Generic vs. Name Brand Baby Formula

As a first-time parent, there’s a lot to learn. With 3 babies, things get complicated quickly. The one thing Esther and I seem to go back and forth on the most is baby formula. More specifically, generic vs. name brand baby formula. It’s a hot topic as we can spend anywhere from $400 – $700 a month in formula.

In the US,  all baby formula is strictly regulated. Most generic and name brand baby formula exceeds the government’s minimum nutritional standards, all using basically the same ingredients. So, is price the only difference? Esther and our triplets don’t think so. The babies actually seem to favor the name brands. They really like Similac’s organic infant formula. Esther says the name brands mix better and that the babies eat more during a feeding and are less fussy once done. She also thinks they “taste and smell better” and that the babies are aware of this. Hehe. Funny enough, I think she’s right.

The basic infant formula Target sells (my personal favorite generic brand) uses the exact same ingredients as its Enfamil counterpart, has all the same vitamins and minerals, etc., and comes in all the special varieties Enfamil offers as well. But, it’s $8-10 cheaper and you actually get more in the container.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see what our readers purchase when shopping for baby formula. Please vote on the poll above and also feel free to leave a comment with any insight you have on this topic. Your input will definitely be helpful information for us as we try to strike a balance between what the babies (and Mom) like, price, nutritional value, etc.

10 comments

  • Helen says:

    I currently buy generic (the Sam’s club version of Enfamil) for my daughter, but to be fair, we purchased strictly Enfamil for our triplets when they were babies. The boys had a hard time early on with formular, so when we found one that worked we stuck with it. I tried to convince my husband to give generic a shot when they were older, but he was too paranoid and wanted to stick with “what worked”.

     Live and learn I guess. Ha! Too bad we hadn’t just gone the generic route with our triplets – would have saved a pretty penny. 

  • We’ve used the generics and I agree with Esther! They don’t mix as well as the name brands and they smell awful. Then there is the difference between Similac, Enfamil and Gerber… I personally prefer Enfamil because it dissolves better but it foams more. When it comes down to it though, I use whatever I can get samples of, whatever I have coupons for and whatever I can find on sale… feeding three babies is NOT CHEAP! We calculated… if we spent full price it would cost us $675/mo to feed our three. That’s more than a car payment! Crazy…

  • Diane says:

    We started with Neosure (the NICU put them on that) and we received 3 cases a month for three months for free. Once that ran out (which took until they were about 7 months, since I also pumped/breastfed), we asked out pediatrician to recommend a formula. He told us that Kirkland brand (CostCo) formula was EXACTLY the same as Similac and that he used it with all of his own children. It was literally half the price as the name brand and I never noticed a difference in how it mixed. I think ALL formula smells awful, so I have no idea if the Kirkland brand smells worse than others! Our babies never noticed the switch and all did well on the Kirkland brand until they were one and switched to whole milk. We used a Dr. Brown’s formula mixing pitcher, which made a big batch quickly and mixed everything easily without clumps or air bubbles. :-)

  • Lmcelwain says:

    I don’t have triplets, but regardless, have fed 3 babies formula.  2 of the 3 were fed generic formula.  If I had my choice, I would have used Enfamil – I thought it smelled the least and mixed the best.  But when Kirkland (Costco) brand costs half as much, I just couldn’t justify it.  Because like you said, nutritionally it is the same.  Rumor has it Similac produces the Kirkland formula.  Who knows if it is true, but it does have a similar consistency… 

  • Heidi says:

    After breast milk, we moved on to Carnation Good Start because it was inexpensive. All three trips had reflux, one was severe. We tried all the expensive brands, soy and ones specifically for reflux. The Good Start worked out the best. When we went to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, I thought he would be angry that I was using the cheapest formula. Nope, he said Good Start was excellent and Carnation had a really good reputation. This was over 11 years ago, so I don’t know if the formula is the same but that’s what worked best for us.

  • Anna Culp says:

    I liked Enfamil the best, but my daughter didn’t have strong preferences. (She switched back and forth between breastmilk, Similac, Enfamil) and then when she was 9 months, off breastmilk, and ready for “stage 2” formula, we used Target’s Up&Up, which was $7 per container cheaper than Gerber, with 0 difference in quality/nutrition/mixability. To make sure the transition was smooth, I mixed half-old-brand and half-new-brand bottles for the last few bottles when the old brand was getting low.

  • Heatherdee says:

    We breastfed for 6 months but when my supply ran out we started our daughter on formula. My husband did a lot of research on formula much the same way he researches our food, our dog’s food, etc. He found that the target brand triple select (is that the name? Triple something) is made at the same exact place as the emfamil triple select. It is the exact same stuff. Go generic. It’s the same :).

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for the info! Yes, I also believe it’s Target “Triple Select”. It’s the one in the baby blue container if I am not mistaken. It’s the one I usually buy when purchasing Target brand. I am also a “crazy researcher” when buying stuff that matters and I thought this may be the case. I mean, it’s like buying generic tylenol or whatever. I figured once they were done for the day producing the name brand stuff, the night crew comes and in and starts cranking out generic “xyz” brands just with different labels ;-) I always doubted that there were wholly different companies/factories making the same thing with simply a different label etc. Again, thanks for the info!

  • Jason says:

    Thank you all for the feedback! It’s really helpful. Currently we’re buying/feeding the kids Similac Organic. Esther’s father was nice enough to buy a few months supply for us!! So, they’ll be getting strictly that for a while (hopefully until they’re off formula altogether). But, up until now, we’ve been mixing Target brand with name brands such as Similac or Enfamil to see what the kids like the best. Again, so far the kids like the organic best it seems and we like it better too knowing the benefits of organic vs. non-organic foods…

  • Monica says:

    We used the Walmart Brand, Parent’s Choice for our twins. I didn’t notice an issue with the mixing etc. We were sent home from the hospital with a bunch of Similac, and once it ran out, we were pretty much in sticker shock when we went to buy more. We did the whole comparison of nutrition information and ingredients, and when we saw they were the same, we looked up more information online. We saw the FDA regulations, etc, and made the switch. We ended up saving so much money! Nearly $1400 in the course of the year that the girls were on formula. We were so grateful for the fact that they made the store brand. 
    There’s a formula calculator on the Parent’s Choice website, and it works for pretty much any store brand… but if you enter the name brand formula you use, or consider using, it’ll show you how much you save by using store brands. 
    http://parentschoiceformula.com/baby-formula-savings-calculator.aspx

    Thanks for spreading the word on store brands! 

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