Why there's no reason NOT to buy store brand baby formula.

by Paul Michael on 24 September 2007 55 comments

There’s nothing like starting an article with a double negative is there? Sorry, but it was the easiest way to get my point across. As a father of a 3-year old and a soon to be 1-year old, I’ve suffered the guilt of buying formula that wasn’t name brand. When money was short, we had no choice. But why the guilt? Is it so bad? In short, no. It’s almost exactly the same and it’s half the price.

So, what’s the deal? Why the huge price difference and why the guilt-trips? Well, to answer that I’d have to go back around 4 years to when my wife and I first discovered we were pregnant. The second you realize you’re responsible for a life, you start to do the responsible thing. You shop around for the best crib you can afford, decorate the nursery, invest in all kinds of gadgets and gizmos and become a walking cliché for the phrase “nothing’s too good for our baby.”

And that’s what lies at the heart of this issue. There’s a reason Babies R Us is growing so fast, and why the baby business is a multi-billion dollar industry. New parents, even old parents, feel that money should really be no object when it comes to a child. After all, how could you even think of pinching pennies when it comes to the life of your most precious addition?

I could go through all of the ways the moguls at big corporations factor guilt into every ad campaign and safety study, but I’m sure you know most of them already. But when it comes to infant formula, one of the biggest guilt trips of all is the purchase of store brand formula. You may as well be feeding your baby beer and yesterday’s garbage, the looks you get from people in the supermarket queue are the same.

Well, I’m here to say once and for all that there is nothing wrong with store brand formula, and I say this as an ashamed parent who has been buying name brand for over three years. Yes, name brand. The expensive stuff. After my wife stopped breast-feeding with each baby, around the 8-month mark, we have thrown away hundreds and hundreds of dollars buying name brand formula. That was money that could have gone towards all number of things for our babies...and why? To avoid looking and feeling bad, and to feel great knowing we were doing the best for our kids. But no more. It stops today, for today I did my research and found out the truth behind the infant formula cover-up. Let’s start with the most important point.

EVERY can of baby formula must meet FDA regulations.
It’s called the Infant Formula Act . It basically means that the “safety and nutritional quality of infant formulas are ensured by requiring that manufacturers follow specific procedures in manufacturing infant formulas.” In short, whether you buy Enfamil or Target brand, your baby is getting a product certified by the FDA as good and healthy for your baby. And as long as you buy a formula with iron, you’re fine. All you’re really paying for is a fancy label…and at an extra $13 a can, that’s one pricey label.

So what are the major differences?

There aren’t any. The differences are very minor, and it all comes down to taste and texture. For instance, Enfamil Lipil provides a whey-to-casein ratio of 60:40, which is supposed to mimic breastmilk exactly. Similac Advance contains no palm olein oil, which supposedly “promotes increased calcium absorption and greater bone mineralization.” And the one my family used (until today) was Nestle Good Start Supreme. It contains 100% whey and partially hydrolyzed 'comfort proteins'; these little proteins make the milk easier to digest and help with reflux, something from which both our girls suffered.

As for store brands, well, their formulas are almost identical. It’s hard to know for sure what they leave out or put in, you need to do a side-by-side comparison on the labels to see which name brand formula they are mimicking. And almost all of them are made by one company – Wyeth. You can check them out here. I also saw another company crop up quite a lot in my research. They’re called PBM products. Both companies supply infant formula to all the major supermarket chains, and they make a quality product.

But my pediatrician offers the name brand formula. Why?
Money. Pediatricians are hit by a barrage of marketing campaigns, samples and kick-backs in order to ‘give away’ samples of name brand formulas. When we left the hospital the nurse offered us one of two bags filled with formula samples, gifts and coupons. One was by Enfamil, the other Similac. No surprise there, they’re the two leaders of the formula world and can afford to dazzle you with free gifts and coupons in the first few months of your baby’s life. These coupons soon dry up though, and you’re faced with paying over $26 for a can of formula that is being sold next to store brand formula that costs half that price.

One thing I have learned is consistency. Whatever you choose, when you find one that works you should stick with it. It’s better on you baby’s digestion. But if you happen to stick with Target or Safeway formula, do it with your head held high and feel the power of being an informed consumer. You’re doing good by your baby and saving money for the future. Now, does that sound like something anyone needs to feel guilty about?

