by Aoife Anderson
"Ready to feed powder formula or liquid formula?" How is a sleep-deprived new parent with a hungry baby and no time supposed to choose?
With so many options and opinions, there’s a lot of confusion around the key differences and how they might impact your baby.
While liquid formulas were very popular for many decades, they are becoming less so every year. While once perceived to be ‘fresher’ and ‘closer to breast milk,’ a recent industry report branded them outdated due to a lack of ingredient varieties and options for babies with specific special dietary needs. “Unless innovation hits liquid formula hard, American consumers are likely to continue reaching for powder varieties.”
Although there are more options when it comes to powder, regulations ensure that liquid formulas deliver similar nutritional value. Both have been proven to sustain normal growth and be tolerated by babies.In terms of research, there’s only been a few comparison studies and most were done on animals, which carry less weight from an evidence standpoint. That said, they’ve delivered some interesting results:
- A 1989 comparison on rats showed that the manufacturing process for liquid formula resulted in fewer digestible proteins and essential amino acids available for absorption.
- A 1998 clinical study showed comparable growth, hemoglobin, ferritin, zinc, and copper levels in breast-fed term infants or those fed either types of formula.
- Another 1999 rat study showed that tryptophan, an important amino acid, wasn’t as well absorbed from liquid formulas compared to powder.
There are tradeoffs between liquid and powder formulas.
For some parents, the convenience of being able to ‘pour and feed’ makes liquid worth the extra cost.
Manufacturing liquid formulas involves higher heat and contamination-free packaging to make them commercially sterile so they’re often the preferred choice for premature or sick babies. Powder formulas rely on rigorously safe manufacturing and testing to avoid contamination. "
The downside to liquid formulas being sterile is they cannot sustain probiotics.
Once you open liquid formula, it can only be stored in the fridge for about 24-48 hours, while powder formula is fresh for up to one month after opening.
Controversial stabilizers and emulsifiers give liquid formulas a very smooth consistency that often appeals more to babies. However, there are tricks in our tips below to recreate this with powder.