We spent more than 60 hours researching formulas, interviewing pediatricians and other experts, and reading more than 20 scientific studies and journal articles. And we learned that all FDA-approved formulas made for healthy, full-term infants are safe and nutritionally adequate for normal growth and development from birth through the first year. We then analyzed the ingredients of more than 60 formulas to find the ones that we think offer the best combination of evidence-backed benefits and value.
Due to the ongoing formula shortage, several baby formulas are out of stock, including many of the picks in this guide. If you’re searching for formula, here’s what you should know about switching formula brands and types.
When formulas are widely available, we recommend Costco’s Kirkland Signature ProCare Non-GMO Infant Formula, Sam’s Club’s Member’s Mark Infant, and Target’s Up & Up Advantage Infant Formula—all generic options that are just as nutritious as brand-name versions but much less expensive. We also recommend the generic Parent’s Choice Tender Infant Formula (the least expensive true “gentle” formula we’ve found), Up & Up Hypoallergenic Infant Formula (the least expensive hypoallergenic formula we’ve found), and Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula (an affordable organic formula). And we have information about FDA-regulated “European-style” formulas, as well as what to know about so-called toddler formula for older babies (in short, medical experts say it’s unnecessary).
Babies can have individual needs. Consider these recommendations as a starting point, and check out our full list of formulas for even more options. If you’re looking for other baby-feeding gear, consult our guide to the best baby bottles (and bottle brush).
Kirkland Signature ProCare Non-GMO Infant Formula
This Costco formula is as effective as any other traditional formula. Lactose (the same sugar that’s in human milk) is the only carbohydrate. And the formula has many of the same potentially beneficial extra ingredients found in much more expensive formulas.
Because traditional formulas are all required to meet the same basic nutritional standards, we looked for the most affordable formulas that offer the most additional potential benefits. Costco’s Kirkland Signature ProCare Non-GMO Infant Formula (about 50¢ per ounce, and slightly less if you’re a Costco member) uses lactose, the sugar naturally found in human milk (breast milk). And this formula provides many of the same extra nutrients you’ll find in formulas that cost two or three times as much.
Member’s Mark Infant
This Sam’s Club formula also uses lactose as its only carbohydrate. And it has several potentially beneficial extra ingredients found in much more expensive formulas.
Sam’s Club’s Member’s Mark Infant (around 50¢ per ounce, and a little less if you’re a Sam’s Club member) includes expert-recommended ingredients, such as lactose (the carbohydrate found in human milk), as well as a few desirable extras. This formula is also sold as Up & Up Infant, Parent’s Choice Premium Infant, and Mama Bear Infant, among others, so it’s easy to find.
Up & Up Advantage Infant Formula
This Target formula also uses lactose as its sole carbohydrate, and it has many of the same extra nutrients as formulas that cost twice as much.
Though slightly more expensive than our main picks, Up & Up Advantage (around 60¢ per ounce) is still one of the least expensive formulas we found. Unlike our main picks, this formula is available in a smaller, 35-ounce size. It’s also sold in grocery and drugstore chains, as CVS Advantage, Sam’s Club Advantage, and Walgreens Advantage, among others, as well as online as Amazon’s Mama Bear Advantage, so it’s also easy to find.
Parent’s Choice Tender Non-GMO Infant Formula
Walmart’s formula is made with all partially hydrolyzed whey protein, which may be easier for some babies to digest than the intact milk proteins used in our traditional formula picks. It includes several extra nutrients also found in more expensive formulas.
Most babies do well on traditional formula, but if a pediatrician recommends giving your baby a “gentle,” “tender,” or partially hydrolyzed formula (containing partly broken-down milk proteins, which may be easier for some babies to digest), we suggest the generic Parent’s Choice Tender (around 60¢ per ounce). At two-thirds the price of brand-name formulas, it’s the cheapest partially hydrolyzed formula we found. But it has many of the same potentially beneficial additives as much more expensive brands.
Up & Up Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
Target’s formula is made with extensively hydrolyzed casein proteins and is typically appropriate for babies who have certain diagnoses, like cow’s-milk protein allergy.
If your doctor recommends a hypoallergenic formula, Up & Up Hypoallergenic Infant Formula is equivalent to Enfamil Nutramigen and Similac Alimentum but available at a fraction of the price (roughly $1.46 per ounce). It’s also non-GMO and kosher. It’s the same as other store-brand hypoallergenic formulas, including CVS Health Hypoallergenic Infant Formula, Mama Bear Hypoallergenic Infant Formula, Walgreens Well Beginnings Hypoallergenic Infant Formula, and Parent’s Choice Hypoallergenic Infant Formula, among others.
Earth’s Best Organic Dairy Infant Formula
Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula is the least expensive organic formula we found that uses lactose as its sole carbohydrate and also includes many potentially beneficial extra nutrients.
If you want a formula made from USDA-certified organic ingredients, we recommend Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula (around $1.15 per ounce). It’s the least expensive organic formula we found that has lactose as its only carbohydrate, and it contains extra nutrients.