Further reading

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/babies-kids/baby-toddler/eating-and-sleeping/formula/formula-4-07/overview/0704_formula_ov.htm

http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/infant/baby_formula.html

http://www.momadvice.com/blog/2006/09/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know.htm

http://babycheapskate.blogspot.com/2006/09/store-brand-formula-good-enough-or.html

 

4.9
Average: 4.9 (20 votes)
Your rating: None
ShareThis

comments

55 discussions

Add New Comment

CAPTCHA
This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture
Ian

Was there some specific reason not to nurse? I think one wouldn't have to worry about money if one was breastfeeding, not the mention that the benefits for the child are countless.

http://www.breastfeeding.com/all_about/all_about_more.html

there are a few good reasons not to breastfeed, but it can be a serious advantage to the child.

Guest's picture
Guest

Not everyone is as fortunate as you in being able to breastfeed. Before you make a blanket statment like that, maybe you should be informed about reasons why people can't breast feed.

Guest's picture
Guest

Or, if your child is like me with a strong allergic reaction to casein protein and spend months in the hospital wondering why the weight is dropping off a cliff, and breathing is such a huge problem. Thankfully there are now far more substitutes and less judgement for mothers who know that their child needs a little extra care. And thank you, I performed just as well in athletics and was in the top 10% of my high school graduating class. I did fine, and so can anyone else who didn't breast feed.

Paul Michael's picture

this is not an article on the benefits of breastfeeding vs formula. As I mentioned, my wife breastfed both of our children before they weined themselves. If you can, breastfeed. It's the best option both nutritionally and for cost.

Guest's picture
Guest

OK, let's take a moment to think about the difference between "store brand" and "name brand" infant formula. Yes, they are all regulated under the Infant Formula Act and parents who make a decision based upon price alone should think twice. Of course, there are known differences of the product but you have to look closer than the label and most often you will not see anything in regards to the process and/or quality of raw ingredients in which a product is manufactured. There are minimum and maximum label claims and I would say buyer beware, there are some products that hold itself to a higher standard. Don't be fooled by the Code of Federal Regualtion or FDA enforcement because it is too little too late, think about the products re-called from China. Companies that manufacture "store brand" products get by just under the radar. Don't second guess the nutrition of an infant, rely upon the experts that produce a quality product and strive for improvement. Basing your decision on price alone is STUPID! Think about your infant and the fact that they deserve the BEST! Go with a "NAME BRAND," they know what they are doing...

Guest's picture
Amy

Did you know that most of the store-brand formulas are made right here in the US of A? You can't say the same for the brand name formulas...they outsource to other countries - including CHINA.

Guest's picture
Guest

Alot of the the recalled toys from china were for name brand products.

Guest's picture
Guest

I think you're comment is way off base. Do you work for Nestle?!? Seriously. For all we know Similac and all these other "name brands" are being made in China too - just under the radar as you say. Honestly - we don't know where half of ANYTHING is made anymore and if given the opportunity to save a little $$ raising my children with today's economy - I'll take it!!

Guest's picture
Guest

"Basing your decision on price alone is STUPID!"

I couldn't agree more. And yet there you are basing your decision on price and name brand. That is exactly what these "name brand" companies are banking on, that there are people out there who believe that just because a product costs $$$$, is therefore the best.

Hope that works out for you.

Guest's picture
Guest

First of all, you needn't explain why you and your wife put your children on formula. It's a perfectly acceptable food for babies.

No, not all formula is the same, but the FDA does have strict guidelines on formula nutrition and safety. True, the protein might be from whey and/or casein in milk-based formulas and comes from soy in soy-based formulas. The protein might be broken down differently. The fats and carbohydrates/sugars can also come from different sources. Corn, soybean, safflower and/or coconut oils are the most common fat sources. The most common sugars are lactose, maltodextrin (usually derived from corn, rice and/or potato starch in the States) and corn syrup. All of these ingredients are safe and legitimate foods. The nutrients in all formula must fall within certain ranges. As the author pointed out, some babies with food allergies and sensitivities need to avoid formulas containing certain ingredients. Some babies with digestive issues may fare better on a particular formula. If your child is artificially fed and immuno- compromised, ready-to-feed might be recommended as it is sterile. However, most babies have no special dietary needs and will thrive on any commercial formula. i.e, It probably doesn't matter whether your baby is getting whey or casein-- or soybean, corn or safflower oil. Pick a can, any can. It may as well be the cheapest one.

Yes, there have been a few incidences of tainted baby formula. On the other hand, breast milk can be contaminated, too. A mother can sometimes pass on environmental contaminants, drugs and even HIV/AIDS to her child by nursing. I'm not anti- breastfeeding: it is the best option in many cases. I only mean that breast milk can occasionally pose safety issues, too. It's important to evaluate your own circumstances when deciding how to feed your child. And it's neither fair nor accurate to wave the tainted formula stories in bottle-feeding parents' faces while insinuating that there couldn't possibly be a problem with breast milk.

