Formula types, Formats, and Costs

Choosing a baby formula can seem daunting when you’re a new parent. There are a lot of choices, and everybody seems to have a different opinion.

It can be helpful to keep a balance of information when deciding which formula to choose.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • what’s best for your baby’s needs
  • what will your baby accept
  • what fits into your budget

And really, at the end of the day, you may (rightfully) wonder if any two formulas are really all that different.

Enfamil and Similac are among the most popular brands. How do you choose one over the other when their claims are so similar?

The good news is that both Enfamil and Similac are safe for your baby and meet all your infant’s basic nutritional needs.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates all infant and baby formula brands in the United States.

Also, the Infant Formula Act of 1980 established specific guidelines, including nutrient requirements and nutrient and quality control procedures.

Formula will play a crucial role for the first year of your baby’s life.

In fact, in the first 6 months, breast milk or formula will be your baby’s exclusive source of nutrition. For the second 6 months, formula will be a primary source of nutrition, along with the gradual introduction of solid food.

Your pediatrician is the best resource in helping make sure your baby is healthy. So ask your pediatrician for their recommendation.

They may also recommend:

  • Enfamil or Similac
  • another brand or even a generic product
  • a specific type of formula

Their office may even have sample products for you to try.

Your pediatrician may recommend a type of formula based on your baby’s current condition, such as if they’re premature. You also might find yourself experimenting with different types of formula based on what your baby is willing to accept.

It’s hard to predict a baby’s tastes and reactions. Though your friend’s baby or maybe one of your other children may have thrived with a particular type or brand, it doesn’t mean your new baby will accept it, too.

Basic formula types and their corresponding Enfamil and Similac products include:

The point to note here is that both brands have formulations to address a variety of needs.

Switching types

Talk to your pediatrician about switching types or brands of formula if you see signs that your baby isn’t accepting their formula, such as:

That being said, an infant’s digestive system is still developing. Some symptoms, like spitting up and occasional constipation or gas, are just par for the newborn course.

Your pediatrician may recommend sticking with a particular formula — regardless of brand — for a few weeks rather than switching prematurely. Switching too often can prevent your baby’s tummy from having a chance to adjust.

One characteristic of formula that affects price is preparation. Formula comes in three formats, each with different price and convenience factors:

  • lowest price: powder (you mix it with water and must use within 1–2 hours of baby starting bottle, depending on brand and type)
  • mid-range price: liquid concentrate (you mix it with water; once mixed, it’s typically refrigerator safe for up to 48 hours)
  • highest price: ready-to-feed (you have no mixing and, once opened, it’s typically refrigerator safe for up to 48 hours)

Both Enfamil and Similac offer many of their products in all three formats. As well as the format, the price of Enfamil and Similac will depend on the type of formula, but like types are comparable in price — such as Enfamil A.R. versus Similac for Spit-Up.

Additional savings

Both brands offer loyalty programs, such as the Enfamil Family Beginnings Program and Similac StrongMoms Rewards. These programs offer money-saving coupons and other benefits.

Enfamil and Similac both make products that will provide the nutrition your baby needs. Choosing which brand will depend on various factors, including:

  • pediatrician recommendation
  • type (cow’s milk based, lactose-free, premature, etc.)
  • format (powdered, liquid concentrate, ready-to-feed)
  • what your baby will accept
  • cost

But rest assured, both of these brands have high quality and safety standards.

There’s not necessarily a wrong choice, unless your baby has a particular allergy, which is rare.

There will be many choices in the months and years ahead — don’t beat yourself up over this one.