Baby Formula – A guide for confused parents.

mother preparing powder milk for the baby with different brands of powder milk background

Whether it be to supplement your breast milk or to replace it – choosing the right baby formula can be a harrowing experience – what with the plethora of choices available in the marketplace. However there is a good news – no matter which formula you choose, FDA has ensured that all formulas must have the same nutritional value. However there are subtle differences and this could determine which formula your baby’s body takes to. Here is a summary of the market share of the major brands

Enfamil Premium20%
Similac Advance18%
Gerber Goodtstart Gentle17%
Similac Sensitive15%
Engamil Gentlease
Private Label8%

To know a little more about baby formula I would recommend this article from baby center. It is interesting reading for sure. Couple of things this article fails to mention:

  1. Nearly all formulas are made by the same two manufacturers (including Earth’s Best).
  2. These formulas are using High Fructose Corn Syrup to sweeten the formula.
  3. And lastly, these same formulas when adding DHA/ ARA are using the additive from Martek.

After the first few days, your formula-fed newborn will take from 2 to 3 ounces (60–90 ml) of formula per feeding and will eat every three to four hours on average during her first few weeks. (Breastfed infants usually take smaller, more frequent feedings than formula-fed infants.)

Now for the Product recommendations

For most parents the choice of formula is like the choice of diapers – it is between the two biggest brands in the business – Enfamil and Similac. I am not a fan of either but in case the baby does not take to Nature’s One(my top recommendation) or any other organic formula.

Here is a brief comparison between the two( mainly between the main products : Nutritional Differences and similarities

  1. Both Similac and Enfamil have many of the same ingredients that are governed by legal restrictions. This means that many of the same vitamins and minerals can be found in both Enfamil and Similac. In fact this is true of most brands – even cheaper private label brands.
  2. A 100-calorie portion of Similac Advance contains 10.7 grams of carbs, 2.1 grams of protein and 5.6 grams of fat, while Enfamil Infant contains 11.2 grams of carbs, 2.1 grams of protein and 5.3 grams of fat. Both formulas fall well within the range of standard requirements for protein and fat as set by the FDA. Thus Enfamil has more carbs and slightly less fat than Enfamil.
  3. A number of differences exist in vitamin content between the two formulas. Enfamil Infant is a better source of vitamins B12, C, E and K, pantothenic acid, folic acid, choline and inositol, while Similac Advance is higher in vitamin D, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and biotin. Both formulas contain the same amount of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient that infants need for normal growth and development.
  4. The mineral content of both formulas also varies. Enfamil Infant formula contains higher amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iodine and selenium, while Similac Advance is a better source of copper. Both formulas contain the same amount of iron and calcium. Iron intake is essential for cognitive and psychomotor development, and adequate amounts of calcium support the infant’s rapidly growing bones.
  5. However, Similac is found to be a better source of calcium and contain almost 50 % more than Enfamil.(verify)

Ingredients Differences

  1. Enfamil is known to have higher levels of DHA and AHA. This means that using Enfamil will provide about 17mg instead of 11mg that can be found in Similac.
  2. You can also find palm olein oil as an ingredientin Enfamil but not in Similac. Similac does not contain any palm oil and this is significant, because palm oil is known to create firm stools that are not as frequent.


  1. It is also important to know that Enfamil is easier to pack than Similac. You don’t have to worry about sifting and this makes the process of scooping much easier. Some parents opt for Enfamil just for the convenience alone.
  2. It should also be noted that Enfamil is incredibly affordable and is cheaper than Similac.
  3. Similac is also available in a new formula that contains less bubbles and leaves babies with less gas.

In addition to powder formula, milk- and soy-based formulas, ready-to-serve formula, and fortified formula, both companies make two different kinds of hypoallergenic formula. Enfamil Gentlease and Similac Sensitive are partially hydrolyzed, which means the milk proteins in these formulas have been partially broken down. Similac Alimentum and Enfamil Nutramigen have extensively broken-down proteins for babies with the greatest sensitivity to cow’s milk and soy. Similac also offers an organic option, for those who wish to minimize their child’s exposure to pesticides.