Guest's picture
amanda

to all the haters of store brand formula. what would you rather have more people on wic and food stamps? its regulated and its cheaper. i breastfed my daughter un till 6 months because since day one she eat 8oz every three hours and after working i could not keep up so i do half and half so i can have a break. thats my own two cents and go all you couponers or frugel people out there.

Julie Rains's picture

Paul, thanks for the great resources -- though my kids are older and not nursing or on formula. I remember there being many types of formulas, including some pricey ones for kids with possible allergic reactions or those who just couldn't tolerate certain ingredients. When you have a midly sick child, it's hard to discern the source of the problem and of course, you want it to go away as quickly as possible.

But it seems that physicians may recommend another type of formula to try just to keep the parent calm while the child is recovering from a mild illness. I say this because, during a brief interruption at one of my child's check-ups, I heard my physician advise his nurse to tell a parent just to try a new formula and then made the remark (not for the call-in parent's ears) that basically by the time the parent had tried all the formulas, the child's problem will most likely be resolved or the parent will stop calling. So, while certain ingredients may cause digestive problems and formulas need to be changed, it could also be wise to go back and try the less expensive formula after mild problems have passed.

StructuralPoke's picture

We tried the store brand Similac and it just didn't work with our little guy. It took us a while to try to figure out what was wrong, but we finally realized that he started getting fussy when we switched from "real" to store-brand. I'm cheap -- so I had no problem saving money, but it wasn't worth the stress.

Guest's picture

Did your research turn up recommendations for how to make the switch? When my son (ahem...many) years ago needed formula as a supplement, I started with store-brand and didn't switch. But whenever I switch my cat's food, the vet says to start with a mixture before switching over completely. So for example, day one - 25% new, 75% old, day two - 50-50, etc. I would think for a baby, the switch should be even more gradual.

Guest's picture
Guest

We had great luck with Costco's Kirkland label formula. Instead of $25 for one can of brand name, we paid $20 for TWO cans at Costco. If your child is happy on generic formula, might as well save the extra $$ for college!

Guest's picture
Jasi

Breast to cup. Just lucky I guess. Formula is crap anyway.

Guest's picture
Guest

Rude. Just plain rude. And yes, you are lucky. I won't even go into all that I did to try to keep nursing, but I will tell you no one I know tried even half as hard as I did. I guess we'll see when your luck runs out and then maybe you can be a little more accepting of others.

Guest's picture
Guest

Wow. Incredibly insensitive.

Guest's picture
lovemybabyboys123

Not everyone can nurse, or chooses to nurse. I nursed my first child with much success but at 32 weeks this time I found out I have cancer. I can't nurse because of my treatments. I know that this is pretty rare, but don't just assume that everyone can or even should nurse.

Guest's picture
Guest

All I wanted to do was BF my son. I didn't care how many hours a day or how much I had to nurse. It was almost constant and I had my mother to help rock him to sleep after an hour of nursing. I would sleep for about 45 mins- then he would need to nurse again. However- why did I NEVER become engorged? I NEVER produced more than 3 ozs ever-why did my baby fail to gain weight? Why could a lactation consultant not figure out what was going on?? So I HAD to switch to formula- my son gained 1 pound in 4 days! He was starving! I was devastated but my baby was healthy. NO ONE could figure it out- I was BF and I watched my aunts and cousins nurse all their babies.

Well- about a week after switching my baby to this life-saving formula- I delivered a second placenta. NO ONE knew it was there at all and bc it was never detected I failed to get a full amount of the hormone Prolactin to produce the breast milk.

So before you judge anyone for using formula- remember not everyone goes to formula willingly and with a smile. Some of us spend hours crying and feeling like we are depriving our child of the absolute best. It's hard enough being a new mom but try adding the guilt of not knowing why you cannot feed your baby.

When you have been there- then you can judge. I am so thankful that you had such a wonderful experience- you should be thankful too and leave it at that. It is hard enough to figure this formula stuff out without seeing your asinine comments.

Guest's picture
Amy

I was reading this entry and thought, "Hey, I know a little something about this!" How funny to see our link included in your entry. Thanks for sending some traffic our way and I couldn't agree with you more on the store brand versus the name brand formula!

Guest's picture
Susan

Not all mothers are able to breastfeed - sometimes the milk just doesn't come. And, depending upon the lifestyle of the mother - breastfeeding may not be best for the child. As the director of a teen parenting program - many of our young mothers do not eat nutritiously enough or abstain from drugs/alcohol for us to encourage nursing - both result in nutritional problems for the child.

If formula is the milk of choice - do what is best for you and your child. If your baby seems to thrive on store brand milk - then why not take advantage of the savings! I suspect there are only a couple manufacturers of formula - and the only thing that is changing is the label. Our program hands out brand name formula because we get it donated for free from the manufacturer...no other reason. What matters is that the baby is healthy.

