Formula 101 – Everything you need to know!

Formula 101 – Everything you need to know!

Ceres Chill is so pleased to bring you Jael's comprehensive guide to formulas — Jael is a writer and proud mom of six amazing kids between six months and sixteen years old. When she had her fist child, Jael tells us, "I was scared, as any young first-time mom would be. But as I went through countless diapers, breastfeeding, and life's messy moments, I not only gained the skills needed to raise my kids but also the confidence to trust my instincts and stand strong on my morals and strengths as a mother." 

By Jael Corr

Like many new parents, I started off wanting to exclusively breastfeed. That was my goal! I really wanted to make it work for me and my family, but after trying for weeks, I realized that it just wasn’t the best fit for me. I started looking into formula feeding and realized that supplementing could be really beneficial for both me and my baby - it allowed me to get some much-needed rest and care for myself while also ensuring that my baby was getting all the nutrients they needed!

Navigating the world of formula felt really overwhelming at first. There are so many options out there, and it can be challenging to determine which one is best for your baby’s specific needs! After researching and consulting with my pediatrician, I learned about all of the different ways that I can make it work for me. Everyone’s feeding journey is unique, and while some parents exclusively breastfeed or formula feed, many parents choose to supplement their baby's nutrition with a mixture of breastmilk and formula. 

Finding the feeding option that is most beneficial for you and your baby can feel daunting at first, but I'm here to help! Just remember that at the end of the day, a fed baby is a healthy baby, no matter how you’ve chosen to accomplish that. You are doing an amazing job either way. 

 

Mariel & Joey photo

There are various types of baby formulas available, each designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of babies with different health conditions and dietary requirements. Check out the list below to read more about the various types of baby formulas.

Quick reminders — It's important to consult with a pediatrician before choosing a formula to ensure that it is appropriate for your baby's specific needs. For medically compromised babies, please be sure to reference the WHO guidelines for formula preparation. Always use clean water when preparing formula.

Your comprehensive formula guide

I know, it seems like a lot … but don’t worry, I tried to break it down so you can easily access all the info you may need.

Formula with Breastmilk
Combining breastmilk with formula

Combo feeding comes in many forms. It can mean alternating between breastfeeding and bottle feeding with formula, pumping and bottle feeding, creating a mixture of formula and breastmilk, and more. There are many ways to combo feed! 

When you’re combo feeding and you don’t have enough breastmilk to fill an entire bottle, you have some options: wait for the next pump session to add more milk, make a mixture of formula and breastmilk, or offer the bottle of breastmilk first and then offer the formula after if your baby is still hungry.

If you’ll be mixing your milk and formula in the same bottle, it's important to keep in mind the proper ratio and handling of the mixture when preparing it - the standard ratio for mixing formula with breast milk is 1:1. If you have frozen breast milk, you can still mix it with formula if the mix is first thawed out. Ideally, you should thaw it by placing it in the refrigerator or holding it under warm running water.

Sometimes, though, mixing breastmilk and formula in the same bottle can result in wasted milk. According to board certified pediatrician Maya Muñoz Mahmood,

“There aren’t any health risks involved in mixing breast milk and formula, but doing so could result in wasted breast milk. “If a baby does not finish the bottle they already started, the remainder needs to be thrown out within an hour, which is the rule for prepared formula or breast milk mixed with formula,” Mahmood says. “So, any remaining breast milk that was mixed in would be ‘wasted.’ For many parents who are pumping, every ounce of breast milk feels precious. So, they’d rather not risk having to toss any leftover breast milk.”

To ensure that this doesn’t happen, she recommends giving your baby the bottle of breastmilk first, then following it up with the bottle of formula if they’re still hungry. 

Ready-to-Feed Formula
Pre-mixed and ready to use without the need for mixing or preparation

This popular kind of formula comes in a pre-mixed liquid form, containing all the essential nutrients required for your baby's healthy growth and development. It’s super convenient, and a great option for parents who don't have the time or resources to mix and prepare powdered formulas. Plus, it's perfect for travel, as it's easy to pack and doesn't require any special preparation.

When it comes to storage, it's essential to keep open containers of ready-to-feed formula tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator. These formulas must be used within 48 to 72 hours after opening according to the label on the back of the formula cans. 

*Ready-to-feed formula should not be mixed with other liquids, such as water or juice. Mixing it with other liquids can cause spoilage, bacterial growth, and nutritional deficits. It's designed to be used as a stand-alone formula and should not be altered in any way.

Powdered Milk-Based Formulas 
Made by mixing powdered formula with water

These are popular choices for parents who are looking for a cost-effective and convenient way to feed their babies. It's important to use and store them properly to ensure the safety and quality of the formula. 