Here is a complete guide to all products from both brands.

Manufactured by Mead JohnsonAbott Labs
Pregnant WomenExpecta R Lipil – support brain development of baby
Formula for overall infant development Enfamil R Premium Similac Advance, Similac SimplySmart
Formula to reduce fussiness and gasEnfamil R. Gentlease R Similac Sensitive
Formula to reduce spit upEnfamil A. R.Similac for Spit-Up
Formula to manage colicNutramigen R with Enflora LGGSimilac Expert Care Alimentum
Soy-based, milk-free formulaEnfamil R Prosobee Similac Soy Isomil
Formula for premature or low birth weight infantsEnfamil R EnfaCare and Enfamil R Premature
Formula for cow milk protein allergyNutramigen R AA
Products for toddlers Enfamil Enfagrow Natural Milk Powder
Formula to help infants feel full longerEnfamil R Restfull

Why I would not use either of these brands?

The fact is organic infant formula remains a safer and a far superior alternative to conventional formula.  Organic formula’s milk does not come from cows that were fed GMO feed, given antibiotics or injected with synthetic growth hormones.  Organic formula’s sweeteners and oils cannot be GMO, treated with pesticides or extracted with neurotoxic solvents.  So the choice between organic or conventional formula is a no-brainer. There are two specific ingredients in conventional formula that are especially problematic for me.

1. Palm Oil  – Since palmitic acid from palm oil is not absorbed properly, it means overall fat absorption is lower in babies given formula with palm oil. Bone mass is significantly lower in babies given formula containing palm oil, perhaps because the calcium in the baby’s intestines turns into “soap” rather than reaching the baby’s growing bones.  And the “soapiness” in the intestines also leads to hard stools.

2. DHA and ARA – DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid.  Both are naturally found in human milk, and DHA is a component of brain and eye tissue.  But the DHA and ARA added to most brands of infant formula are extracted from factory-produced C. Cohnii and M. Alpina—specific strains of algae and fungus that have never been part of the human diet, let alone the diet of infants.

My Top recommendation: If you want organic, check out Nature’s One Baby’s First (can says Toddler Formula but is fine for Babies per the company. No HFCS, locally sourced ingredients = better QC over all, and DHA supplement is naturally harvested from eggs. Finally, Baby’s Only Organic is developed and marketed by Nature’s One.  Nature’s One markets Baby’s Only Organic formula as a “toddler formula” rather than an infant formula (according to the company, this is done to encourage breastfeeding until age 1).  Its products meet the same nutritional standards that the FDA sets forth for infant formula. Nature’s One is the only company marketing organic formula that is not a publicly traded corporation; the business is family-owned and operated.

Cost Comparison( On Amazon) 

  1. Nature’s One – $0.68/oz
  2. Enfamil Infant – $1.11 / Ounce
  3. Similac Advance Stage 1 – $1.08 / Ounce

Do you see any reason to choose Enfamil or Similac when you get the organic formula for much less.

They also have a few variations

  1. Nature’s One: Baby’s Only Organic Soy Iron Fortified Toddler Formula
  2. Babys Only Organic Dairy DHA ARA
  3. Baby’s Only Toddler Formula, Organic LactoRelief with DHA&ARA,

However I would opt for any organic over the conventional ones, but given a choice I would choose the brands that only manufacture organic formula and skip the ones that offer both – like Similac or Parents CHoice. The other brands are

  1. Vermont Organics Baby Formula
  2. Earth’s Best Organic Formula – 

    Earth’s Best is one of the most popular of the organic formulas.  Besides the standard DHA/ARA formula (shown here) they have a soy version too. And speaking of DHA, their formulations have 2 times the amount found in other organic brands. The whey/casien ratio is almost identical to that found in mother’s milk.  They’re very proud of using only organic lactose and glucose as their carb source.

Point to be noted is that the only company that adheres to the legal requirement that DHA and ARA oil must not be extracted with the use of the neurotoxic solvent hexane is Nature’s One, which has chosen a water-extracted source of DHA and ARA (derived from egg yolks) for its Baby’s Only Organic formula.




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