Best Baby Formula 2019
Last Updated: . The Best Baby Formula 2019. After comparing and testing over 15 baby formulas, Walmart’s Parent’s Choice infant formula is our top choice for best baby formula.
New to formula shopping for baby’s room? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying for advice and tips.
Parent’s Choice is made by PBM Products, a privately owned formula manufacturer based in Georgia. This formula is sold under the Parent’s Choice label on formula for sale in Walmart stores.
We picked Parent’s Choice because it is the least expensive generic cow’s milk formula with iron that is available everywhere in the US (with no club membership required). Other chains carry PBM-made generic formula (see below for a list), but Parent’s Choice is consistently cheaper at Walmart than other stores.
Insider tip: all formula sold in the U.S. must meet the SAME nutritional and safety guidelines mandated by the government. So that expensive name brand formula you see is virtually the same as the affordable store brand generic—same basic ingredients, same nutrition, and so on.
If you belong to a warehouse club, here’s some good news: you’ll find even cheaper prices on generic formula there. Sam’s Club’s Members Mark and JB’s Berkley & Jenson formulas are also made by PBM Products.
FYI: Based on our hands-on inspection, we believe Kirkland Signature is made in the same factory that makes Similac (Abbott) formula. Why? Check out this side by side comparison of formula tubs (Kirkland vs. Similac): note the exact same shape and colors.
(To clarify, Kirkland’s basic formula is most like Similac Pro Advance. Pictured above is the Pro Sensitive Formula which is not the same. The photo is intended to show only the packaging similarities.)
Another clue: a sharp eyed reader (@jme8it) sent us this photograph of a tub of Kirkland formula—with a scoop inside clearly marked Abbott!
Let’s take a look at prices for generic (store-brand) powdered formulas available at chain stores and warehouse stores, from cheapest to most expensive (priced per ounce of dry powder):
- Sam’s Club Members Mark: 48¢/oz.
- Costco Kirkland Signature: 49¢/oz.
- BJ’s Berkley&Jensen: 52¢/oz.
- Walmart Parent’s Choice: 57¢/oz.
- Target Up&Up: 59¢/oz.
- CVS Health: 68¢/oz.
- Walgreens Well Beginnings: 86¢/oz.
Wow! You can spend 86¢ per ounce of basic powdered formula . . . or 48¢ per ounce. Why pay nearly twice as much for the same thing?
Remember that baby formula is very promotional—it goes on sale all the time. And then there are coupons, which you can find with a five second Google search. So here’s an expert bargain shopper tip: record the best formula price per ounce in your phone. Then when you see a “sale”, divide the sale price by the ounces in the container. If it is below your strike price, buy!
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing infant formula since 2005. In addition to interviewing nutritionists and pediatricians, we have combed the research to learn about nutritional standards and testing of formula. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Amazon, as well as our own message boards.
Much of our advice on formula (and feeding infants in general) comes from our best-selling sister book, Baby 411. This book is co-authored by an award-winning pediatrician who is an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluate infant formula based on both interviews with experts and in-depth research into infant nutrition and health., We check brands for overall quality and affordability. We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print) parents.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying Infant Formula!
1. Premixed formula will cost you.
Formula 101: there are three types of formula : powdered, liquid concentrate or ready-to-drink (pre-mixed). Liquid concentrate and ready-to-drink premixed formula is very expensive—50% to 200% more than powdered formula. A word to the wise: start your baby on powdered formula, not liquid concentrate or ready-to-drink. Why? Because babies get used to the texture of whatever they try first (powdered formula tastes different). Start on ready-to-drink formula and baby may refuse powdered formula.
2. Generic formula includes exactly the same nutrition as name brand formula.
That’s right, as we mentioned above, the federal government mandates that all baby food include the same nutritional ingredients. So what’s the difference between formulas? Some name brands include additional ingredients to help with digestion such as pre-biotics. They aren’t necessary ingredients, so we recommend trying less expensive generic formulas like Bright Beginnings, Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club), and Parent’s Choice (Walmart). These are all made by PBM Products.
3. Your toddler doesn’t need toddler formula.
In an attempt to keep parents buying formula way past the time kids need it, some formula manufacturers have created “toddler formulas.” These toddler formulas claim to contain more calcium, iron and vitamins, but nutritionists and pediatricians point out that toddlers should be getting most of their nutrition from solid foods, not formula. Toddlers should ideally only be drinking about two cups of whole milk a day. Whole milk should be served to toddlers between 12 and 24 months of age. At age two, switch to skim or 1% milk. By the way, whole milk is significantly less expensive than formula. No toddler needs “toddler formula” (unless instructed by your pediatrician for a health condition).
4. Formula makers like Similac and Enfamil have frequent buyer clubs you can join for coupons and other freebies.
Similac’s program is called StrongMoms Rewards while Enfamil has Family Beginnings. Of course, there is a trade off for all those freebies—formula companies want your personal info (email address, street address, birth date, etc). But no one said you have to use your main email address. Create another email address for joining clubs like this.
5. Where you shop can make a difference in the price of formula.
Yes, Amazon sells formula at good prices. And you’ve probably discovered that chains and warehouse clubs offer great prices on formula as well. But did you realize that some locations of the same chain, say Walmart, offer lower every day prices than other locations in the same town.
Yes, this really happens. One reader stopped by a Walmart location in a different part of her home town and discovered that she was paying $6.61 per can at her local Walmart while this other location 20 minutes away was selling that same can for $3.68!
6. Your pediatrician gets lots of free samples.
That’s right, the formula companies bombard pediatricians with samples and most pediatricians don’t have lots of room to store them. Don’t be afraid to ask if your doctor has free samples. (But don’t start your newborn on ready-to-drink or liquid concentrate formulas, see tip #1 above!).
7. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of bottled water!
What, you say? Don’t you just mix tap water with powered formula?
No, bottled water is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association. That’s because tap water can contain too much fluoride, which is a problem (discolored teeth). If your tap water contains .3 ppm or less fluoride, tap water is okay (ask your local water department for fluoride levels). But if fluoride levels are HIGHER than that, you should use bottled water.
And not just any bottled water: purified, demineralized, deionized, distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water is recommended. Also: be sure to boil that bottled water before mixing with powered formula. For a full discussion of formula and how to prepare it, see our Baby 411 book here.
Baby formula certifications: what is organic?
USDA National Organic Program certification. In the US, the USDA oversees the program that certified food as organic. There is a List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which is used by certifying agents (along with a host of other requirements) to certify that food is being organically produced. Organic is defined by the USDA as “products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with the USDA organic regulations.” Sounds typical of a government agency.
“This means that organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality, while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” (The last part is probably the reason most folks buy organic.) Once an agricultural product has been certified, it can then carry the USDA Organic Seal.
Just because an item has been labeled “organic” by the USDA, doesn’t mean it meets the most strict standards. Parent activists point to more stringent organic requirements in Europe. Many even buy European formula online at exorbitant prices because they believe the USDA doesn’t go far enough with its regulation of substances in formula such as carrageenan (a stabilizer), a potential cause of gastrointestinal health problems. Carrageenan is not allowed in European formula. Parents also take issue with the large amount of sweeteners in US formula and the use of synthetic preservatives and nutrients.
We understand those concerns. However, before you jump on the European baby formula train, however, read this post from our blog via Facebook. The take-home message: there are risks with buying European formula online.
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