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Formula is a common substitute for breastfeeding among mothers who either can’t or don’t want to breastfeed.
It’s also an option for children who are lactose intolerant (or with lactase deficiency), have trouble gaining weight, or who are adopted and don’t have access to a mother who can breastfeed them.
Formula feeding is a practice that is sometimes frowned upon by parents who believe that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for babies, but the reality is, not every mother has the ability to breastfeed and not every baby has access to a breastfeeding mother.
Bottom Line Up Front: I personally prefer the cleaner ingredient profile (less added sugar) offered by Enfamil here. Remember, if you are ordering online you can get some great bulk discounts directly from their site here.
- 1 Main Differences Between Enfamil vs Similac
- 2 Types of Formula
- 3 Baby Formula Alternatives
- 4 About Enfamil
- 5 About Similac
- 6 FAQ’s About Formula
- 7 Formula Recalls
- 8 Have You Considered European Formula?
- 9 Final Word: Similac or Enfamil?
Main Differences Between Enfamil vs Similac
The main differences between Enfamil and Similac are:
- Similac typically uses more sugar in their formula, whereas Enfamil minimizes sugar content
- Enfamil is generally more expensive than Similac
- Enfamil currently has 15 formula products, whereas Similac has 20
- Enfamil tends to have more natural and fewer ingredients compared to Similac
The question of which formula is better is more than just which brand is the best. You have to account for the different types of formula each brand makes, including formula for sensitive tummies, formula made from soy, and much more.
Types of Formula
Both Enfamil and Similac make several different types of formula.
The includes formula for babies who have upset stomachs, babies who are lactose intolerant, hypoallergenic formula, infant formula, and toddler formula.
Enfamil makes the following formula varieties:
- NeuroPro Sensitive
- NeuroPro Infant
- NeuroPro Gentlease Enfamil
- Enspire Gentlease
- PREMIUM Infant
- PREMIUM Gentlease
- Nutramigen with Enflora LGG Hypoallergenic formula for Cow’s Milk Allergy
- Nutramigen Ready-to-Use Formula for Colic due to Cow’s Milk Allergy
Similac makes the following formula varieties:
- Advance for Neuro Support
- Supplementation NON-GMO
- Pure Bliss
- Advance Lamehadrin
- Pro-Advance with 2’-FL HMO
- Pro-Total Comfort with 2’-FL HMO
- Pro-Sensitive with 2’-FL HMO
- Pro-Total Confort for Sensitive Tummies
- Pro-Sensitive for Sensitive Tummies
- Sensitive for Neuro Support for Sensitive Tummies
- Sensitive for Sensitive Tummies
- Soy Isomil for Sensitive Tummies
- Spit-Up NON-GMO for Sensitive Tummies
- Similac Expert Care NeoSure (Similac Expert)
- Similac for Diarrhea
With so many options, it’s tough to know which is best. Similac has more varieties than Enfamil, but which offers better nutritional value or meets the needs of your child the best? Sometimes it’s tough to know until you try it.
With any formula, study the labels to make sure you’re comfortable with the ingredients before feeding it to your child. If your child has special nutritional needs, choose a formula that’s specially formulated for those needs.
Unless your child has an adverse reaction to the formula you choose right away, continue feeding with that formula for a week or two to see if it works before putting your child’s tummy through a lot of unnecessary changes.
Baby Formula Alternatives
As with any type of infant feeding solution, formula may not be the best option for you.
Before choosing to go the formula route, evaluate all of your options. Breastfeeding is nutritious, but it also fosters a bond between infant and mother, so it’s a great option for most babies.
However, if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for reasons like failure to latch, slow weight gain, dietary reasons, low milk production, or you simply don’t want to, that’s fine! You can speak with your doctor about another alternative.
There are places you can get donated breast milk. Many hospitals near you may have breast milk donation programs you can become a part of to get your child the nutrition they need. Look into those programs near you if you would like your child to have breast milk but you can’t provide it.
Some doctors may approve a totally different feeding regimen based on your situation, so speak with your child’s pediatrician about any concerns you may have with breastfeeding, formula feedings, or other feeding alternatives.
Another good resource is the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics online resource on formula.
Some breastfed infants may not need certain nutrient profiles in formula. Learn more about Supplemental vs Regular formula for more information.
Some Parents Prefer European Baby Formula: It’s the hot new trend, not without controversy. European organic non-GMO formula options are all the rage. Europe has different – some would argue stricter – standards when it comes to formula. The problem is, these standards are not necessarily recognized by the FDA. You can learn more about the best European brand baby formulas, if you are interested.
Through extensive research, we found that Enfamil seems to emphasize the importance of nutrition, brain boosters, and less added sugar.
Enfamil contains about 50% more AHA and DHA oils (docosahexaenoic acid) to promote eye development and neural development. However, there are plenty of options from Enfamil to choose from, and some have added nutrition while others do not.