Guest's picture
James

when my wife started working, her milk dried up unfortunatly and we had no choice to switch. we tried 'name' brand stuff (our boy is lactose intollerant) but the cost was astronomical. then we did walmart brand and quite a saving.

the guilt trip is enormous! Because if its not name brand it must be dirt!

yikes.

we didnt think about the switch tho, and he got fussy for a while.

Guest's picture
Tina

I ended up being able to breastfeed without any formula supplements, but I did a bit of research and came to the same conclusion--go for the generic brands if you can.

However, this recent article from the washington post discusses how the Department of Health and Human Services toned down a campaign that was intended to encourage more women to breastfeed. The point as it relates to formula is that one of the people attacking the pro-breastfeeding message was a formula lobbyist who "four months earlier directed the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition food safety center, which regulates infant formula." (this quote is from the top of the third page of the article)

I have serious doubts whether someone who went directly from the FDA job to lobbying the industry he was supposed to regulate did much regulation at all--name brands or generics.

Guest's picture

Hi Paul,
Thanks so much for the mention. This is one of THE biggest ways for parents to save money. I hope skeptical parents will give it a try. To make switching easy, they can mix a little store brand in with their premium brand and adjust little by little until they're using all store brand.

Angie

Paul Michael's picture

That law was passed in 1980 so I'm not sure what current lobbyists are doing to change it. But the FDA is pretty much all we have as a benchmark, so one formula is very much like the other. I agree that breastfeeding NEEDS AND DESERVES more publication, and no doubt the FDA feels pressure from the big fomula companies. But all in all, if you can't breastfeed I am simply pointing out that you don't need to spend $26 on a can of formula.

And by the way, thank you Amy and Angie. I hope my articledid the store-brand campaign some justice. Thanks for reading!

Guest's picture
Guest

Often the reason name brands are so expensive is to fund the advertising and branding they use, in turn getting them more customers and more money which they can use to promote their supposed 'improved' versions, it doesnt necessarily mean they are a great deal better. So long as the store is reputable i would say go for it as they are likely to be pretty much the same! (on a less relevant note, in the pharmaceutical industry many things such as sleeping tablets and painkillers are exactly the same - they arrive in bulk to factories and the exact same tablets are put in different packaging. Its the brand reputation which they built up with advertising which allows them to charge more for the same things)

Guest's picture
Kim

I just love those who find the need to argue breast vs. bottle. This article was aimed at those who choose bottle for whatever reason. It was not saying skip the breast and go for generic. I think the majority of moms do what is best for them and their child. It just angers me that people have to comment that formula is crap. It may not be 100% as great as the breast but far from crap. I nursed my son for two months ans then went to formula. We did name brand for about a month and then found sam's members' mark at $19.43 for 52 oz. CHEAP!!!! My pediatrician had no problem with the generic brand switch. I once read somewhere that pedi. don't recommend generic because it is so cheap and that might deter some from trying to nurse. Great article. I hope this helps those that have chose to give formula the guts to buy generic. Send a message to the pricey brands!!!

Guest's picture
Windy StGeorge

I had to stop nursing when I went back to work because pumping was just an everlasting nightmare. We used the free sample formula sent to us until we ran out, then we put our son on Target formula from 3 months on. He did very well on it and is healhy and average weight and has only been sick once (when I brought the flu home from work). I don't think the store brand could be harmful if my son is so heathy. Now he is 1 and is on whole cow milk (so much cheaper). He really loves the cow milk, I suppose it must taste better.
as a side antidote, my own mom didn't like how fussy I was on formula in the 1970s) so she put me on whole milk from the first month on! This is highly discouraged because there is low iron in cow milk. I was healthy and happy and at a good weight too. Maybe kids are just very resilliant.

Guest's picture
DB

You know I just cannot understand why people can't be a little bit more understanding about this topic. This article was not a debate. I just came from my pediatrician's office and my baby isn't gaining weight. My milk is drying up and I am so guilt-ridden over it. My kind and understanding doctor who WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL tells me that its time for formula and to not feel horrible about it. I try and find out what formula to buy and instead I am hit with more guilt from people who know NOTHING about others situations. Be a little more considerate. We KNOW that breast is best. But it's not always possible. I really appreciated this information on formula and I am trying to do what's best for my daughter. Most of the comments have been really helpful but a few have made my crappy day even worse.