Powdered milk-based formulas are made from cow's milk and contain all the essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that infants need for healthy growth and development. They come in different varieties, including organic, lactose-free, and sensitive formulas.

It's important to remember that powdered milk-based formulas have a shorter shelf life compared to other formula types.

Once the container is opened, the formula should be used within one month and stored in a cool, dry place. To extend its shelf life, it's also recommended to keep the formula in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

It’s best to mix the appropriate amount of formula powder with fresh water for each feeding, but If you need to prepare the formula in advance, you can measure out the appropriate amount of powdered formula and store it in a clean, dry container. When ready to feed, mix it with water and follow the instructions provided in the formula container for proper preparation and storage.

Once the formula has been mixed with water, it should be used within a specific time frame, which typically ranges from 1 to 2 hours. Any leftover formula should be discarded.

Goat Milk Formulas
Made with goat milk instead of cow's milk and are a good option for babies who are sensitive to cow's milk

If you're looking for an alternative to cow milk-based formulas for your little one, you might want to consider goat milk formula. It's becoming increasingly popular and for good reason!

Goat milk has a similar nutritional composition to cow milk, providing an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium which are essential for healthy bone development. Additionally, goat milk contains less lactose than cow milk, making it easier for babies who are lactose intolerant to digest.

Another advantage of goat milk formula is that it may be more tolerable for babies who have allergies or sensitivities to cow milk proteins. Goat milk has a different protein structure than cow milk, which may help some babies digest it more easily. However, keep in mind that goat milk formulas may still contain traces of cow milk proteins, so they may not be suitable for babies with severe cow milk allergies.

When storing goat milk formula, it's essential to follow specific guidelines to maintain its quality and safety. Keep unopened containers in a cool, dry place like a pantry or cupboard, and avoid exposing them to high temperatures or direct sunlight. Once opened, tightly cover and store the container in a cool, dry place (not in the refrigerator).

Be sure to check the expiration date before use and discard any remaining formula left in the bottle after feeding. Don't save or reuse any unused formula.

Lactose-Free Formulas
Designed for babies who are lactose intolerant

If your baby has lactose intolerance, you may want to consider lactose-free formula. This type of formula is specially designed to provide all the necessary nutrition without causing the discomfort that can come with consuming cow's milk-based formulas.

It's important to remember that lactose-free formulas are not always dairy-free. Some may still contain milk proteins that can cause an allergic reaction in infants with a milk protein allergy. Be sure to carefully read labels and talk to your healthcare professional to determine if lactose-free formulas are appropriate for your baby.

Proper storage of lactose-free formula is necessary to maintain its quality and safety. Keep unopened containers in a cool, dry place, and once opened, tightly cover and store the container in a cool, dry place (not in the refrigerator). Only mix what you need for one feeding, and always use fresh water to prepare the formula.

It's important to note that premixing lactose-free formula is generally not recommended, as the liquid mixture can spoil quickly and become unsafe for consumption. However, some manufacturers may provide specific instructions for safely premixing lactose-free formula, such as using sterile water and storing the mixture in a specific way.

Allergen-Free Formulas
Designed for babies who have food allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients such as soy or dairy

If your baby experiences allergic reactions or has difficulty digesting certain proteins found in traditional milk-based formulas, you may want to consider allergen-free formulas. These formulas can be dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and/or egg-free, depending on the individual's allergies. They can be made from alternative ingredients like rice, oat, coconut, or pea protein and may contain prebiotics and probiotics to promote digestive health.

It's important to keep in mind that not all allergen-free formulas provide the same balance or amounts of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that infants need to grow and develop as traditional milk-based formulas. Therefore, it's crucial to choose an allergen-free formula that is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants.

When storing allergen-free formulas, it's essential to keep unopened containers in a cool, dry place and avoid exposing them to high temperatures or direct sunlight. Once opened, allergen-free formula containers should be tightly covered and stored in a cool, dry place (not in the refrigerator). Once the formula has been mixed with water, it should be used within a specific time frame according to the manufacturer's instructions, typically ranging from 1 to 2 hours. Be sure to discard any remaining formula after that time period.

Genetically Engineered Formulas
Made with ingredients that have been genetically modified to enhance their nutritional content

Genetically engineered formulas (GEFs) can provide a solution for parents whose babies have difficulty digesting traditional milk-based formulas. GEFs are created using genetic engineering techniques that modify the formula's composition to make it easier for babies to digest and absorb. This formula contains fewer proteins, lactose, and cholesterol but still provides a balance of essential nutrients for the baby's growth and development.

