Enfamil vs. Similac: What’s The Difference?
Published: May 6, 2017
Pampers vs Huggies. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste vs. Dr. Brown’s. Even from Day 1, it can feel like buying baby products is a land mine of decisions. God forbid you don’t get the best detergent for cloth diapers! When you decide to formula feed it may seem like you need a science degree to differentiate between the formulas available and figure out which is best. Choosing the right formula doesn’t have to be difficult. In an aisle full of different brands and specialty formulations, picking the right formula for your baby can seem incredibly overwhelming! Is there a best formula for your child or are they similar variations of the same thing that will all suffice in providing the needed nutrition for your child? While infant formulas are all required to meet a certain set of standards in their composition and nutrient count, there are several differences that set one brand apart from another. Here’s how to demystify the Enfamil Vs. Similac question.
The Main Difference
It’s strange to compare the two brands, as they seem so similar and both have claimed to be the “Number One Formula Used by Hospitals!” and “The Number One Choice of Moms!” over the last dozen or more years. In fact, they both seem to claim these titles, only by different “studies” or led by different groups. There are moms firmly in the Team Enfamil camp and those rooting for Team Similac as well. You could actually run into these formula cheerleaders and receive some advice/opinions if you spend some time perusing the formula aisle at Target or Walmart. You can be sure to find brochures for both in your OB/GYN waiting room, preparing you for the great formula debate before your little one has even entered this world. Your doctor may also load you down with free samples during your monthly visits, as representatives for both brands are frequent visitors to many OB/GYN clinics. Even if you’re planning on breastfeeding, you may wonder what the best choice in formula is, especially if you decide to supplement later down the road.
Both brands offer very similar options in their standard formula products for infants. FDA regulations ensure that all formulas offer mostly the same ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. However, how these macronutrients are derived can be very different. Vitamin and mineral content can vary quite a bit in regards to the standard formulations of both Enfamil and Similac.
- Enfamil Infant, the standard formula for Enfamil, contains greater amounts of folic acid, pantothenic acid, choline, inositol, and vitamins C, E, K, and B12 than Similac. When it comes to minerals, Enfamil contains more magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and iodine than Similac, meaning the electrolyte content in Enfamil is slightly higher than that found in Similac. Whether this is truly important or significant is debatable, but it is important to note for those moms trying to figure out the best formula for their child.
- Similac Advance, which is their standard formula, contains greater amounts of niacin, biotin, vitamin D, and riboflavin. It also has a greater amount of copper than Enfamil Infant. This may be important to note, as increased vitamin D intake is especially important for infants. In fact, many pediatricians may suggest the use of Vitamin D drops during your baby’s first months of life.
- Both formula brands contain DHA, which is important for your baby’s growth and brain development. Prebiotics can also be found in both brands, which are beneficial to your child’s gut health. The amounts of vitamin A, iron, and calcium are the same for both brands, all of which are extremely important for growth and development.
More research can be done to determine the specific advantages to having higher vitamin or mineral content, but it really comes down to what you feel your baby needs in terms of formula. Many babies are perfectly content with the standard formulas but there are a variety of different specialty formulas that each brand offers for sensitive tummies, lactose intolerant babies, and even organic options. As with most things, finding out what your baby feels best with is a trial and error situation. Both brands dedicate themselves to solving issues with feeding your baby. Another thing to consider – once you find a formula that your infant seems to like, it may be best to just stick with it. Just as some moms swear by Huggies diapers while others won’t use anything except Pampers, every baby is different and what works for one may not work for another. While some mothers buy whatever’s on sale, you may decide “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” As always, please consult with your pediatrician before making your final decision.
