Last week I recommended Carnation Good Start with Natural Cultures to mother who had visited my office. She had considered Good Start but sheepishly confessed that she discounted it when she found it was less expensive than the competitor. It seems some parents believe a high price tag formula holds some advantage for their baby.
Are there cases where it’s a good idea to spend more for formula? Very few. Here are a few situations where you can expect formula to come at a higher cost:
Allergy. Hydrolysed formulas such as Nutramigen and Alimentum are costly to prepare and consequently come at a higher cost. Expect to pay about 350 dollars a month to feed your typical 4-month-old baby with hydrolysed formula. Extensively hydrolysed formulas such as Neocate are more expensive and will cost over 500 dollers per month for the typical 4-month-old baby. In each of these cases there’s no advantage to their use unless your baby is truly suffering with milk protein allergy.
Magic fat. And what about DHA and ARA? These are the long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) found in breast milk that have been associated improved visual and cognitive function in newborns. While these were once an option for formula shopping parents, most manufacturers produce formula with DHA and ARA. While the argument against LCPUFAs in infant formula is losing steam I recommend a formula with adequate levels of DHA/ARA for those who can’t breastfeed. In this regard I like Good Start Supreme with DHA and ARA and Enfamil Lipil.
Organics. Organic infant formulas come at a higher cost but its unclear whether the degree of ‘contamination’ found in standard infant formula makes the step to organic worth it. Interestingly, Similac markets an organic baby formula and it makes me wonder why would you by the ‘dirty’ Similac when you can have the virginal organic preparation. Gerber faced this issue early on when organic baby foods first hit the shelves. They solved this issue by offering organic baby dinners with names that were entirely different from their standard line of jarred food. Parents never felt the obvious dilemma. Brilliant.
Convenience. Preparations of formula, of course, will vary with ready-to-feed formula being the most expensive. This is pure preference. But despite my insistence that there will be no difference for your baby among powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed, I often encounter parents with stories of intolerance with one form and not the other.
In the case of my patient and her reluctance to use Good Start, the difference in cost reflected differences in marketing, not nutrition. Finally, it’s interesting that I often run into parents looking for ‘permission’ to use the less expensive Parent’s Choice. As an aside, Parent’s Choice represents a fine option for parents seeking a more economical feeding option. While it may lack the live passengers found in Good Start with Natural Cultures, cost in this case shouldn’t otherwise represent a compromise.