So baby formula can be a controversial topic for some, but the reality is that without it, many babies would not get the essential nutrients and ultimately the food they need for survival, and many mothers and parents would not be able to feed their babies adequately to enable their babies to not only sustain life but to thrive.
The debates over formula go far beyond just its comparison to breast milk/breastfeeding; these debates also include types of infant formula and which is best; what are the critical ingredients in them, plus what should be left out or barred from being included. Plus, people also argue over which countries produce the best, safest, or healthiest formula.
(Incidentally, at least one of our free sample Similac formula cans would have been recalled due to the factory contamination shutdown in early 2022, and potentially so would others, but our baby had already consumed them and we had thrown away the can. Lucky us that no ill effects were had on our baby).
So today, we are going to talk about the types of formula our baby consumed via data and our feelings on the different types, which came from different parts of the world, and were based on different milk bases. I do encourage you, though, to first read our A Baby Feeding Journey over 14 Months (a 12 Part Series) overview post to orientate you completely on this whole “baby in data” series.
Also, if you want to dive deeper into the (pumped/expressed) breast milk vs. formula look of our baby’s diet, then feel free to take a look at the post Pumped Breast Milk vs. Formula in Data, and you will see how that evolved over the first 14 months of our baby’s life.
Before we look at the data and discuss the trend highlights, here are the different formula types our baby consumed in her first year or so of life (Note: affiliate links below will earn small commission if you buy):
- Similac Pro-Advance (US)
- Similac Pro-Total Comfort (US)
- Bobbie (US in European Style)
- Up & Up Advantage (US)
- Bellamy’s Organic Beta Genica-8 (Australia)
- Oli6®️ Dairy Goat Infant Formula (Australia)
As we will discuss in our upcoming solids feeding post, we have strong views on food, food production, food variety, raw ingredients, and food regulations, especially here in the U.S.. We also discussed this a bit at the end of our Baby Feeding & Diaper Impacts from COVID, Vaccines & Illness in Data, where we discuss baby pain relievers.
So as we mentioned in our overview and in A 1+ Year Breast Pumping Journey in Data, our original goal was to feed our baby breast milk. This wasn’t to be in full, though, and very early on, from our time in the hospital, we needed to supplement with formula. In fact, during month 1, formula was about 60% of our baby’s diet. As noted by the end of the 14-month period, formula was 15.7% of our baby’s total bottle fed diet vs. pumped/expressed breast milk at 84.3%.
Being new to parenting and feeding a baby, and wondering why our baby wasn’t consuming enough or producing enough pee or poop diapers (at least according to the hospital and our pediatrician), we readily accepted the free formula samples they gave us, as well as in various baby sample packs from mainstream retail brands and baby registry gifts.
Table 1: Formulas Types Consumed By Baby in First Year
Chart 1: Various Formula Types Proportion in First Twelve Months
- Similac Pro-Advance, with its claim to be more breast milk-like, and also being the “formula of choice” of the hospital, was the first formula our baby consumed. We also had a sample can at home. This formula seemed to not contain harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and palm oil, which ideally, we did not want our baby to consume. This ended up being 10% of our baby’s total formula consumption at 4,190 mls (142 oz), or an average of 62 mls (2 oz) per bottle. This was all during month 1 and early month 2, which is when formula was a majority of her total diet. Unlike most of the others formulas she drank, she did not have this all at once or consistently.
- Similac Pro-Total Comfort is the only formula we wish our baby had never consumed. It contained HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). It smelled awful, and both to our eyes and to our experienced night nurse at time, baby seemed to enjoy it least. Why did we give it to her? Well, upon recommendation of our pediatrician’s office in the early couple of weeks when our baby wasn’t gaining weight, and before we had baby’s weak latch properly diagnosed, the nurse practitioner urgently suggested that baby needed this to “gain weight more quickly.” We never paid for this since we had free samples both from doctor’s office and at home. Now while our baby did gain weight, arguably this was more because we started feeding her from the bottle more regularly on a schedule, as well as with pumped/expressed breast milk, relying gradually less and less on direct nursing. This was further confirmed over time as bottle feeding with the majority consisting of expressed breast milk caused her weight to rapidly increase. This was 5% of her total formula feed all consumed in month 1 and was 2,245 mls (76 oz), or an average 42 mls (1.5 oz) per bottle.