Similac has been around for almost a century. Isn’t that crazy to ponder? It was first developed in the 1920s by Alfred Bosworth of Tufts University and was called “Franklin Infant Food.” In the 1950s the name was changed to Similac, sort of a play on words of “similar” and “lactate” and it was reformulated and concentrated, leading to a rise in popularity and use around the globe. Many different variations have been created throughout the years to provide options for mothers looking for a formula to best suit their baby. To date, Similac offers over 10 different kinds of baby formula to appeal to an assortment of different sensitivities and ingredient combinations. It also offers several options for use in toddlerhood, letting you continue to ensure your child’s nutritional intake with a brand you have trusted since babyhood. Today it can be found on shelves in 96 countries.
Similac PRO-Advance is a good choice for those interested in something as close to breastmilk as possible. This standard formula includes human breastmilk prebiotics, which add immunity. The addition of DHA, Lutein and Vitamin E (a blend Similac refers to as Opti-GRO) helps overall growth and brain and eye development. Main ingredients include nonfat milk, lactose and whey protein concentrate. Meanwhile, Similac Advance is an identical product, minus the breastmilk prebiotics. It’s also important to note that Similac for Supplementation is identical to Similac Advance.
Similac’s Pure Bliss Infant Formula contains milk from grass-fed cows and is free of artificial growth hormones, GMOs and antibiotics. Main ingredients include nonfat milk and lactose. This is a good choice for those who place an importance on grassfed and non-GMO products. Parents interested in Similac’s more natural options also may like Similac Organic.
For babies with digestive issues, Similac Pro-Sensitive is for infants having issues with gas and mild spit-up. Its main ingredients include corn syrup and milk protein and the formula includes prebiotics. Similac Soy Isomil, meanwhile, provides relief from excessive fussiness or gas. Its main ingredients include corn syrup solids and soy protein.
Similac seems to be the most referred choice by doctors when it comes to babies who are dealing with constipation or gas. The absence of palm oil may have something to do with a better digestive process, making Similac a smart choice for mothers who have a baby with an upset tummy (which can lead to non-stop crying and a frazzled mom!). If your baby suffers from colic, a change in formula can make a world of difference in your baby’s disposition and behavior. Cutting out a formula with palm oil could make all the difference and lead to a much more well-rested baby and mother.
Enfamil came into business in the 1950s. It began with Enfamil R, which was created to mimic the pattern and nutritional value of human milk. The product is under the Mead Johnson brand, and actually got its name from a play on “infant meal.” Throughout the past 70 odd years, Enfamil has added a whole host of different formulas to appeal to a number of different sensitivities and needs. It continues to be one of the most popular formula options around the world and is widely available across the world.
Enfamil Enspire most closely resembles Similac’s Pro-Advance formula – it includes prebiotics for immunity, Vitamin E and DHA (but not lutein). It’s also available in a non-GMO version. Main ingredients include nonfat milk and lactose. Meanwhile, Enfamil Newborn is great in the very beginning for young, sensitive tummies. It may require some trial and error until you settle on the right one, as Enfamil Gentlease is specifically marketed as a sensitive-tummy formula.
The Gentlease formula, which claims to provide 24-hour relief from gas and fussiness, consists mainly of corn syrup solids and partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk. In addition to aiding in digestive issues, it’s also used to transition babies from breastmilk to formula. For lactose intolerant babies, there’s Enfamil ProSobee, which consists of corn syrup solids and vegetable oil.
One point to note is that Enfamil contains an ingredient known as palm olein oil. It is a controversial ingredient for many moms who have done their fair share of research on formulas and can usually be found on the negative side of any pros and cons list for formulas. It is meant to replicate the fat found in breast milk but has some side effects that may turn some mothers off. It doesn’t absorb fully into your baby’s digestive system, meaning the fatty acid from the oil is left in your baby’s intestines where it can actually inhibit calcium absorption and cause constipation. Your baby can be left feeling miserable and also won’t be receiving the necessary amounts of fat and calcium in their diet. While this may not occur with every child, and the impact may be minimal, if your baby is experiencing constipation while on Enfamil, this may be the culprit.
While the addition of palm olein oil can be a thumbs-down for some moms, a plus is that Enfamil is easier to scoop and pack than Similac. With Similac you may have to sift or shake the container to separate the formula. You won’t have this problem with Enfamil as it stays powdery, allowing you to scoop and go.
