Types of Infant Formula

By Marian Law, M.A., RD on September 15, 2011

Cow’s milk-based infant formula

This is the most common type of infant formula. It is used for babies who are not allergic to cow’s milk and who can digest lactose (milk sugar).

Soy-based infant formula

This type of infant formula is suitable for babies whose families follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Soy infant formula can also be used for babies who cannot digest lactose. Soy-based infant formulas are not recommended for babies with a family history of cow’s milk allergy. These babies are as likely to be allergic to soy protein as well as cow’s milk protein.

Special infant formulas

There are other types of infant formula for babies with special needs. Only use special infant formulas with the advice of your baby’s doctor.

Whatever type of infant formula you give your baby, iron-fortified infant formula is recommended.

Some brands of infant formula offer added fatty acids. These fatty acids, ARA and DHA, are naturally present in breast milk. They play a role in brain and eye development. Health Canada permits ARA and DHA to be added to infant formula in the amounts present in breast milk, although the health benefits have not been proven. ARA and DHA-enriched infant formulas are more expensive than regular infant formulas.

Infant Formulas Come in Three Forms

  • Liquid concentrate
  • Ready-to-feed
  • Powder

It is very important to read the labels on cans of infant formula and to prepare the formula using the correct measures, exactly as described. Instructions are different for mixing each kind of formula. Formula that is mixed incorrectly or diluted (watered down) can harm your baby. Once you have chosen a brand of infant formula, changing the form from liquid concentrate to powder or ready-to feed will not affect your baby.


Content from the Canadian Baby and Child Care Encyclopaedia.


By Marian Law, M.A., RD| September 15, 2011

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