- Bobbie was next up, almost as a cleansing agent from the ‘Total Comfort’ formula. This is a U.S. brand formula that models itself on European style formula, with stricter EU regulations, but is also U.S. FDA approved per their guidelines. Bobbie ended up being the formula our baby consumed the most, and luckily we bought a lot of cans in January/early February before the major formula shortage took hold in the U.S. with the Similac factory contamination and shutdown. Bobbie also actually stopped selling to new customers for many months due to the shortages and surge in demand for their product. Initially, we had a couple of cans in late month 1 and early month 2, but then from month 3 through near end of month 6, this was the only formula our baby consumed. She did like it best thus far, and so did we. It was by far the most expensive of all the formulas we gave to our baby at its full sticker price. This was 49% of her total formula feed consumed during months 1 to 6, and was 20,515 mls (694 oz) or an average of 90 mls (3 oz) per bottle. For context, this was about 7.7% of total bottle feeds consumed by baby, including pumped/expressed breast milk over this 14 month period.
- Up & Up Advantage is Target’s home brand formula in the U.S. and is modeled after Similac Pro-Advance. My guess is that it is likely produced in same facility as Similac Pro-Advance, just branded differently, although this brand does contain palm oil. Frankly, we chose this because it was orders of magnitude cheaper than Similac Pro-Advance, and especially considered this once our free Similac samples ran out. Plus, the Bobbie formula, which was at a premium price, came in much smaller cans. Also as our pumped/expressed milk supply was ever increasing, this formula was being consumed proportionately less and less per day over time. Up & Up formula, for our baby, was all consumed during month 2, at which point total formula vs. breast milk consumed was down to 43%. Up & Up was 11% of her total formula feed and was 4,650 mls (157 oz), or an average of 42 mls (2.6 oz) per bottle.
- Bellamy’s Organic Beta Genica-8 infant formula was now the first of the non-U.S. branded formulas we fed our baby. This formula is made in Australia with A2 milk. Depending on the sources you look at, A2 milk is arguably easier for the average person to digest vs. the mainstream A1 milk. If we had a favorite formula as parents, and our baby had a favorite formula, this was definitely it. Bellamy’s formula smelled amazing as soon as we opened the can, like a rich, creamy milk product or custard; you yourself might want to mix and consume it (we were tempted to!). It was the first of the formulas we used that upon mixing and shaking with water, just fully broke down into a creamy consistency without any clumps (this was one of our complaints with Bobbie, and certainly all the other U.S. mainstream brands when we read reviews). Importantly, our baby seemed to drink this with the same fervor she had when consuming breast milk. In fairness, baby was consuming this during months 6 and 7, her peak periods for bottle consumption, but she certainly drank this differently to Bobbie, which was also consumed in this period, and even the other Australian formula we will talk about next. Bellamy’s Organic Beta Genica-8 was 14% of her total formula feed, consumed during months 6-7, and was 5,820 mls (197 oz), or an average of 132 mls (4.5 oz) per bottle.
- Oli Dairy Goat Infant Formula was the final “different” formula our baby consumed, also from Australia. This was the only formula that was not cow-milk based, and usually tends to be recommended for infants/babies who have cow milk or lactose intolerance. Our baby did not face these challenges, but we wanted to see how she would do with a goat milk-based product. In addition, we felt confident in the standards of an Australian produced and regulated formula product. It was during this period of our baby’s feeding journey when formula increasingly played a very small to often non-existent role for weeks on end in her diet, with breast milk dominating and solids increasing month by month. So we gave baby this formula, probably for a longer period than recommended given it came from a single can, but our baby did fine with it. While our baby didn’t seem to enjoy it to the same level as Bellamy’s Organic, and while it did not quite have Bellamy’s same inviting, luxurious smell, it was still a high quality product. And who knows: maybe if we fed this first during the period when our baby was drinking more formula, she may have enjoyed it just as much. In the end, she never finished this can, but it was still 10% of her total formula feed consumed from months 7 through 13, and was 4,355 mls (147 oz), or an average of 136 mls (4.6 oz) per bottle.
Overall, our biggest learnings from our formula journey were to be a little more prepared, be more definitive and have a stronger stance in terms of the types of formula we would and would not accept, and push back on some medical and “professional” advice we received in the early stages.
2022 was a challenging year for any parent feeding their baby formula in the U.S., with all of the shortages and contamination risks. However, as you can gather from some of the commentary here, we honestly view like a lot of the U.S. food system, and don’t much trust the U.S. formula industry. The reason for our distrust: production standards, what is allowed to be included in formula in the U.S., and the way the FDA regulates it.
So if we did it again and needed formula for our baby (or as backup/supplement), we would likely only feed baby formula from somewhere like Australia, New Zealand, or the EU.