Enfamil offers a Gentlease product line for babies who are fussy, gassy, or tend to spit up frequently. They offer NeuroPro Gentlease with brain-building nutrients, Enspire Gentlease that contains a formula closest to breast milk, PREMIUM Gentlease for easing the transition to NeuroPro Gentlease, and the traditional Gentlease product that is the basic formula for sensitive tummies.
This product offering is best for reducing crying, gas, and fussiness while providing your child with the nutrition they need to maintain their health during the first year of life. It has the necessary fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, and water. It uses corn syrup to help your baby digest the cow’s milk more easily.
Unlike the Similac sensitive tummy variety, this Enfamil variety contains additional whey protein concentrates from soy and partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk to help sensitive tummies digest cow’s milk and add in reducing fussiness and gas.
This product should be compared to Similac Sensitive, but wins out with the added ingredients for aiding digestion. It can help babies with sensitive tummies more than the Similac variety can. You can also compare this one to Gerber Good Start Gentle or Gerber Soothe. Check it out on Amazon!
It’s reasonable to believe that babies who spit up regularly might have sensitive tummies, but that’s not always the case. An infant’s digestive system is not yet fully developed, so the valve that allows food to pass through the esophagus to the stomach doesn’t do an effective job of keeping the food down.
This leads to excessive spit-up in babies, but it doesn’t always mean your baby will be fussy or gassy, it just makes messy work of being parents. If you find that you’re struggling with this type of spit up, Enfamil A.R. can help.
Enfamil gives an extensive list of reasons why their A. R. formula is clinically proven to reduce your baby’s tendency to spit up by over 50%. It contains probiotics for digestive health and the solution is thicker, which makes it heavier and harder to spit up.
Enfamil uses extra sugars in their A. R. formula to settle fussy tummies and uses rice to help make it thicker. It has a similar mix of vitamin and minerals to comparable varieties like Similac Spit-Up.
The main ingredients in this Enfamil formula are vegetable oils, rice starch, maltodextrin, lactose, and nonfat milk. When compared to Similac, Enfamil has more prebiotics and much less sugar, so it promotes better overall gut health. Check it out on Amazon!
This alternative is great for babies who have an allergy to cow’s milk or experience colicky symptoms when they drink formula with cow’s milk in it. Because of the proteins in cow’s milk, it can be hard for a baby to digest.
Nutramigen can help reduce the colic and other symptoms that come from a cow’s milk allergy. It gives your infant the nutrients they need while providing a hypoallergenic formula that can help reduce the chances of them struggling with the same allergy later on in life.
While it’s not a soy or synthetic formula, it does contain smaller milk proteins that are more easily digested by most babies. Sugar aids in the digestion of the milk proteins, and it contains glucose instead of lactose, which breaks down a bit differently. Check it out on Amazon!
This variety of Enfamil formula provides the basic nutrition your baby needs from birth to twelve months. It’s a milk-based formula that has lactose, nonfat milk, whey protein, soy oil, coconut oil, and high oleic safflower oil. It also contains the fatty acids Palm Olein oil (sometimes just referred to as palm olein or olein oil), which is similar to breast milk.
It does not have added sugars, but it does come with Choline, DHA, and Vitamin K as well as a prebiotic. It’s one of the better amino acid-based formulas out there. Check it out on Amazon!
This Enfamil formula is specially designed to closely mimic breast milk and boost overall health in your infant. It contains MFGM, or Milk Fat Globule Membrane, which is a DHA fat-protein that is only found in breast milk.
Because fat is so important for brain growth and development, this formula doesn’t a great job of simulating the fat found in breast milk. This formula uses lactose, nonfat milk, soy oil, coconut oil, and oleic safflower oil without added sugars. Check it out on Amazon!
This is the only Enfamil formula that is completely milk-free. For babies who can’t digest the proteins in cow’s milk, this is a soy formula that gives them the nutrients they need while helping to avoid the gas and discomfort they may feel when they eat cow’s milk proteins.
While it would be smart to try the Nutramigen first, if your baby still has trouble with digestion or fussiness, this is a great alternative. It uses corn syrup as the primary ingredient with soy protein isolate to avoid milk-based ingredients. Corn syrup is really one of the more problematic syrup options as it pervades so many processed foods (and corn is already hard to process).
It has all of the fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates your baby needs. Check it out on Amazon!
Similac tends to add a bit more sugar to their infant formula that Enfamil doesn’t. It may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not all bad. In fact, sugar aids in digestion, which can be beneficial for infants who have developing digestive systems.
Sugar also makes the formula taste better, so Similac seems to be preferred for its taste over other brands. However, infants don’t have anything to compare the taste to, so they likely won’t demonstrate a preference in brands, and they’ll develop their sweet tooth when they try fruits and other foods.
