Sylvia wants to know: “Can I use generic baby formula? I use generics for myself all the time, but get nervous about the idea with my baby. (He only eats one thing – I want it to be good for him!) Are generic formulas ok? Do I just need to make sure it has the same nutrition info as the well-known brand?”
Generic formulas adhere to the same industry standards as the name brands, and are essentially the same. When you buy the name-brand products, you’re paying more for a label, and you’re paying more for their extensive promotional efforts and giveaways.
I almost always buy generics—including medications, when they’re available. (Except for JIF peanut butter. Mmmmm, Jif!) It’s a myth that brand-name products are superior, a myth allegedly maintained by false or misleading advertising campaigns. There have been times in the past when new developments in baby formula first appeared in the name-brand products, most recently the addition of the essential fatty acids ARA and DHA. At this time, however, the generics have entirely caught up, and you don’t need to spend extra to get the second best product available.
(I forgot Coca-Cola. OK, for the record, all other brands of cola are nasty, especially icky store brands. Mmmmm real Coke!)
Almost all formulas fall into one of these groups, with very little variation within the group:
- Standard cow’s milk based formulas, like Enfamil Lipil or Similac Advance or almost any store brand. These are fine, the standard second best thing to feed your baby.
- Partially hydrolyzed cow’s milk formulas. A few brands partially “digest” their milk proteins, supposedly making the formulas easier on the tummy. There’s very little data to support their use, but they’re fine if you want to try one, like Gentlease or Carnation Good Start.
- Soy formulas, including many generics, Isomil, and Prosobee. There are very few, rare medical reasons to use these; many babies with genuine cow’s milk allergies can’t tolerate soy, and have to use a genuinely hypoallergenic formula. Still, if you’d like to avoid cow’s milk, go for it. These are probably fine.
- Reduced-lactose formulas (Similac Sensitive, Lactofree). These are just silly—there is no such thing as lactose intolerance in babies, and these formulas are only there to pander to fears and misinformation. If your child is genuinely allergic to milk, these won’t help.
- Hypoallergic formulas, like Alimentum or Nutramigen, are for babies with genuine milk allergies. This isn’t common, but for those babies these products are essential. There are no generics of these formulas, which are very expensive.
- Spittin’ formulas, like Enfamil AR or Similac RS, add modified rice starch that thickens somewhat in the stomach, preventing spitting. They seem to help some, but keep in mind that almost all babies spit up sometimes, and most don’t need any medicine or special formula. There are no generics of these moderately-priced formulas.
(I like genuine Ivory soap, too. Smells nice.)
If you’re looking to save a few dollars, generic baby formula is fine. There’s another alternative, too, for those of you making plans for after your baby is born: the bestest “formula” ever happens to be the cheapest, too. Nurse! Genuine Momma’s Breast® is one brand name that’s worth every penny!