Formula Comparison: Similac vs. Enfamil - SmartMom

Formula Comparison: Similac vs. Enfamil

Photo by Michele Hart

Being a parent means making important decisions every day. From which diapers to wear to what to feed your child, it seems like there is an endless list of topics to research and decide upon. When choosing to give your baby formula, knowing which brand will best fit your family must be an informed decision. By making a formula comparison between the two most popular choices for parents, Similac and Enfamil, we wanted to keep you as informed as possible. Although they have many similarities, knowing the differences between the two will help you make the right choice for your baby.

Similac and Enfamil are the most popular choice of formula, specifically Similac Advance and Enfamil Infant. These formulas, at their base, are fairly similar. They are both cows’ milk based formulas which do not use soy. Each of these formulas contains 20 calories per ounce. They both include many of the same vitamins and minerals approved for babies. They are almost equal when it comes to the key nutrients needed by a baby: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Enfamil Infant is slightly lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates than Similac Advance. However, both formulas are well within the protein and fat standards set by the Food and Drug Administration for a baby’s nutrient requirements. The both contain prebiotics, which possibly helps a baby grow “friendly” gut bacteria. 

Although these formulas seem similar, there are some differences to be considered when deciding which formula will best serve as food for your baby.

Enfamil contains higher levels of Docosahexaenoic Acid. Docosahexaenoic Acid, or DHA, is a fatty acid found in breast milk. This acid has been noted as being important in a baby’s neural, brain, and eye development. Naturally, if it is part of breast milk, having it in formula seems like a logical choice. This causes Enfamil to claim that it is “closest to breast milk”. However, they use synthetically manufactured palm oil as a source of DHA, and may not yield the same benefits as its naturally created counterpart. High levels of synthetic DHA can cause gastrointestinal issues leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and other adverse effects. If you notice severe discomfort in your child, be sure to inform your doctor and consider switching to a non-DHA formula. Enfamil is also considered to be more “parent friendly”. Time after time parents will testify that Enfamil is user friendly packaged, making it easier to store and scoop. Their packaging, which doesn’t require sifting, makes it a more convenient process when putting together a bottle. Enfamil is also more affordable than Similac.

Although it is more expensive, the major difference in Similac is that it does not contain palm oil. Palm oil has been known to create firmer and less frequent stools, which can lead to constipation, straining and anal tears. Similac also contains close to 50% more calcium than Enfamil, an important nutrient for infants. In addition, Similac boasts a “low bubble” formula which helps reduce gas, a common side effect in formula fed babies. 

Once you have chosen which brand to give your child, there are a variety of formulas to choose from. Although the two most common formulas were mentioned here, both Similac and Enfamil provide a variety of choices to help you find the right fit for your baby. If you notice adverse reactions to formula, such as dry skin or rashes, consult your doctor about allergies. Thankfully, there are formula options from both brands to keep your child from unwanted side effects. Similac’s Alimentum and Enfamil’s Nutramigen are two options for dairy allergies and colic. Although both imply that they are recommended for multiple allergies, they do contain trace amounts of dairy and soy, so consult your doctor and take any reaction from your baby seriously.

When making the choice between Enfamil and Similac, it appears that both are acceptable choices. The deciding factor will be the needs of your family and what works best for you.


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