Guest's picture
Guest

Bless your heart - it is obvious you are distrought over your milk drying up - and if you choose to supplement with formula, like the dr. recommended, I'm sure your sweet baby will turn out just fine - how many adults do we all know that were fed formula as babies - and they're ok... so please don't worry yourself over this. I just wanted to mention to you though, that if your milk is drying up and you really want to try to give it a boost instead of going to formula-only, you might consult a lactation specialist about a prescription medication to boost your milk supply - I've heard this really works for a lot of moms - also lots of pumping (increasing demand) can sometimes increase your supply... but of course, depending on your particular circumstance this may not work for you - I know sometimes milk supply decreases because of stress or for no known reason... but I just wanted to give you words of encouragement :0)

Guest's picture
Maryland poster

I think that you simply have to look at your container to check to see where it was made, unless we think that the manufacturers are lying about that and the FDA is supporting them in that lie as well. I just started trying the Berkeley and Jensen brand of formula from BJ's Wholesale Club (this would be their generic brand of Enfamil Lipil), and my healthy on-his-way-to-16-pounds 13-week-old son has been doing well. The B&J product is made in Vermont - at least that's what the possibly lying manufacturers say on the can's label.

I will admit that the first couple of days I held my breath waiting to see if he would turn purple and start puking, or refuse his bottle, but he hasn't done so yet - we're going on a week now. Maybe future studies will show that generic formula slows infant development, but we videotaped him grabbing and holding on to a rattle - for the first time - two days after we started using generic.

As to the other topic that was raised in this discussion - I too was unable to breastfeed - my story is too long to share here, but suffice it to say that I tried for a month after my baby was born without success, AND I even got a couple of lactation consultants to admit, grudgingly, that yes, there are women who are unable to breastfeed. Many thanks to the previous commenter who tried to point out that many women who aren't breastfeeding aren't simply lazy, horrible mothers who want to produce sub-par children.

Guest's picture
SofiaandDominicsDad

We used BJ's brand exclusively for our oldest child (now 2 1/2) and are currently using it for our youngest (4 1/2 months).

No problems here. My take was it's regulated, it can't be bad.

The price was just unbeatable. The price was exactly half price of the Similac and Enfamil (which is already cheaper at BJ's) when you matched it up at equal weight. Plus, BJ's has been frequently throwing out $4 off coupons.

Their formula is in 51.4 ounce containers (double the size of the normal sized Similac and Enfamil) and costs $19.99.

On a side note, we just found out that formula is covered by our medical plan to the tune of $87.50 for a 3 month supply (basically any brand including Similac/Enfamil). So, although BJ's brand is great buy, we can't pass up this price. Our calculations put us at about $50 to $60 per month using BJ's brand, so less than $30 a month is a no brainer.

So, check your medical plan first! And if not, if you are a BJ's member, checking out their formula (and diapers and wipes for that matter) is a must.

Guest's picture
NMS

There is nothing wrong with infant formula's...It's thicker &more sustaining than my watery breastmilk ever was...

Guest's picture
Nichole

I just wanted to thank you for writing this. My son is seven and a half months old and we didn't switch until he was a little over 6 months old. The generic brand was always sitting there, tempting me. I know what you mean about the guilt. I already feel a HUGE amount of guilt for not nursing as long as I wanted to. My so was on Enfamil, taking 120-150 dollars a month. One day someone sent me a day's supply of Parent's Choice (Wal-mart's brand) and my son did great on it! I actually like it better, there are no sudsy bubbles when I prepare it.

Guest's picture
Guest

We just made the switch over the weekend and I was feeling so guilty about it! I am so glad I found this article. You all helped me so much (excluding the few with their snide remarks). We went from using Enfamil Gentlease to Target Brand that is comparable. It is about $12 cheaper. Our little girl is 6 months now. . . . . just wish I had come around to store brand sooner! It is going to save us over $50 a month now!

Thank you again!
Christy in Arizona

Guest's picture
Klip

Ok so we know the ingredients are similar.

But what DON'T we know. Well, I still don't know WHERE the milk comes from in any of the formulas. Does the milk come from cows injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH)?

I know that the milk I drink says on the label, "Not from BGH injected cows". So I probably don't want my 3 month old baby ingesting the stuff either.

It's not always about what you DO see on the labels, it's sometimes what you don't see...

