When you’re a new parent, choosing a baby formula can feel overwhelming—and not just because you’re sleep-deprivedThere are so many options that it’s hard to know which product is best for your little one 

Well, there’s good news and even better news: First, baby formula is highly regulated, so it’s hard to make a bad decision. Second, the wide range of available choices means there’s a formula for every family. Truly, the best baby formula in Canada is the one that works for your family. Read on for seven great optionsincluding the draw and downside of each product, and details on why it might be right for you and your kiddo.

What type of baby formula are you looking for?

Best Liquid Concentrate Baby Formula

best liquid concentrate baby formula Canada, Enfamil A+

Ready-to-feed formulas have two major pros: There’s no mixing required, and the bottles are nipple ready. This means you won’t be worried about finding or carrying a sterile water source to mix with powdered or concentrated formula. Just toss the sealed bottle in your bag along with a pre-sterilized nipple to pop on when your little one gets hungry. No measuring, no mess! Like all regulated infant formulas, this one is nutritionally complete, so you can feel confident your baby is getting the nutrients they need. As long as you follow the instructions, any ready-to-feed formula will provide the nutrition your baby needs, but here are some reasons we like this one:

  • This formula contains a partly hydrolyzed protein blend patterned after breastmilk—meaning the proteins have already been partially broken down. (This is meant to make it easier to digest, but in Canada, all formulas are regulated to be easily digested[1] and we can’t say that it’s easier to digest[2].) It also has less lactose than other full-lactose, cow’s milk-based options.
  • All formulas in the Enfamil line have added DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that aids in brain development[3]. This formula option is completely sterile and ready to use at all times.

The Draw

Easy to use, especially while on the go. I switched from the regular Enfamil formula, which helped improve my son’s gassy stomach and diarrhea issues.

–Anonymous, Walmart customer

The Downside

Great for travelling when not sure of the quality of water. Very practical but not for everyday use—it goes fast!

–Happy mum, originally posted on enfamil.ca

Best Value Baby Formula

best value baby formula Canada, Similac Advance Step 1

Value is relative to so many things—the store, the brand, the type of formula. But the best way to determine bang for your buck is to break it down by the number of feedings per unit, or by the price per 100 millilitres (Walmart.ca does this for you—just look under the price of any formula before you add it to your cart). This liquid concentrate formula rings up at just $1.08 per 100 millilitres—when you consider that you’re mixing 1:1 formula and water, it’s easy to see how far it will stretch (at 120 millilitres per bottle, you’ll get close to 60!).

  • This formula comes in two stages (zero months and up and six to 24 months), in the same format. Both stages are enriched with DHA, meant to contribute to brain development[4], lutein for eye health[5] and antioxidant vitamin E[6].
  • All Similac Advance products are non-GMO, and made with milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones.
  • Liquid concentrate is easy to use. Once you’ve mixed it, it lasts for up to 24 hours in the fridge, so you can easily mix a day’s worth at a time[7].

The Draw

Love this formula! It’s very convenient to mix.

–Kim705, Walmart customer

The Downside

I find this cheaper than powder! It’s convenient at home, [though] not as convenient when you travel.

–National321, Walmart customer

Best Formula for Newborns

best newborn baby formula Canada, Enfamil A+

You can safely feed your newborn any formula designed for their age category (look for labels like “birth plus” or “zero months plus”), but we like this one because it makes all those late night feeds just a little easier. No one wants to be messing around with scoops or measurements; the aim is to feed and settle your little one efficiently so everyone can catch some zzzs. Enter single-serving formula packets—open, empty into a 120 millilitre bottle of warm sterilized water and shake. Easy-peasy.

  • This product contains DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential to a baby’s brain development[8].
  • Enfamil A+ is the closest formula to breastmilk within the Enfamil family of products.
  • It also contains dietary fibres polydextrose and GOS. One study found that babies fed GOS-supplemented formula pooped softer stools, similar to breastfed babies[9].

The Draw

The single pack format is awesome! It is great for on the go.

–laura.elizabeth.kind, originally posted on enfamil.ca

The Downside

If any Enfamil gets on your baby’s clothing and you want any hope of saving it from stains, soak it right away!