The added sugar will bother some people, and to others, it won’t matter, so this added ingredient is a personal preference and may depend on how your baby tolerates or takes to a specific formula.
The equivalent of Enfamil Gentlease, Similac Sensitive is for babies are fussy, gassy, or spit up more than normal. It’s for sensitive tummies and can help reduce gas and crying. It has all of the nutrition your baby needs in the first year.
While it uses corn syrup solids and has a non-GMO version just like Enfamil, it contains Linoleic Acid (olein oil) and more sugar that can be a powerful prebiotic. It also contains milk protein isolate, which can cause allergic reactions or indigestion, so while many babies are just fine, it’s something to be aware of. it does not contain any palm based olein oil.
Given that this is supposed to be a formula for sensitive tummies, that last ingredient may not have been the best choice by Similac, but if Enfamil Gentlease doesn’t work, it’s another alternative to try. Check it out on Amazon!
This formula is for babies who spit up regularly. While Similac doesn’t give a lot of detail about their reduced spit-up formula, we do know it uses rice starch to make it thicker than their traditional formula, which helps it stay down. It also contains corn syrup, milk protein isolate, a prebiotic, and vegetable oils. It does not contain GMOs. Check it out on Amazon!
Both Similac Alimentum and Enfamil Nutramigen are very similar. Alimentum is great for colic due to cow’s milk sensitivity because Similac uses hydrolyzed casein, which is still from cow’s milk but is easier to digest than lactose. This casein hydrolysate is made of smaller proteins, just like what’s in the Nutramigen.
Similac uses the sugar maltodextrin to aid digestion, making the milk product even easier to digest. However, the Similac variety has added sugar on top of the maltodextrin and it has more Linoleic Acid. Check it out on Amazon!
Further Read: Similac Alimentum Review
This basic formula has everything your infant needs for nourishment from birth to twelve months. It has lactose, nonfat milk, whey protein, soy oil, coconut oil, and oleic safflower oil, with no added sugars. It also has a prebiotic, Choline, DHA, and Vitamin K.
Where the Similac formula differs from Enfamil is in the Lutein added for vision. Enfamil focuses more on Palm Olein similar to what’s in breast milk, but it can be hard on undeveloped stomachs. Check it out on Amazon!
Further Read: Similac Advance Review
Similac 2’-FL HMO Pro Advance
This brain-boosting formula is similar to the Enfamil NeuroPro. It effectively mimics breast milk by adding fat-proteins combined with DHA. The ingredients in the Similac variety have excellent immune system enhancers and prebiotics to foster the growth of healthy bacteria so the GI tract remains healthy.
While Enfamil NeuroPro is great for brain development, Similac 2’-FL HMO Pro Advance is great for gut development and the immune system. For babies who are otherwise healthy, Enfamil is the better choice, but if you have problems with immune concerns, Similac is a winner. Check it out on Amazon!
Similac Soy Isomil
For babies who have intolerances to lactose or have trouble digesting even the Alimentum, Soy Isomil is a better choice. It is soy-based with no milk ingredients at all, making it easier to digest and eliminating fussiness and gas.
Like the Enfamil ProSobee, Similac uses corn syrup as the primary ingredient with soy protein isolate. It has all the nutrition baby needs including proteins, fat, vitamins, and carbohydrates. The primary difference is once again the added sugar in Similac as well as Linoleic Acid. Check it out on Amazon!
FAQ’s About Formula
Many people have questions about the ingredients in formula, pricing, and how to supplement, so here we’ve addressed some of the most common questions about standard formula feeding.
Which formula should I pick?
That’s a loaded question because it depends on a lot of factors including budget, dietary needs, restrictions, health concerns, availability, and much more. You need to review the formulas we discussed above as well as the other product offerings out there before you decide. No one can make that determination for you, but your child’s pediatrician can be instrumental in helping you figure it out.
Why is there corn syrup in the formula?
Many moms of older children have now become overly cautious about the ingredients in their child’s food, and rightfully so. One of those ingredients is corn syrup. However, because the primary ingredient in breast milk is lactose, formulas need a way to mimic that recipe. Most formulas use lactose from cow’s milk to beef up the sugar content, but others use corn syrup or palm olein to help mimic.
The primary concern is not whether your baby’s formula contains sugar, but how many different sugars it contains. As we’ve already discussed, Similac tends to add extra sugars, which isn’t necessary in all cases. However, that’s a determination you can make based on your child’s specific needs.
Can I give my baby water?
While you are supposed to mix powder formula with water, you shouldn’t give a baby under six months any water at all otherwise. Infants get all of the nutrients and liquids they need from breast milk or formula. You can start introducing water when your baby begins eating solid foods.
Your baby has a very small belly that fills up quickly. You should be cautious of the amount of water you give because it could take up valuable space for other nutrients your child needs to thrive and be healthy.