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes breast milk is best and before I ever had kids I used to say "i am going to exclusively breastfeed, formula is nasty".. yeah i used to say that all the time... breastfeeding was best and that was what I was going to do, no doubt about it. that was until I had my first child... and I had an emergency C-section.. and then my heart went crazy and I had to be sent to a cardiac unit and did not get to see my daughter for several hours. When I finally got back to the OB unit I was so exhausted and had a lot of medications in my system, including heart medications and I just let them give my daughter formula, it was great for my husband, he got to instantly bond with her because he took care of her that first night in the hospital. On our way home from the hospital we had to stop and buy some formula and when I got home the guilt was overwhelming. When my milk came in a few days later I tried to breastfeed but I just couldn't do it. I pumped a few ounces here and there but the milk just dried up and so my daughter was formula fed and she is very smart, very healthy. So don't go judging people because they don't breastfeed. Now with my second son I got a lactation consultant and desperately tried to breastfeed.. it lasted for two weeks and now we are on formula. Even with professional help I just couldn't get the hang of it, but this time around I have no guilt about giving my child formula. I honestly tried and breastfeeding just doesn't work for me and my child is no less healthy because of it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Amen to that - everyone knows it's best to breastfeed. If you and you're doctor decide it's not in the cards buy a store brand baby formula. They all meet the same FDA regs for safety and will give your baby what she needs to thrive. I started using Babies R Us because it's half the price of Enfamil at 12 dollars a can. You can even buy it online at http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3531388. This is why there's no reason NOT to buy store brand baby formula!

Guest's picture
moe

Amen to you too.When my baby girl was born (alike many parents) we started giving her Similac.OMG,she would suffer from colic,constipation and when she would go number 2 it was more like number 3.Then one day we were doing some shopping at Babies R Us and I noticed all their different formulas not mention size and price.Didn't think twice about it made the switch and loved it.Most important of all my baby loves it.She poos better,no more gas and no more colic.Have to admit,kinda made the switch first THEN told our pediatrician but of course he read the label himself (took him a can to check) and he approved.So absolutely there's no reason NOT to buy store brand formula.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi,

Just stumbled on your article and could not agree more. Yes, breastfeeding is THE way to go for nutrition, and also, of course, for your budget. But not everyone is able to take advantage of this option. My wife was able to breastfeed our first but when our twins came along it just wasn't going to happen.

So we did much of the research you did and learned the very same things. Our pediatrician and a friend who is a nutritionist have supported your points too. There is virtually no difference in nutritional value between name brands and store brands. You are basically paying into a marketing campaign by buying the name stuff and I don't know about you but I don't have extra money lying around to do that.

And as if I needed more to back up my decision, here comes Consumer Reports in their recent edition of their "Best Baby Products" book saying there is no reason to pay twice as much for name brands.

We are thrilled that we did the research and thrilled we can use the money we saved to help give our baby all he deserves in other ways.

Good luck to all on this crazy and wonderful parenting train. Best job in the world...

Guest's picture
Emily

I have to reiterate what several other comments have said: keep your 'breast is best' comments out of a discussion like this. If a mother is giving her baby formula it is because she HAS to or even because she WANTS to, but it's not a crime and it does not deserve criticism or ridicule.

Women who feel the need to push breastfeeding on everyone have never been in a position where they didn't have the ability to breastfeed. They have no idea what that would feel like. They also lack empathy - how hard is it to imagine the fact that breastfeeding isn't always an option? Get a clue! And a heart!

Great article - thanks for the info. Target formula, you will be mine...

Guest's picture
Guest

I think anyone saying "breast is best" realizes that not everyone can breast feed...They're just stating a proven fact. As far as "wants" to honestly I'd say its selfish, (I told my wife the same thing) she could have but choose not to. Its also a proven fact that the sun causes cancer...insects carry disease...etc...etc. So unless were going to put our little ones in a bubble there always going to be exposed to somthing thats not the "best"....Think about what your parents or their parents were doing back in the 60's.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am so glad to see this added to the discussion. I was devastated when I was not able to breastfeed my son. And to make matters worse, I feel (and still feel) like even some of my good friends judged me for it. People need to realize that this is not a choice of mine and that I would change it if I could.

What IS a choice of mine and what I can and have change is what I want to do about infant formula. I was like a lot of people. I figured the known brands were the only way to go. Until I learned that road was taking us straight into more debt! I did a lot of research that showed (and has been backed up in this discussion) that store brands are just as healthy for my baby as national brands at nearly half the price.

Now I see that Parent's choice formula is helping people save even more by offering a special...$10 for two 15.5 oz. cans of formula. Their regular price, I think, is somewhere around 12 bucks for 25 oz. So...good deal! And I, like you all, love to find me a good deal these days!

The timing on this is real good when you consider that the government, in its infinite wisdom (ha!), changed its WIC (Women, Intants and Children) policy TODAY. To promote more breastfeeding, they are cutting the subsidies for formula users, who will now in many cases be forced to buy formula for themselves. Read today where a lot of it is based on promoting more fruits and veggies. Great. What does that do for an infant who relies entirely on formula for their nutrients?

Anyway, check out http://www.parentschoiceformula.com for more info!