When storing GEFs, it's essential to keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and high temperatures. Opened containers should be tightly covered and stored in a cool, dry place, but not in the refrigerator. Any remaining formula left in the bottle after feeding should be discarded, and parents should not save or reuse any unused formula.

Soy-Based Formulas
Made with soy protein instead of cow's milk protein and are a good option for babies who are allergic to cow's milk

Soy-based formulas are a great option for infants who have allergies or are lactose intolerant and need an alternative to traditional cow's milk formulas. These formulas are made from soy protein isolate, derived from soybeans, and are also ideal for vegan families who prefer to avoid animal-based products. Soy-based formulas have a similar nutritional composition to cow's milk-based formulas and are fortified with essential nutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamin D.

It's important to note that soy-based formulas should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Some infants may be allergic to soy protein, causing severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rashes, although this is rare. Current research suggests that soy-based formulas are safe and effective for most infants, despite some concerns about soy phytoestrogens and infant development.

Proper storage of soy-based formula is essential to keep it safe and free from contamination. Unopened containers should be stored in a cool, dry place, while opened containers should be refrigerated and used within 48 hours. It's crucial to check the expiration date before using the formula.

Hydrolyzed Formulas
Made with proteins that have been broken down into smaller fragments, making them easier to digest for babies with digestive issues

Hydrolyzed formulas are a great option for parents who have infants with feeding problems or who may be at risk of developing allergies. The hydrolysis process breaks down the protein molecules in the formula, making them easier for babies to digest and reducing the risk of an allergic reaction.

Partially hydrolyzed formulas are ideal for infants who may be at risk of developing allergies or have mild to moderate feeding problems. Extensively hydrolyzed formulas are better for babies with severe feeding problems and allergies. 

To store hydrolyzed formulas properly, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Unopened cans or bottles should be stored in a cool, dry place, while opened containers should be refrigerated and used within the specified timeframe. It's not recommended to freeze hydrolyzed formula, as it may change the formula's consistency and quality.

Organic Baby Formula
Made with organic ingredients and are free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers

Organic formulas have become a popular option for parents like you who want to provide your baby with a more natural and chemical-free alternative to traditional formulas. Organic formulas are made from ingredients that are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, and they don't contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Although there isn't any scientific evidence to suggest that organic formulas are more beneficial for babies than non-organic formulas, many parents choose organic formulas because they believe they are a healthier option for their babies. It's important to note that not all organic formulas are created equal, and it's essential to choose a formula that has been certified by a reputable organization and to read the ingredients list carefully.

When storing organic formula, it's crucial to follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure that it stays fresh and free from contamination. You should store unopened cans or bottles in a cool, dry place, and once opened, they should be refrigerated immediately and used within the timeframe specified on the label.

Hypoallergenic Formulas
Designed for babies who have allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients and are less likely to cause allergic reactions

Hypoallergenic formulas can be a great option for parents whose babies are at a higher risk of developing allergies or who have already shown signs of an allergic reaction to other types of formula. These formulas are designed to be easier to digest and less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic formulas can be made with partially or extensively hydrolyzed cow's milk proteins or with amino acids for non-dairy formulas.

Proper storage of hypoallergenic formulas is essential to ensure that they remain safe and free from contamination. It's important to store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Once opened, the formula should be used within a specified timeframe, usually within 24 hours.

It's important to remember that hypoallergenic formulas are not completely allergy-free and may not be suitable for infants with severe allergies or multiple food sensitivities. Allergy-free formulas, which are typically made with synthetic proteins or other non-allergenic ingredients, are reserved for infants with severe allergies or medical conditions that make it difficult for them to tolerate traditional infant formula.

Side note: Hypoallergenic formulas and hydrolyzed formulas are similar, but they are not exactly the same. Both types of formulas are designed for infants who are at a higher risk of developing allergies or who have already shown signs of an allergic reaction to other types of formula. However, hypoallergenic formulas can be made from partially or extensively hydrolyzed proteins, as well as non-hydrolyzed proteins that have been broken down into smaller fragments through other means.

On the other hand, hydrolyzed formulas are made by breaking down the protein molecules in the formula through the process of hydrolysis, which makes them easier for babies to absorb and less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Hydrolyzed formulas are available in partially and extensively hydrolyzed forms, depending on the severity of the baby's allergies or digestive issues.

Anti-Reflux Formula
Designed to reduce the incidence of spit-up and reflux in babies

Anti-reflux formulas can be a great option for parents of infants with digestive issues like GERD. These formulas are thicker than regular formulas, which helps them stay in the stomach for longer and reduce reflux. Anti-reflux formulas also contain ingredients that help reduce the amount of acid in the stomach, which can further reduce reflux symptoms.

