusing. In the UK the production of formula milk is very heavily regulated so whichever brand you choose you can be confident that it will be safe for your baby. It really is a case of 'suck it and see' as tastes and consistencies vary and your baby will prefer some brands to others. Although, on the whole most parents find that they stick with the first brand that they go with. Cost doesn't play too much of a part in making a choice as the costs don't tend to differ too much between brands. Some manufacturers make formula that is thicker than others so that less air is taken in with the milk which could be a good choice if your baby suffers from Colic. Other brands are organically produced which may be your choice if you are concerned about chemicals and additives.
If you are in any doubt as to the correct type or brand to use, ask your midwife for further advice.