Store-Brand Infant Formula for Your Baby

A baby being fed a bottle
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All infant formula brands sold in the United States must meet the minimum nutritional requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the "Infant Formula Act") and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

This standard doesn't mean that all baby formula brands are exactly the same. But any of the major brands, such as Enfamil, Similac, or Gerber, and store brands from Walmart, Target, or Kroger, will meet your baby's basic nutritional needs when prepared and fed as directed.

Never make your own homemade baby formula, which can be very dangerous to your baby's health (it may not offer complete nutrition and there is a risk of introducing harmful bacteria). Babies should get breast milk or an infant formula sold in stores in the U.S.

FDA Regulation

Neither store-brand or name-brand infant formula is FDA approved. Instead, "manufacturers of infant formula are subject to FDA's regulatory oversight. Manufacturers must ensure that infant formula complies with federal nutrient requirements. Manufacturers are required to register with FDA and provide the agency with a notification before marketing a new formula."

This is similar to the way the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration controls car seats sold in the U.S. The federal agency sets the regulations and standards for the products (car seats or infant formula) and the manufacturers are responsible for meeting those requirements.

Baby Formula Choices

Although all infant formula must meet FDA requirements, there are differences among brands. Not even considering the differences between milk-based, soy, lactose-free, hydrolyzed, and hypo-allergenic formulas, milk-based formulas aren't exactly the same.

Just like adults, babies need protein, fat, and carbohydrates in their diet. Infant formulas sometimes differ in which specific proteins, fats, and carbohydrates they feature. But all infant formulas sold in the U.S. must meet the FDA's standards to ensure proper nutrition for your baby.

Breast milk has two protein sources: whey and casein. Some infant formulas have both of these proteins, while others only have whey. All meet the FDA's requirements. Similarly, infant formulas can differ in the type of fat they use.

No randomized, head-to-head study shows that one brand is better for your baby than another. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend specific brands, but simply says that for infants receiving formula, cow milk-based formulas should be the first choice for most babies. Its recommendation states: "The AAP believes that there are few circumstances in which soy formula should be chosen instead of cow milk–based formula in term infants."

Some infants do not have enough natural reserves of iron, a mineral necessary for normal human growth and development. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that iron-fortified formula be used for all infants who are not breastfed, or who are only partially breastfed, from birth to one year of age.

Types of Store Brand Baby Formulas

Generic or store brand infant formulas are very similar to national brands. They even use similar marketing terms, including:

  • Advantage = Advance
  • Tender = Gentle
  • Gentle = Gentlease
  • Sensitivity = Sensitive

Most store-brand baby formulas contain DHA and ARA, prebiotics, and nucleotides, just like brand-name infant formulas. Almost all—including store brands made for Walmart (Parent's Choice), Target (up & up), Walgreens (Well Beginnings), and Kroger (Comforts for Baby), etc.—are made by the same manufacturer: Perrigo Nutritionals.

Formula Warnings

It is important to avoid formula imported from outside the U.S. It is not necessarily subject to FDA regulation, so it may not meet babies' nutritional needs, or meet American standards for safety. Further, it may be difficult for parents to read labels and follow directions on formulas imported from Europe and elsewhere.

A 2019 study of European formulas found that "Non-FDA-registered imported European formulas do not meet all FDA-labeling requirements... These European infant formulas are being imported into the United States via third party vendors and are not FDA-regulated, limiting the notable consumer protections set by the FDA that ensure infant formula safety."

A Word From Verywell

Like brand-name baby formula, store-brand baby formula meets the same nutrient specifications that are listed in FDA regulations. Parents should feel comfortable using either type of formula, whether alone or in combination with breastfeeding. If you have questions or concerns about your baby's nutrition, talk with your pediatrician.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for industry: Frequently asked questions about FDA's regulation of infant formula. Updated September 20, 2018.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Questions and answers for consumers concerning infant formula. Updated March 7, 2018.

  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Child passenger safety.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Choosing an infant formula. Updated July 24, 2018.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is it OK to buy imported formulas online?. Updated March 9, 2020.

  6. DiMaggio DM, Du N, Scherer C, et al. Comparison of imported European and US infant formulas: Labeling, nutrient and safety concerns. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2019;69(4):480-486. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000002395

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