How to choose an infant formula?

Updated on: Jan 13, 2016

Health Canada’s recommendation for non-breastfed infants is taking a commercial preparation of iron-enriched cow’s milk until the age of 9 to 12 months. Several brands are available on the market, but similar products are generally of comparable quality.

Commercial infant formulas are a safe and appropriate alternative for the baby. Regular cow’s milk, goat’s milk, plant-based beverages and house-made infant formula are, on the other hand, strongly discouraged.

The many brands of commercial preparations offer additional value versions, for example with essential fatty acids or with an “easier to digest” mention. Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society indicate that there is insufficient evidence to recommend these additional value products.

Commercial infant formula may be sold in several forms, such as ready to serve, powder or concentrated liquid. The composition and nutritional value are equivalent according to the forms. However, commercial infant formula in powder form is not recommended for premature infants or for infants who have health problems because the risk of introducing bacteria is greater due to the necessary manipulations in connection with the preparation of the milk.

Finally, there is a range of products available, targeting various needs:

  • First age preparations are suitable for infants from 0 to 6 months.
  • Second age preparations are suitable for infants of 6 months and over only. However, they are not necessary. It is possible to continue with first age preparations until the introduction of cow’s milk at the age of 9 to 12 months.
  • Soy protein preparations may be recommended for children with galactosemia. It is a hereditary disease characterized by the inability of the body to metabolize galactose, a sugar found in milk.
  • Therapeutic preparations, which have a less interesting taste and are significantly more expensive, are not good substitutes as they are designed to meet specific medical conditions such as allergy to cow’s milk protein.

The main brands of infant formula such as Enfamil ™, Similac™ and Jumpstart ™ provide enough iron in their regular preparations. Certain home brands of large chain stores also offer commercial infant formulas (Kirkland Signature ™ at Costco Wholesale, President’s Choice ™ at Loblaws, Parent’s Choice ™ at Wal-Mart, Compliments ™ at Sobeys, etc.). With these brands, it is important to check the Nutrition Facts table to make sure that the preparation provides at least 1mg of iron per 100 ml of reconstituted formula.


Bouthillier, L., Gervais, S., Robitaille, M. (2008). Guide nutritionnel - Préparations commerciales pour nourrissons et solutions entérales. CHU Sainte-Justine, Service diététique

Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux. (2001). L'allaitement maternel au Québec - Lignes directrices.

Santé Canada. (2014). La nutrition du nourrisson né à terme et en santé : Recommandations de la naissance à six mois; Recommandations sur l’utilisation des substituts du lait maternel.

Vaillancourt, V. (2009). Préparations commerciales pour nourrisson: comment les choisir? Visioconférence présentée au CHU Sainte-Justine, Montréal.


Doré, N., Le Henaff, D. (2014). Mieux vivre avec notre enfant de la grossesse à deux ans, guide pratique pour les mères et les pères. Québec : Institut de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ).

Hamilton. (2013). Guide pour nourrir son bébé avec une préparation commerciale pour nourrissons.

Naître et grandir. (2013). Les préparations pour nourrissons.


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