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Infant Nutrition Luncheon with Perrigo Nutritionals

My first media event after Lucas was born was an intimate discussion on infant nutrition hosted by Perrigo Nutritionals at Blue Water Grill in Union Square. It was a frank conversation among moms (and some dads), including pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg M.D., about the feeding choices we've made for our babies and why.

Perrigo Nutritionals is the largest supplier of store brand infant formulas, producing 14 formulas found in 78 retailer chains, including Walmart, Target, and Babies R’ Us.

Breastfeeding versus formula can be a controversial topic and I realize there are people passionate about both options. I personally could care less how other mothers' feed their children as long as they have access to education and feel supported in their decision.

My intention with this post is to merely pass along some of the information I learned about formula at the luncheon, not to debate, condone or condemn whatever families choose to feed their babies.

I nursed Sebastian for 7 months and supplemented here and there as needed. When it came to choosing a formula, we used Similac because it was what was offered in the hospital I delivered and I figured (1) It must be the best if the hospital recommends it and (2) Once acclimated, it would be bad to switch brands. I was surprised to learn neither is true. In fact, the FDA carefully regulates infant (not toddler) formula in the U.S. and has very strict nutritional guidelines that all brands must adhere to. The difference between them (and the higher price justification for name brand) is merely marketing.

*According to a "Brand" New Mom study, 59% of moms said they are stressed about their personal financial situation and 53% confessed that thoughts about their baby product budget plague them on a daily basis.

I feel it's important to bring attention to this because apparently the misconception that certain brand name formulas are "better" or more nutritious pressures many families to stretch themselves thin and has led to cases of infant malnutrition when name brand formula is watered down to make it last longer as a result of the financial strain.

While it may not effect you personally, I think it's important to know the distinction, or lack there of:

  • The only difference you'll find when comparing store brand infant formula to national brand is price. Store brand formulas cost more than $10.00 less than national brands.
  • In terms of nutrition, all formulas must meet the same nutritional criteria. Store brand formulas provide exactly the same nutritional value as the brand name comparison. Side-by-side comparisons reveal little, if any difference in the nutrient levels or ingredient listings for comparable formulas.
  • National brand manufacturers know that purchasing infant formula is a complex, emotional decision and spend hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing every year in an effort to attract new moms. They use expensive tactics like television advertising and direct mail to get “high value” coupons and samples into mom’s hands, before she even gives birth. National brand manufacturers know that if a mom initiates formula feeding with their brand, she's likely to get mentally “hooked." All of the marketing costs are ultimately reflected in their retail prices.
  • Store brand formulas are bought by people from all walks of life. People from all socio-economic levels recognize the value of store brand formulas. In fact, according to Spectra, 26% of store brand formula-buying households earn more than $100,000 a year.

Look, I love my brand names but store brand formulas can cost 50% less. Literally food for thought.

Were you aware that all formulas are created equal?

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{I was not compensated in any way for this post. *Study conducted by Kelton Research on behalf of Perrigo Nutritionals.}