How to Save Money on Infant Formula
The least expensive way to feed your baby is to breastfeed. There are many other breastfeeding benefits, too. But not all moms can breastfeed. Some moms feed their baby both breast milk and formula. Others switch to formula after breastfeeding for several months. Here are some ways you can save money on infant formula.
Deciding to feed your baby breast milk or formula is a personal matter. If you do choose formula, it's designed to be a nutritional source of food for infants. Let's talk about infant formula. A variety of formulas are available for infants younger than 12 months old. Infant formulas vary in nutrients, calorie count, taste, ability to be digested, and cost. Standard milk-based formulas are made with cow's milk protein that has been changed to be more like breast milk. These formulas contain lactose and minerals from cow's milk, along with vegetable oils, minerals, and vitamins. Soy-based formulas are made using soy proteins. These formulas are useful when parents do not want their child to eat animal protein, or the child has a rare metabolic problem and can't tolerate other formulas. Also, soy formulas do not contain lactose. Other lactose-free formulas are available to help babies with lactose problems. Hypoallergenic formulas may be helpful for babies who have true allergies to milk protein. They can also help babies with skin rashes. One caveat you'll pay a lot more for them. Your baby's doctor may recommend other special formulas. Reflux formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch. They can help babies with reflux problems who are not gaining weight. Formulas for premature and low-birth weight infants have extra calories and minerals. Other special formulas are available for babies with heart disease and digestion problems. So, what's the best way to take care of infant formula and bottles? You'll need to clean bottles and nipples with soap, then for very young babies boil them in a covered pan for 10 minutes. Once the bottles are cooled, you can make enough formula to last 24 hours. Make it exactly as the package directs you to. Once you make formula, store it in your refrigerator in individual bottles. During the first month, your baby may need at least 8 bottles of formula a day. When it's time to feed your baby, warm the formula slowly in hot water. Always test the temperature of the formula before feeding your baby. Hold your child close to you and make eye contact. Hold the bottle so the nipple and neck of the bottle are always filled with liquid. This helps prevent your child from swallowing air, which can cause gas and vomiting. Once you're finished feeding your baby, throw away any formula left in the bottle. Children should get breast milk or formula at least throughout the first year. This is the centerpiece of infant nutrition.
Here are a few ways to save money on infant formula:
- DO NOT buy just one type of baby bottle at first. Try a few different types to see which kind your baby likes and will use.
- Buy powdered formula. It is much less expensive than ready-to-use and liquid concentrate.
- Use cow's milk formula, unless your pediatrician says you shouldn't. Cow's milk formula is often less expensive than soy formula.
- Buy in bulk, you will save money. But first try the brand to make sure your baby likes it and can digest it.
- Comparison shop. Check to see which store is offering a deal or the lowest price.
- Save formula coupons and free samples, even if you plan to breastfeed. You may decide to supplement with formula a few months from now, and those coupons will save you money.
- Sign up for newsletters, special programs, and deals on formula company websites. They often send out coupons and free samples.
- Ask your pediatrician for samples.
- Consider generic or store-brand formulas. By law, they must meet the same nutritional and quality standards as brand-name formulas.
- Avoid using disposable bottles. You will have to use a different liner with each feeding, which costs more.
- If your baby needs special formula because of allergies or other health issues, see if your insurance will help cover the cost. Not all health plans offer this coverage, but some do.
What NOT to Do
Here are a few things to avoid:
- DO NOT make your own formula. There is no way to duplicate the same nutrition and quality at home. You could risk your baby's health.
- DO NOT feed your baby straight cow's milk or other animal milk before they are at least 1 year old.
- DO NOT reuse old plastic baby bottles. Reused or hand-me-down bottles may contain bisphenol-A (BPA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles due to safety concerns.
- DO NOT switch brands of formula frequently. All formulas are slightly different and the baby may have digestive issues with one brand compared with another. Find one brand that works and stay with it if possible.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Formula buying tips.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Forms of baby formula: powder, concentrate & ready-to-feed.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Nutrition.
Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NN, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.
Last reviewed on: 5/17/2019
Reviewed by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.