Stop pacing around the waiting room and start handing out the candy cigars. It's an IPO!

Baby formula maker Mead Johnson (NYSE:MJN) went public this morning, snatched from the womb of parent Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and displayed to the cheering masses.

The company behind Enfamil infant formula priced its IPO at $24 a share last night. Heavy demand found underwriters bumping the number of shares offered from 25 million to 30 million, making it a $720 million deal. The stock opened at $26 and traded as high as $27.07.

It's just what the pediatrician ordered, really. The market hadn't seen an IPO since November's debut of online educator Grand Canyon Education (NASDAQ:LOPE). Mead Johnson's initial success on the trading floor is hopefully an indicator of good things to come.

The gap between stateside IPOs is understandable. Few companies dared to go public during 2008's hellish market, and most of those that did paid the price.

As I noted last month, just five of last year's 43 deals closed out 2008 higher than their IPO prices.

 

IPO Price

2008 Return

Grand Canyon Education

$12.00

56.5%

CardioNet (NASDAQ:BEAT)

$18.00

36.9%

Visa (NYSE:V)

$44.00

19.2%

IPC The Hospitalist (NASDAQ:IPCM)

$16.00

5.2%

Heritage-Crystal Clean (NASDAQ:HCCI)

$11.50

0.9%

Mead Johnson is the perfect trial balloon for 2009. It is a household brand. It is already committed to paying out a $0.20 a share quarterly dividend, so it's commanding a respectable 3% yield even with this morning's pop. It also doesn't hurt that consumers see Mead Johnson as a recession-resistant play, even though I'm not sure how well that theory will hold up. If money is tight, won't folks hold off on having babies -- rare octuplets notwithstanding? If more mothers are unemployed, won't it inspire breastfeeding over formula when possible?

But you won't find me raining on the market's baby shower. Grow nicely, Mead Johnson. You're the market's baby now.

Other ways to go public:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is proud of his restraint. He managed to write this without referring to obvious baby metaphors like baby steps, teething pains, and dirty diapers. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.