As a parent, you want to give your child the absolute best and that includes their nutrition. So when it comes to choosing infant formula you want to know you’re giving your baby the healthiest option possible. But baby formula is expensive - and that has many parents wondering if the less expensive store brand, or generic, options are just as good as the pricier name brands.
You’ll be happy to know that the FDA regulates all infant formulas sold from U.S. retailers to ensure they meet specific minimum nutritional and safety requirements. Which means that no matter what baby formula you choose to give your little one, it has a nutritional profile (including at least 29 essential nutrients) they need to grow and develop properly. In this way, store brand formulas are just as good as name brand formulas.
Here we’ll answer some of your leading questions about store-brand formula as well as discuss when you may want to consider a name-brand instead.
But is store brand formula safe?
Because of the FDA regulations in place, every single store-brand infant formula sold in the U.S. is 100% safe for your baby. What this means is that you should never feel guilty about spending less money by giving your baby store-brand formula. If your baby is happy, growing, and thriving from the store-brand formula you give them, that is the clearest sign you can have as a parent that you are giving your baby the very best.
Why You Might Choose a Store-Brand Formula Over Name-Brand
If there is something in particular that compels you to purchase a certain name-brand formula for your baby, then by all means you should definitely do that! You know your baby better than anyone and you get to decide what’s best for them. But at the same time, we also suggest doing your research and not just buying a name-brand because the packaging or advertising leads you to it...or because Becky down the street feeds her baby the "top of the line" and she might judge you for using anything but.
The biggest reason to choose store-brand formula vs name-brand formula is the cheaper price. According to storebrandformula.com, the only difference between store brand infant formula and name-brand is the price. They write, “Side-by-side comparisons reveal little, if any difference in the nutrient levels or ingredient listings for comparable formulas.”
The next reason to choose the store-brand is if they have an option that closely mimics the name-brand you’ve either been using or were looking to use. For example, Target’s Up&Up Gentle infant formula with iron is very similar to Enfamil’s Premium Gentlease (and the price difference between the two is huge).
Are store brand formulas as good as name brand?
As we wrote in our article, “Best Baby Formulas of 2021,” you can often get a store brand formula that has the exact same ingredients (and in the same order) as a complementary name brand formula. It always makes sense to check the labels!
Store brand formulas are just as good as name brand formulas in terms of them including all the same required ingredients by the FDA. Every single formula has a nutritional profile necessary to develop your baby’s brain and get them to grow big and strong - whichever one you choose is the only nutrition your baby needs for their first 6 months of life.
Beyond that, a certain name brand formula may have extra ingredients that make it the more desirable product for what you would like your baby to have, but on the flip side, sometimes store brand formulas have those extra desirable ingredients. The Baby Formula Expert, a blog written by a mother who is a Certified Lactation Counselor and has a PhD in Nutrition, did side-by-side comparisons of a few store-brand and name brand formulas and shared this finding in her summary, “Don’t assume the name-brand is better! Sometimes the differences in ingredients stack up in favor of the generic brand.”
What’s important to note also is that oftentimes the store brand formula you purchase at one retailer is the exact same as the one sold at a different retailer (obviously with a different label on it). For example, Perrigo Nutritionals is the largest supplier of store-brand infant formulas and they distribute to retailers such as Wal-mart, Target, Kroger, and more.
What is the best store brand baby formula?
The best store brand baby formula is the one that works the best for your baby. Each baby’s needs are different and parents also have different preferences when it comes to what they want to feed their baby. Most importantly fed is best and beyond that, you have to make the choices that are best for your family without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
With that said, here are some top store-brand baby formulas you may want to consider trying for your baby:
- Up and Up Gentle Non-GMO Infant Formula - Offers ideal nutrition for infants in a gentle, easy-to-digest formula. We also list this one as a top formula in our favorites for 2021!
- Parent’s Choice Organic Infant Formula with Iron (Milk-Based Powder) - Parents who eat an organic diet may wish to feed their baby an organic formula. It’s nice to know you can feed your baby organic formula at a lower cost.
- Store Brand Soy Formula - If you are looking for an alternative to cow’s milk formula, perhaps if your baby has an intolerance to lactose or you want to feed them started on a vegan diet, a good generic formula to try is the store brand soy formula which is lactose-free.
What store brand formulas are close to breast milk?
Whether you are transitioning your baby from breast milk to formula, are supplementing with formula, or just have a desire to give your baby a formula as close to breastmilk as you can, there are certain formulas that more closely align with breastmilk’s nutritional profile than others.
If you are looking to get a formula that mimics breast milk as much as possible, in taste, texture and ingredients, here are some things to things to look for on the label:
- DHA/ARA - non-essential fatty acids found in breastmilk
- Nucleotides - found in large quantities in breastmilk
- Lactoferrin and Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) - proteins found in breastmilk
- Lactose as the main/only sweetener - Breastmilk contains the milk sugar lactose and is one of the main ingredients of breastmilk
According to storebrandformula.com, store brand infant formulas have the “same expert-recommended levels of DHA.”
Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Infant Formula, sold at Costco is a great option, to check out.
When to Choose Name Brand Over Store Brand
As stated above, if there is a name-brand formula that you try for your baby and it’s working great, there is really no reason to switch unless you’re looking for a more economical choice. But there are a few other reasons to consider sticking to a name brand formula, or perhaps even situations where you will have to.
- You need a hypoallergenic formula. According to Healthline, about 7% of formula-fed babies have a cow’s milk protein intolerance. These babies require a dairy-free formula. Though you can try a soy-based formula first, about 60% of babies with CMPI will also develop an intolerance to soy proteins. This means you’ll need to choose a hypoallergenic formula, and at the time of this writing, there is not a store-brand equivalent.
- You want to use a concentrated or ready-to-use liquid formula. In our article, “Best Practices for Formula Feeding Your Baby,” we go over the three types of formula. Because store brand formula only comes in powdered formula, if you want to use a liquid, you will need to go with a name brand formula. Some parents like the convenience that these choices offer.
- Your baby isn’t doing well with the store-brand formula you’re giving them. Not every formula works well for every baby, and this is true for both store-brand and name-brand formulas. If you try a store-brand formula and your baby isn't taking well to it, then you may want to try a name-brand formula that offers a more specific nutritional profile that will help your baby. However, there are several different options of store-brand formulas, so don’t necessarily write them all off if one doesn’t work.
There may be other situations where you will have to look beyond what store- brand options your retailer provides.
Made your formula choice? What’s nice about choosing a store-brand is that you’ll have extra money to spend on other essentials for your baby. One of our favorites is the Baby’s Brew Portable Bottle Warmer which will perfectly warm all those formula bottles you’ll be feeding your baby!
In the End, Name Brands Spend More on Marketing Baby Formula
It can feel like you aren’t giving your baby the best when you’re spending considerably less. If it costs less, it’s easy to assume that it couldn’t possibly be as good. In the end, those name brand formula companies spend a fortune on marketing and advertising in an attempt to get you to buy their product in a sea of many formulas to choose from.
But many times, the pretty packaging staring back at you and those commercials that tug at your heart strings are what get you to pull that one off the shelf, when it may essentially be the same as the store-brand right next to it that costs much less. Though you’ll need to invest a bit of extra time, checking the labels thoroughly may just save you a lot of cash while still giving your little one the best nutrition money can buy.