Best Preemie Formulas [2023]

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If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best premature baby formula is, I’d recommend the Similac NeoSure.

Premature babies can be a huge worry for parents. On top of this, as feeding is so important, you don’t need the stress of finding the right formula.

Included in this article are simple breakdowns of reasons for a special preemie formula as well as important ingredients to look out for. Two of the best preemie formulas are reviewed at the end to reduce your search time online.

Here are the preemie formulas I will be reviewing:

Why Choose a Special Preemie Formula?

Premature babies are defined as babies born from any time before 37 weeks. Due to this early birth, they are not yet fully developed as they would be compared to full-term babies. This is why they need a little extra help to develop at the same rate as they would do the rest of their time inside the womb.

Baby formulas for full-term babies, while carefully produced, are fairly generic and do not contain a number of nutrients or calorie requirements for preemie babies. Some of the best preemie formulas are entirely tailored to the medical needs of preemies

These specific medical needs can include:

  • Higher calorie formula: To aid in preemie baby’s growth. We get into this in the next section of important ingredients.
  • Feeding more often: Again, this involves a higher intake of calories to ensure they meet their nutritional needs.
  • Regular pediatrician or doctor visits: This is important to have your premature baby monitored closely to ensure they are developing at a good rate.
  • Vitamin and protein fortified formulas: To provide extra levels of care and support.

Important Ingredients

A high-quality, nutritionally complete formula is essential for any baby. But with premature babies, it’s necessary to take certain nutrients and minerals into extra consideration. 

Premature babies, as with the name, are not as well developed as full-term babies. They require a little extra attention and care when it comes to their feeding to ensure they grow properly. 

Read through these ingredients to understand the essential things to look out for in the best preemie formula ingredients list.

premature baby

Caloric Density

It’s clear that premature babies have different nutritional needs than those of a full-term baby. Premature babies need to gain weight in order to grow at a similar weight to a baby still inside the womb. 

To help your baby gain enough weight, a good start is a more calorically dense formula, specially designed for preemie babies. Calories are the body’s energy. If more calories are eaten than burned during the day, weight gain will occur. 

Allowing your baby to eat a calorie surplus will lead to weight gain. A premature baby typically needs 100 to 120 calories per kilogram of body weight per day. A good preemie milk should have more vitamins, minerals, and proteins compared to standard infant formula.

Human Milk Oligosaccharide

Yes, we’ve heard “breast is best” again and again when it comes to feeding your baby these days. Breastfeeding is more challenging with a preemie, so what if it’s not possible? Thankfully, there are so many excellent formulas on the market specially designed to mirror the nutritional profile of breast milk. 

The best preemie formulas will include certain ingredients that are found in breast milk. One of these is Human Milk Oligosaccharide, commonly referred to as HMO. This is a sugar molecule and prebiotic that is beneficial for your baby’s immunity, digestion, and cognitive health.

If you are unable to or choose not to breastfeed your premature baby, it’s important to look out for this essential compound within the formula you choose.


Docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid are two more compounds to look out for in the best preemie formulas, as well as baby formulas in general. 

Although their names may be hard to remember, DHA and ARA are crucial for your baby’s health and development. DHA is involved in the structure and function of neural tissues. Meanwhile, both compounds are suggested to reduce the risk of skin and respiratory allergies in children.

If this has not demonstrated the importance of DHA and ARA for your baby yet, have a listen to this statistic. Studies funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development showed that toddlers who were fed DHA and ARA as babies “scored about seven points higher on a 100-point scale of mental development” than toddlers who were not fed them. 

With all of these points in mind, you’ll be able to choose the best preemie formula for your premature baby. On that note, we can look into the top two highly reviewed and loved preemie formulas by parents.

My Preemie Formula Reviews

While there are a lot of different formulas out there, only a couple are really good for premature babies. I have reviewed the best formulas for premature babies below.

Similac NeoSure Infant Formula Premature

Similac is a renowned formula brand today, so it’s no surprise they have come out with their own high-quality preemie baby formula. If you’re searching for one of the best preemie formulas, look no further.

Similac NeoSure’s star quality is that it promotes catch-up growth and development. This is essential for preemie babies who have not developed to a full-term level. A specially designed formula, with premature babies in mind, can help to alleviate this developmental gap between preemie babies and full-term babies.

It’s clinically proven to give a better rate of growth for premature babies than full-term infants during their first year. Growth rate is important for preemie babies, so these formula studies prove that this formula can take care of your baby’s needs.