–Mims Wilton, originally posted on enfamil.ca

Best Non-Dairy Baby Formula

best non-dairy baby formula Canada, Nestle Good Start Alsoy

There are many reasons parents might choose an alternative to cow’s milk formula: religious beliefs, veganism and a family history of dairy allergies are just some of the common considerations. This formula offers complete nutrition like all other baby formulas, with a dairy-free, plant-derived soy protein base. Any other regulated non-dairy or specialized formula will meet the safety and nutrition standards babies need, but we like that this one is also halal and kosher and contains DHA.

  • This formula is non-GMO and appropriate for babies zero to 12 months.
  • This product may be suitable for babies with galactosemia and hereditary lactase deficiency, which are rare conditions diagnosed shortly after birth.
  • Alternative formulas such as soy-based and hypoallergenic options should only be chosen for babies who cannot consume cow’s milk-based products and in consultation with your child’s doctor.

The Draw

As vegan parents, we were so worried [about] what [formula] to start…as we wanted to raise our child vegan. So glad we found this product!

–Amy16, originally posted on nestle-baby.ca

The Downside

I tried a couple other soy-based formulas and they bothered my daughter’s tummy. I was reluctant to try this one because of the cost, smaller can and larger scoop…[but] she loves it and it doesn’t give her any belly issues.

–Randi, originally posted on nestle-baby.ca

Best Baby Formula for 12 Months and Up

best toddler formula Canada 12 months up, Go and Grow by Similac

When babies transition to solid foods, they eventually drop breastfeeding sessions or bottles and parents may worry that their little ones aren’t getting all of the good stuff they need (especially knowing how much food actually ends up on the floor!). A toddler nutritional drink isn’t necessary for kids with well-rounded diets, but it might alleviate concern about nutritional gaps. Look for any regulated formula that’s specifically labelled for your child’s age. We like this powder because it offers different flavours to help expand your little one’s developing palate.

  • Formulated for toddlers 12 to 36 months, this easy-to-mix drink is non-GMO and made with milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.
  • This toddler drink is available in both powder and ready-to-serve formats.
  • It comes in two flavours: milk and vanilla.

The Draw

I am so glad I went with this for my toddler. She never liked other brands I have tried…but with this, she always cries for more!

–Tee18, Walmart customer

The Downside

I know there are a lot of healthy vitamins in this product but the omega oils from the tuna fish are too overpowering.

–Skov17, Walmart customer

Best Tried-and-Trusted Baby Formula

best Similac baby formula Canada, Similac Step 1 Non-GMO Powder Baby Formula

Similac has been feeding babies for close to 100 years! Since their first milk-based product, the formula has evolved and Similac now also offers hypoallergenic, soy, sensitive, non-GMO and organic baby formula selections. This cow’s milk-based, iron-fortified Similac formula is suitable for babies aged zero months and up.

  • This easy-to-scoop formula is a no-fuss classic.
  • It’s non-GMO, kosher, gluten-free and made with milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.
  • There are no bells and whistles in this formula, but a basic product like this works well for most babies.

 

The Draw

I’ve been buying [this] for ten months now. My daughter loves this product. She never vomits or spits up.

–antopics, Walmart customer

The Downside

I bought this a month ago and the seal was broken.

–Liz81, Walmart customer

Best Formula for Breastfed Babies

best formula for breastfed babies in Canada, Parent's Choice Omega+ Infant Formula 2

Any formula that’s meant to supplement solids or breast milk is going to be nutritionally complete and a perfectly good pick for your baby. What we really mean when we say this is the best formula for breastfed babies, is that it’s arguably the tastiest, especially since breastfed kids may take more convincing to take a bottle than babies who are used to formula. Yes, you could debate this category for ages—in fact, the internet has. And while there’s no clear winner, many parents report that this product smells and tastes better than others on the market. This product is the second stage of formula in this line and is meant for babies six to 18 months and beyond.

  • This product contains both omega-3 fatty acid DHA and omega-6 fatty acid ARA, meant to support brain development[10]. It’s also calcium-enriched.
  • Parents report that, upon comparing ingredient lists, this option stacks up well against pricier brands.
  • This product should be used either in conjunction with breast milk or after the introduction of solid foods to your little one’s diet.

