Feeding Formula

What Does Formula Taste Like? How To Make Formula Taste Better

Are you curious about the taste of your baby’s formula?

If yes then you’re certainly not alone, because many parents wonder what exactly does infant formula taste like, and how it compares to breast milk or other types of milk.

So in this article we’ve taken a look at the flavor characteristics of baby formula, as well as some useful tips on what you can do if your baby is fussy and hates the taste of formula.

What Does Formula Taste Like?

Anyone who has been shopping for baby formula will tell you there are a wide variety of brands and types out there, including Similac, Enfamil, Gerber, Nido and Nutramigen to name just a few.

The FDA state there must be a minimum of 29 nutrients in baby formula, and although all brands will contain these ingredients, there are still differences between products – for example more expensive formula typically contains better quality ingredients and fewer or no unnecessary additives.

This can make it difficult to generalize across different brands of infant formula.

However, some of the words that adults use to describe the taste of baby formula include:

  • “Unsweet”
  • “Sour”
  • “Bitter”
  • “Metallic”
  • “Fishy”
  • “Watery”
  • “Greasy”
  • “Wet Cardboard”

a woman feeding a baby with a bottle of milk

Why Does Baby Formula Taste So Bad?

A lot of parents who have tried baby formula report that it’s unpleasant, but why is this the case?

Assuming the formula has not gone bad, then the reason is likely down to the added ingredients.

When creating their product, the aim of the manufacturers who make baby formula is to create something that provides similar health benefits to breastmilk.

Breastmilk is an incredibly complex substance that provides babies with a multitude of benefits to help them grow and thrive during their first few months or years.

And in order to recreate something similar, most infant formula is fortified with added protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients including probiotics and prebiotics.

Some of these fortified (or added) ingredients can impart a bad taste – for example some people complain that added iron can taste “metallic”, while added fat is somewhat “fishy”.

Does Formula Taste Like Beast Milk?

As we’ve mentioned, baby formula is designed to mimic breast milk, which is one of the reasons why infant formula is so expensive.

So you may be asking yourself does formula taste the same as breast milk?

It’s worth noting that the flavor of breast milk varies between mothers, because it is often influenced by what mom eats and drinks.

This is why changing mom’s diet is one potential solution if your baby is experiencing digestion issues and has smelly farts.

Having said that, the general consensus is that formula does not taste like breast milk.

Adults who have tasted breast milk often describe it as being quite sweet – certainly much sweeter than infant formula – and almost like a watered-down version of regular cow’s milk or like a sweetened version of almond milk.

Breast milk is unlikely to be described as being unsweet, sour, bitter, metallic or fishy, which are some of the words mentioned above to describe baby formula.

How To Make Formula Taste Like Breast Milk?

It’s not uncommon for moms to complain that their baby hates formula and therefore wonder what to do.

The good news is that there are some things you can do to make formula taste better, including:

1. Let Someone Else Feed Your Baby

Did you know that babies can actually smell breast milk when they are in the presence of mom?

If you think about it from your baby’s point of view, it’s natural to resist formula if they think the better tasting option (breast milk) is available.

So if you are trying to feed your child formula while still nursing, it may be a good idea for your husband or partner to give your baby their bottle of formula.

Man in White Shirt Feeding a Baby Their Bottle of Milk

2. Heat Before Serving

It’s totally fine to feed babies cold formula as well as cold breast milk.

However, some babies may not like being given cold formula, so if you are currently giving your little one formula and it isn’t warmed up, it might be worth heating their bottle before each feed to make their formula taste better.

The most common ways to heat baby milk include using a bottle warmer, running the bottle under hot water, placing it in a container full of hot water for several minutes, or leaving the bottle out on your counter top until it warms up to room temperature.

If warming milk is new to you, then one thing to note is that baby formula should only be reheated once to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and to avoid losing valuable nutrients.

3. Change Brands

As we’ve seen, there are differences between formula brands, and some manufacturers claim their products are specifically designed to taste very similar to breast milk.

One way manufacturers claim this is achieved is by adding lactose to their infant formula (lactose gives breast milk its natural sweetness).

If you are looking to swap brands to find a better tasting formula, the good news is that big retailers like Walmart, Target and Costco will allow you to return baby formula, as long as you show a valid receipt, and the formula is unopened and in good condition.

blue shopping cart in a supermarket aisle

4. Mix Formula With Breast Milk

Lastly, if you are nursing then you may want to consider mixing your baby’s formula with some breast milk so they can get used to the flavor of formula.

This should be done carefully, because it’s important you only mix breast milk with formula that has already been made up, rather than adding powdered formula directly to breast milk.

If you do want to mix your breast milk with baby formula, one of the best ways is to use the 50/50 method, where you start off making a bottle with half (liquid) formula and half breast milk.

Then gradually over the period of a few days, you can reduce the amount of breast milk and increase the amount of formula, until you eventually give your baby a bottle comprised entirely of formula.

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Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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