Is Store Brand Formula Any Good?
Good question! I started noticing that Target was marketing its own formula. The containers I saw in the store said something like “Compare to Similac Advance.” So I did, and the ingredients and nutritional information are incredibly similar. So I asked my doctor and she gave me the go-ahead to use store brand if I prefer. So while I started on Similac Pro Advance and Similac Advance, as my baby got older and less sensitive I switched to store-brand formula to pinch some pennies.
If you are a frequent shopper of Costco, you will be very familiar with the Kirkland brand. Kirkland is Costco’s private label and a large variety of different goods and products can be found under this label, including infant formula. Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Infant Formula can also be found on Amazon if you do not have a Costco in your area. It is usually a better deal than the big name brands in formula and the quality seems to be similar based on the reviews it has received from happy moms.
If you’re looking to save some money, switching to store brand formula can definitely help. And using store brand formula over the course of a year can end in big savings for you! You may want to check with your baby’s pediatrician before making the switch, but as all formulas have specific standards they need to meet, your doctor should feel comfortable with your little one switching over. However, babies with intolerance issues or sensitivity to certain formulas may not be so easy to switch over to store brands.
What About Those Other Brands?
The organic section of the formula aisle has grown tremendously in the past few years as more and more organic brands have began to include baby products in their company product lines. Stores like Target, and an increasing amount of grocery stores, have a wide variety of different organic brands of formula available to their customers.
Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula has become a widely known brand that is high in quality but not outrageous in price. It is certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO, and it’s protein source has not been exposed to pesticides or fertilizers. It contains DHA, prebiotics, and omegas to help support and aid in the development and health of your baby. It seems to be a popular choice among mothers who like the benefits and appeal of buying organic. It also has no added corn syrup solids, which many other formula brands, such as Enfamil and Similac, use to cheaply boost their carbohydrate count. Corn syrup solids provide no nutritional benefit to the baby, making Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula a great choice for dense nutritional value. All carbohydrates in this formula are due to the presence of organic lactose, which is its number one ingredient.
Plum Organics Grow Well Organic Infant Formula is another popular choice for organic feeding of your child. Plum Organics is a well-known brand that has become a mainstay in the organic baby and toddler food section and recently branched out to include formula as well. It is similar to Earth’s Best Organic Formula but does have a higher price tag. Many moms that are familiar with the brand will continue to buy the product in spite of its higher price tag because the brand has such a great reputation for quality products. It does not incorporate corn syrup solids into its formula like many other brands, which is a positive for many moms and dads. This means that its carbohydrate content comes exclusively from lactose, just like breast milk. It is made with nonfat dairy milk from cows that have been fed organic hay and grain, free from pesticides and fertilizers. These cows have also not received any growth hormones or antibiotics, important factors to consider for some parents. However, it does contain organic palm oil, which may keep it off some mom’s list of potential formula choices.
GoodSense Advantage Milk-Based Powder Infant Formula is a fairly inexpensive option that may save you quite a bit of money from buying the big name brands. It is comparable to Similac Advance and has a similar nutrient and caloric profile. It provides complete nutrition for the first year of your child’s life. It is manufactured in the United States, however it derives many of its ingredients from around the globe. It also contains palm olein, which may turn some prospective buyers away from this choice. GoodSense also offers other options in formula to fit specific needs or ingredient profiles. Many parents who do use the GoodSense brand of formula have found no discernible difference between it and Similac or Enfamil.
You can find a number of different opinions on the best formula if you start looking into the pros and cons of each, especially in mom groups and mommy discussion boards. You will find the die-hard Similac fans and also those who swear by Enfamil. Still others argue that generic or organic brands are the way to go. It is important to do some research when choosing a formula, and for some babies with more sensitivities to formulas, it may come down to trial and error to find a formula that works the best. As always, consulting with your pediatrician can be very helpful in determining the best direction to go for finding the best formula for your child.
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