How can I tell if my baby doesn’t like it?
If your baby doesn’t like the formula, they will refuse it. It will be easy to tell whether or not your baby likes it. If your baby is only taking enough formula to quell the hunger, but not finishing a bottle, or if your baby is fussy soon after he eats, it may be time to make a switch. Keep in mind that sometimes the issue is actually the bottle, not the formula, so try a few different bottle options.
How will I know if I need to change formula?
Excessive spit-up, gas, fussiness, and other signs of discomfort may indicate you need to try a different formula. You may also need to switch if your baby has a rash because it could be a sign of an allergy.
Is Non-GMO better?
While some people are worried about GMOs, others aren’t. GMOs are foods that have been modified at their genetic level to make them strong and more resistant to pests. However, GMOs can add bacteria to infant formula just like they can to your food. Because GMOs haven’t been tested very thoroughly yet, we’re not really sure of the effects.
If you’re worried about it, you can get formula without GMOs. These formulas don’t have any genetically modified foods in them and are certified organic. They contain foods that were grown without pesticides and other modifiers.
Further Reading: What’s the Difference Between Non-GMO vs Regular Infant Formula?
Can I add anything to the formula?
Don’t ever add anything to your infant’s formula. Always mix it as indicated on the packaging. Adding extra water can fill your child up and prevent them from getting the nutrients they need. Adding rice or other baby cereal before your child is ready could also cause difficulty eating.
Can I make a homemade formula?
Before we had access to infant formula, mothers would use Caro Syrup and cow’s milk to supplement for infants who didn’t have the access to breast milk that they needed to survive. While these babies were able to live and grow, they were deprived of the essential nutrients they needed to thrive as infants.
Enfamil, Similac, and other formula companies have been perfecting their recipes for years, attempting to mimic breast milk and give babies the nutrients they need. Formula still only contains some of the same ingredients of breast milk because you simply can’t replicate it all in a lab. However, it’s much, much safer for your baby than a homemade formula. It really is the best alternative to breastfeeding.
What about generic brands?
Of course, you can always look into a generic brand. As a matter of fact, many of the store brands you find are actually manufactured with the same ingredients and in the same facilities as some of the name brands, but at a fraction of the cost.
Look at the ingredients and do some intense research and you’ll find that the store where you normally shop may be made by a name brand. Generic formulas work well for many people and are a great cost-saving alternative.
Can my baby have pure cow’s milk?
Never. Human babies need human milk, not cow’s milk. Breast milk and formula are specially formulated to include the nutrients your baby needs. They cannot get everything they need from cow’s milk.
While recalls for formula and baby food are rare, they happen on occasion. Fortunately, right now, the Food and Drug Administration is reporting no formula recalls for Enfamil, Similac, or any other baby formula brand, so you can rest assured that no matter which one you choose, your baby will be safe.
Have You Considered European Formula?
While a bit outside of the mainstream, non-GMO, organic European baby formulas are quickly gaining traction in the U.S (although they haven’t been rated by the American Academy of Pediatrics yet).
This is largely due to the different – some argue more stringent – quality standards enforced in some European countries compared to American Academy standards.
Here are a few to check out:
- Holle Formula Review
- HiPP Formula Review
- Lebenswert Review
- Loulouka Formula Review
- Topfer Formula Review
Final Word: Similac or Enfamil?
Both manufacturers produce a wide variety of recipes that are specially formulated with particular diets in mind.
Every formula has the nutrients your baby needs, but based on your baby’s development, health, and other factors, you may choose a certain recipe over another.
Enfamil doesn’t have as many added sugars as Similac, but babies tend to like the taste of Similac better. We can only assume that’s because they have added sugars. Unfortunately, babies can’t talk, so we don’t know.
Enfamil uses quality ingredients and we would recommend almost any Enfamil variety over the Similac, except in cases like the Similac 2’-FL HMO Pro Advance, Similac Alimentum, or Similac Advance, where the formula is almost identical. In these cases, it comes down to personal preference, cost, and your baby’s taste.
Because they use higher quality ingredients, Enfamil tends to be more expensive, so that makes it less appealing to some. You get to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of ingredients and cost yourself.
While Similac uses extra sugars, you can always review the ingredients list to see how high on the list it appears. If it’s farther down the list, you may feel more comfortable feeding it to your baby.
Similac also tends to avoid GMOs, which may be another deciding factor for you. Now it’s time for you to choose which you think is right for you.
Bottom Line: I personally prefer the cleaner ingredient profile (less added sugar) offered by Enfamil here. Remember, if you are ordering online you can get some great bulk discounts directly from their site here.
Remember, parents should always check with their Pediatrican if ever in doubt as a qualified medical professional (Pediatrician) will be able to make a specific recommendation for your situation!
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