Guest's picture
Guest

I am a pediatrician, and when I was in residency I asked this very question of several of my attendings and the nutritionists at my hospital. The reason that several people gave me for why they support Mead Johnson and Abbot Laboratories (the makers of Enfamil and Similac respectively) and recommend these "big 2" formulas is NOT the money that these companies pour into putting their product into hospital nurseries, sending out samples, etc. In fact, in all my years of medicine I have not met very many of these unscrupulous physicians driven only by the powerful persuasion of pharmaceutical and other representatives rumored to be in such abundance on many internet blogs. There is sometimes a real reason to recommend a brand name over a generic, and when there is not a good reason, I will ALWAYS recommend the generic....regardless of whether some new college grad in a nice suit who just got her first job as a sales rep and is "oh so enthusiastic" about her product brought pizza to my office the week before! Rather than being spellbound by sales reps and unable to resist prescribing what they are hawking, most physicians try to dodge their visits as there is no time in the day to stop and talk to them (no matter how badly the office staff might want them to visit frequently and bring free food).

In this case, you are right that there is not something safer or medically beneficial to the big 2 brand names, compared to generic formulas (unless the generic does not have the additional fatty acids that Similac Advance and Enfamil Lipil do...then there is a difference, and you have to be comparing apples to apples). HOWEVER, I tell all of my patients the following when they ask me about brands of formula. I do not "recommend" one per se, but I give them the following information and let them make their own decisions:

One reason to support the big 2 is this: Mead Johnson and Abbott make their money off of the regular infant formulas that the vast majority of formula feeding babies eat, but what you might not know is that they are the sole manufacturers of many specialized formulas for premature babies (elemental formulas of various forms, etc), formulas made for patients in kidney failure, and formulas for patients with GI tract malformations or problems due to surgery of the GI tract that inhibit their ability to feed normally. These formulas do not make the companies a significant amount of money, and though medically essential for many patients, could be discontinued at any moment if these 2 large formula companies chose not to continue to produce them. SO, when I buy Similac or Enfamil, I am buying from companies which provide the sole nutritional source for some of my sickest patients. Their formula is more expensive than the generic because these companies not only make the regular formula you find at every store; but also have huge research and development divisions, and manufacture these important specialized therapeutic formulas. Walmart, Costco, Target, etc. are not, as far as I know, producing any of these specialized formulas, nor is any of the money that they make from their infant formulas going toward anything but their profit margin. If the big box stores undercut Mead Johnson and Abbott enough, it is possible that they will discontinue formulas that are very medically necessary for a small number of patients but do not make them money in and of themselves. These specialized formulas only exist because these companies make their money off of regular formula.

That's my reasoning. I would never fault anyone for trying to save a buck, and when after I give my reasoning for choosing Enfamil or Similac to a patient, if they choose to buy generic formula, I have no problem with that (again, as long as it has the additional fatty acids "for brain and eye devel"). With my own kids, I did breastfeed them, but I also supplemented with formula from day one, so I'm a formula consumer as well. I know I'm not getting the rock bottom best price, but I'm comfortable knowing that part of my money is going to something that I think is really important for some of my patients and many other kids (and adults) with significant medical needs. I just choose to pinch my pennies elsewhere.

Guest's picture

Thank you so much for this article. So many parents are scared to save a little bit of money, fearing that they are skimping on their baby's nutritional needs. The good news is that they're not skimping!
We used Parent's Choice for my twin girls. I couldn't breastfeed due to a surgery a few years prior. I couldn't feed one baby, let alone provide for two!
We started off with the name brand stuff the hospital sent us home with, but there was no way we could afford 2 cans every few days. It was going to break us. We literally sat in the aisle at Walmart comparing labels, did more research online, and talked with a few other people. When we found out about the FDA requirements, we were satisfied that we would be taking care of our girls the best we could, and saving money for other things we needed to get for them. It made such a difference.
I didn't see you mention it, so I wanted to add it here... Parent's Choice has a Formula Savings Calculator that shows consumer in black and white, how much money they'd be saving by switching to Store Brand formula..
http://www.parentschoiceformula.com/baby-formula-savings-calculator.aspx

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought Enfamil Lipil and the BJ's brand...the ingredients were IDENTICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I decided to use this with my second child. If the ingredients are identical...then they are the same :) Enjoy the fact that after the rights to a product run out other makers can copy it......I have had Pediatricians, nutritionists and an OB tell me this was perfectly fine. We stress over named brand everything too much.