When it comes to storing anti-reflux formula, it's important to follow the same guidelines as other types of formula. Store the formula in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, and make sure to use it before its expiration date. Once opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 24 hours.

Mixing the formula thoroughly is crucial to ensure that it has the right consistency and nutritional balance. It's important to feed the baby in an upright position and use the appropriate nipple size for their comfort level.

Premature Formulas
Designed for premature babies and provide extra calories and nutrients to support their growth and development

Premature infants have unique nutritional needs that require specialized nutrition. Premature formulas are specifically designed to ensure optimal growth and development in premature infants.

Premature formulas are higher in calories and nutrients than standard infant formulas, as premature infants require more energy to grow and develop due to their low birth weight and higher metabolic rate. These formulas have additional carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which are carefully balanced to provide the correct amount of each nutrient. Plus, they also contain increased vitamins and minerals that are essential for growth and development.

Proper storage of premature formulas is important to maintain the quality and safety of the product. These formulas should be stored in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. Once opened, the formula should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours, and any unused portion should be discarded.

It's also crucial to follow the preparation instructions on the packaging of premature formulas carefully to ensure that the formula is mixed correctly and is safe for the infant to consume. Following the instructions can help minimize the risk of digestive issues, which premature infants are more prone to than full-term infants.

Metabolic Formulas
Designed for babies who have metabolic disorders that affect their ability to metabolize certain nutrients

Metabolic formulas are a type of specialized infant formula that is designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of infants with inherited metabolic disorders. These disorders can cause serious health problems if left untreated and affect the way the body processes certain nutrients. Metabolic formulas provide the necessary nutrients to support the growth and development of these infants while also helping to manage their condition.

Proper storage is crucial when it comes to metabolic formulas. These formulas should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat sources. Once opened, they should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 24 hours. It's also important to check the expiration date before using the formula and to not use it if it has expired.

It's also important to follow the premix guidelines carefully when preparing metabolic formulas. These premixes are added to a base formula to create a complete nutritional profile. The premixes should be measured carefully and added to the formula according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. It's important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate amount of formula for each feeding, based on the infant's age, weight, and specific nutritional needs.

Using the Chiller for formula

The Chiller can be great for convenient and safe storage of formula while you’re out and about! There are a few different ways that you can use it depending on what you need:

1. Add warm water to your outer chamber, cap it up, and leave it in your bag until you’re ready to make a bottle! Without ice in one of the chambers, the Chiller will sustain the temperature of the warm water and keep it at a good temperature until you’re ready to make a bottle. Measure out the amount of warm water that you need, either in your own bottle, your inner chamber (12 ounces) or your upper cup (just over three ounces). Then add your powder formula, mix it up, and feed your baby! Check out this mom’s tutorial on this!

2. Have ready-to-feed formula in one chamber, and ice in the other. This method is really similar to the way that you would use the Chiller to store breastmilk or other liquids. By adding ice to one chamber and adding your formula to the other, the Chiller will work to keep it at safe, cold temperatures for several hours. 

3. Have your powder formula in one chamber and clean water in the other. When you’re ready to prepare a bottle, mix the correct amount of powder and water together, and shake it up as usual! 

4. It’s generally recommended to make your bottles of formula right before giving them to your baby, but if you need to premix your powder formula before heading out for the day, you can do so and store it in one of the Chiller chambers. It’s essential to have ice in the other chamber and to refill it every few hours to ensure that the formula is staying within the safe storage range. This formula will stay good for 24 hours if it’s kept below 39* F. 

You can also convert your inner chamber or upper cup and connector to a bottle by adding any standard narrow neck nipple. Check out this awesome tutorial to see how to store formula in your Chiller!

As a parent, I understand the importance of choosing the best formula for my baby and making sure it's stored safely. It's crucial to follow the right guidelines to ensure that our babies are getting the best nutrition and staying healthy. Before storing your formula in the Chiller, be sure to check the back of your formula can for all information regarding length of storage time and other details!

Formula recalls - what to know

Formula recalls will often be on the news and on social media, and the manufacturer has an obligation to communicate these issues with customers.

To find out if the formula you're using has been recalled, you can search the seven to nine digit lot code on the bottom of your can and see if it is part of the batch that was possibly contaminated. The FDA always tracks all formula recalls - check out the information that they've put together here.


I hope this has provided you with valuable information about different types of formulas and safe storage recommendations. Remember to always consult with your pediatrician and follow the package instructions when preparing the formula. By following these guidelines, you can give your baby the best possible start in life.

Parenthood is a beautiful journey filled with love, care, and joy, and I wish all parents the very best in their parenting journey!

Further reading

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.