Laurence Andrews

The Confusing world of Baby Milk Formula

Can somebody please tell me what’s going on in the world of baby formula? It is so incredibly confusing. Much like the unnecessary situation of having a hundred different options for clothing detergent the same exists in the world of baby formula. Difference is that a decision on the former results in different smelling jeans and a decision on the later seems to affect the physiological development of a tiny human. 

We were told in our NCT antenatal class that all formulas are basically identical as they must meet common nutritional regulations, established by law. So am I trusting some ancient government regulation on our baby’s upbringing? I understand there’s also all sorts of special rules around them not being something that can be discounted in a shop. But what does that mean?

This document on shows the volume of different products on the market and the pages here list the composition difference between all of them. Am I supposed to understand this? Does everyone not just want their baby to develop properly? Should I be picking the most expensive or the cheapest? Do we need to try them and see what baby prefers? Is the posh one going to give us a better child once she's all grown up?

We’ve so far opted for Aptamil 1st Powder, because it was the nicest looking tin, but it seems (once we looked into it) that the difference in composition is minuscule between that and the Cow & Gate 1st Powder, both manufactured by Danone. The cost is not, the Aptamil is £11.50 and the Cow & Gate is £8.75, that’s a 30% difference! We’re going through baby milk like you wouldn’t believe and so £2.75 a tin is going to add up pretty fast. Is baby going to be better off if we buy the cheaper one and then bung the £2.75/tin info a Junior ISA? Or is that completely irresponsible?

Then there’s the Aldi option, called Mamia which is £6.79 a tin (for a 100g more). That’s a LOT cheaper. It scores essentially exactly the same on it's nutrition chart as the Danone options but is essentially half the price. Only difference is that the Aldi option doesn’t have 'Linoleic acid’ or 'Alpha-linolenic acid’ and a higher whey to casein ratio - is that what matters?

The whey:casein ratio of the protein element does seem to align with pricing, as below, but protein element is only 1.5g of 100ml of milk, so that difference is surely incredibly marginal. The internet informs me that breast milk is around 60:40.

- Aptamil is 50:50
- Cow & Gate is 60:40
- Aldi Mamia is 70:30

Perhaps the other consideration is environmental, both Aptamil and Aldi list Palm Oil on the ingredients list, but Cow & Gate doesn’t. Maybe let’s not go there..  

The answer is, I don’t know! I think we’re going to use up what we have in the cupboards which is the rest of a tin of Aptamil, then two tins or Cow & Gate (which are on order for delivery tomorrow) and then switch to the Aldi option provided that’s fine after Christmas. The saving is pretty significant and it seems silly to spend money on a more expensive option that is essentially the same.

Hopefully we’re not being irresponsible parents.