In terms of ingredients, NeoSure is free from any rBGH that can be found in some artificially treated cow’s milk. Premature babies are particularly sensitive, so removing any artificial hormones can prevent any unwanted health issues for them. Harmful side effects of rBGH include its worrying link to cancer. This is why it’s so important that Similac has created a formula that’s free from these hormones.

The milk-based formula is easy to digest, preventing too much difficulty in digesting proteins for your baby’s stomach. It also contains extra proteins, vitamins, and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus for bones, to promote healthy growth and development. This is crucial for babies with young immune systems and more fragile bones that will need extra support as they develop. 

As previously mentioned, DHA and ARA are essential compounds to look out for in the best preemie formulas. Both are included in the NeoSure formula to promote development. They play huge roles in the development of the brain and the eyes. This is especially critical for preemie babies who are not yet fully developed outside the womb.

Human Milk Oligosaccharide, the compound within breast milk for development, is included in NeoSure, making it more similar to breast milk than ever before. HMO is found in very low quantities in cow’s milk, so formulas often have a synthetic version of HMO added to make up for this. It’s essential for your baby as it aids in the development of intestinal microbiota.


  • No artificial growth hormones
  • Promotes catch-up growth and development
  • Milk-based and easy to digest for small stomachs
  • Contains lots of proteins, vitamins, and minerals to promote growth and development; such as phosphorus and calcium for bone health
  • Contains Human Milk Oligosaccharide, just like breast milk, to help your baby’s microbiome
  • Includes DHA and ARA for supported brain and eye development


  • No scoop included in the packaging, meaning you will have to measure quantities
  • Ingredients include corn syrup, which is not ideal for parents who would like to avoid artificial sugars
  • Not suitable for infants with lactose intolerance

Enfamil NeuroPro EnfaCare Premature

Enfamil is another well-known formula brand, and this particular formula was the number one recommended formula by pediatricians. Having an endorsement from pediatricians is obviously something that parent weigh heavily. The details prove why.

A pediatrician may choose to recommend a specific formula. This can depend on whether or not your baby is premature and how early they were born. This will help to cater to their specific needs.

First and foremost, NeuroPro is clinically proven to promote catch-up growth similar to full-term, breastfed infants. This is due to the higher number of calories in this formula, compared to other market leaders for full-term babies and preemies. 

Calories are crucial for your smaller and less developed premature baby. By holding a higher caloric density than other formulas, it allows your baby to have a lower calorie expenditure than intake. This promotes growth and weight gain for your baby as if they were still in the womb.

Preemie babies are generally under-developed. This is why they have specific nutritional needs, particularly in the first few weeks and months of life. Specific essential compounds for growth are found in breast milk, and many of these are included in this formula.  This is an important consideration for parents.

Brain development is high on the list of benefits of this NeuroPro formula. It includes Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) that is found in breast milk. It’s a naturally occurring bioactive membrane that Enfamil has been able to synthesize for this formula. This helps your baby to gain all the benefits of breast milk from formula.

The second compound included in Enfamil’s preemie formula is docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA. As I detailed above, this is a compound to look out for in formulas for its developmental benefits.

It was initally found in breast milk until a synthetic version was produced for some of the most highly regarded and popular formulas today. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, crucial for the structural development of the brain. 

One component of the formula to take into account is that it is milk-derived. This means it is not suitable for infants with lactose or milk allergies. Furthermore, if you or your pediatrician are conscious of avoiding synthetic sweeteners, note that this formula includes corn syrup.

When you put all of these components together, from DHA to MFGM and high-calorie ingredients, Enfamil has created one of the best preemie formulas.


  • Includes MFGM and DHA, just like breast milk, for essential health and development
  • Clinically proven to promote catch-up growth compared to full-term infants
  • High-calorie formula allows for higher calorie intake, resulting in better and faster growth for preemie babies


  • Contains polydextrose, a sugar substitute that can cause spikes in blood sugar
  • Not suitable for infants with lactose intolerance

The Final Verdict

Both formulas are cutting it close with defining the best preemie formula, but Similac NeoSure takes the win.

It holds all of the key requirements for a premature baby. It’s free from rBGH and any other artificial hormones. It does, however, include essential compounds such as DHA and ARA to promote catch-up growth. Finally, it includes Human Milk Oligosaccharide making it more like breast milk than others.

Similac’s NeoSure will help to alleviate the stress of finding the perfect formula for your premature baby and allow you to cherish their first weeks and months—formula stress-free. This really is a huge help since those early days of parenthood are stressful enough as is.

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.