The Draw

I bought [this formula] for my daughters and I have not had any problems. It tastes good, and the price is good.

–Karin76, Walmart customer

The Downside

I purchased this after using another brand for a couple of months. I instantly noticed that…it is really foamy after just a few shakes.

–hpjack, Walmart customer

More Formula Essentials

Your Questions, Answered

Is formula safe?

“Health Canada recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first six months[11],” says Adrianna Smallwood, a clinical dietitian at Newfound Balance, in St. John’s, N.L. “But there are instances where it’s not possible or a mom chooses to go another route.” When breastfeeding isn’t possible, formula is the required food source for babies, as formulas are specially formulated to meet baby’s complete nutritional needs. Formula can be offered as a supplement to breastmilk or a complete replacement for it.

All commercial formula products sold in Canada must meet the strict requirements laid out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This means they can only include approved ingredients, and must be labelled with an expiry date, instructions for use, nutritional information and more[12].

How do you choose the best baby formula?

“The formulas you find in a traditional retail store will meet the Health Canada requirements, so you can’t really make a mistake,” says Smallwood, but there are some considerations:

  • Cow’s milk–based formulas are recommended for most babies, but there are exceptions. “If there are known issues with cow’s milk protein, or there are religious or belief-system reasons that require a different formula, consult your doctor before selecting a product,” says Smallwood.
  • Homemade formulas are not regulated and may cause harm. Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Dietitians of Canada do not endorse homemade formulas.[13]
  • Regular milk (of any kind) is not recommended for the first year of a baby’s life.

What types of formula are available?

There are three main formats available for formula:

  • Liquid concentrate: This option is mixed with water at a one-to-one ratio. “Newborns up to two months old should always have liquid concentrate or ready-to-feed options because they’re completely sterile,” says Smallwood.
  • Ready to feed: This sterile formula is grab-and-go and does not require any preparation.
  • Powdered formula: This product is sold with a scoop measure and mixed with water. It’s recommended for babies older than two months.

What forms of baby formula are available?

The majority of formulas are cow’s milk-based, but there are variations. For example, some cow’s milk formulas have added nutrients, like DHA and ARA, lutein, calcium, iron, pre- and probiotics and more. Alternatives to cow’s milk formulas include soy-based products, as well as protein hydrosolate options (these are sometimes referred to as hypoallergenic). In the latter, the protein in the formula is either partially or fully broken down and may be recommended for babies with known allergies to cow’s milk and soy. If you suspect your child may be reacting to your formula of choice, speak to your doctor before making the switch to a hypoallergenic option.

Can you switch formula brands?

It’s better if you don’t. You should stick to one brand so your baby’s system gets used to that product, says Smallwood. If you suspect your baby is having an adverse reaction, she recommends you consult your child’s doctor before switching.

How much does formula cost?

The cost of formula ranges anywhere from $8 for a ready-to-serve four-pack to $70 and more for a case of formula. Looking to save? Watch for sales, buy in bulk (just keep an eye on expiry dates, though!) or consider a subscription service such as Walmart’s to get a slightly reduced price.

How do you prepare formulas safely?

“It is imperative to follow the exact mixing instructions on the package,” says Smallwood. Mixing with too much or too little water will mean a baby isn’t getting the nutrients in the way the product was designed. You run the risk of the baby either being malnourished and underweight or overfeeding your little one. “You should also always use the scoop provided with the product,” says Smallwood, “as it is the measure the product was tested with.”

When mixing bottles, use sterilized water, and always clean and sterilize all feeding equipment (including that formula scoop!). Smallwood also recommends that parents examine containers before using to ensure there aren’t any dents or bulges. “A bulge might mean there is bacteria in the package and there is air being processed in there,” she says. She also advises that parents don’t buy formula second-hand, even if it’s unopened, because you can’t be sure how the container was handled or stored.

Katie Dupuis is a writer and editor in Toronto, and mom to two little girls. She is the managing director of Chick & Owl Design Co. and editor-in-chief of ParentsCanada. When she's not working, she's baking, reading or binge-watching TV.