Guest's picture
Guest

Nice article.... thanks

Guest's picture
Guest

hI

PAUL im a new mum again and tried breastfeeding and was successful for a couple of months but eventually my milk started to dry up and was not filling them up so i had to go to formula and love the good start. I ended up having to buy the babyrus brand cause the good start one i was using was out of stock. I was just wondering which generic brand is comparable to the good start gentle plus or how i would find that out? I think i wheened him to the generic to fast and had many spit ups.

to the lady who was rude about formula i tried my best and got barely any sleep in the first two month trying to breastfeed my last son and ended up with a very cranky and starving baby cause everyone was like breast breast breast. I was not supling enought for him sorry for the misspelled word...

Guest's picture
EllieW

This is extremely great article and should not be the place to discuss about breastfeed vs bottle feed :)

I used to trill when someone ask me try a stored brand formula, because a cheap and poor quality of China formula used to scare us. (yes, melamine issue)
But not the good idea to ignore 'the same' products. Today we have to spend 'huge' money buying the best formula (they did tell us on TV!) for our baby.

Our pediatrician and the hospital recommended to use Enfamil and Similac, so we get along with these. We've never try others.

After read this post (I just found it), very interest to try with my little baby, this can save twice.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you so much for this information!! I just started my daughter on formula and have been thinking about buying costco/ kirkland brand. Well, I will be considering Similac per can is $23 and will last me umm maybe a week. Whereas Costco brand formula will last about a month at $23.99!!

Guest's picture
Darcie

A friend of mine called all the formula companies and asked why the name brands were more expensive. The main answer was:
Name brand formulas have a finer powder, so they require less shaking to mix with water. Store brand formulas have bigger "chunks" so they take a little more shaking.
So... if you don't mind a few more flicks of the wrist to make a bottle, you can save a ton of $$!

Guest's picture
Guest

if you are stuck on name brand formula, then this is what you do. Buy $5 similac or enfamil coupons on Ebay, which can be found en masse, for $1 per $5 coupon or less. Use these to buy pre-made quarts, which will come out to nearly free, after the coupon is applied. If you figure this per 168 oz (a Similac simple pac) you would pay $21 at Target (-$4 if you used your $5 coupon you paid $1 for) or $17. You can get the same amount pre-made by simply buying a ton of coupons for $8.13, after figuring your coupon purchase cost. No mixing, no hassles, less than half the price of the powder, brand name, and ultimately less than $500 per year to feed a baby on formula the entire year.

Breast feeding is supposed to be best, but my pediatrician or other medical providers have shown me a few studies that indicate that kids get important benefits from formula that they do not get from breast milk. At any rate, as my wife's OB / GYN wisely put it, like abortion and birth control, the "decision to breast feed or not is the woman's choice" and if you frown upon your neighbor for an intensely personal decision they made, then I know I don't want you in the legislature.

We are on our second and he is now four months, and I used this coupon trick to buy about 80 quarts for roughly $100 total, and I still have a bunch left. I highly recommend Ebay as a source for buying all the coups you need to supply your child with the full year's worth of formula.

Guest's picture
qhrider89

I wanted to comment about me thinking of switching to a store brand formula but after reading comments I have to comment on my experience.

When I first tried to breast feed my daughter I thought ever was going good. She didn't nurse for long but would fall right to sleep afterwards. But after staying awake and nursing every two hours or waking every two hours and her being fussy and acting like she wasn't getting anything I began to stress out. I told the doctors I did think she was getting anything, one was very reassuring at telling me some moms can't nurse, others just wanted me to keep trying and kept sending in lactation consultants. I was humiliated when one LC came in and want to see what I looked like to help me figure out an angle. She bluntly said out loud "wow your nipples really point down," it made me feel ashamed for some reason. I have lost all dignity now so I can restate that now with no problem.

One suggested I use a pump so I agreed. The little nurse came in late one night, showed me how to turn it on and off and how to increase and decrease the suction. She did not tell me to start on the lowest level setting and I had no clue that was what I was suppose to do. I ended up with cracked and bleeding nipples making it so dreadfully painfully to nurse. I cried every time I nursed my daughter and every time she cried because she still seemed hungry. I finally broke down and asked for a bottle of formula, my little girl drank it and was finally satisfied and actually slept peacefully.

After we got home I kept trying to breast feed and pump. It just didn't seem to work. I couldn't even get a quarter of an ounce when I pumped, on lucky days I would almost get a half an ounce. We tried for a month. I cried when I told my husband I couldn't keep trying, it was too stressful trying to get her to nurse with no success. He was very supportive and reminded me of what a good mom I was being for trying. One of my doctors even said I gave it a good try.

Now she is a healthy six month old on one of the leading brands of formula. I am currently paying $23.98 per 24 oz can. The store brand mimicking this brand is only $16. So I am considering switching her.