One of the drawbacks of formula feeding is the price. Unlike the preferred method of breastfeeding, formula can be expensive over time. One way to reduce this financial impact is switching to generic formulas.

In the United States, all formulas are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to meet basic health and nutrition standards. If you choose to use generic formula, you will not be depriving your baby of any important nutrients. You’ll definitely be saving money—generic formulas typically cost much less than branded formulas.

The main advantage of generic formulas is their price. Generic formulas cost 40-50 percent less than brand names, which is a significant savings when a 24-ounce can of brand-name formula can cost as much as $30.

What explains the continuing popularity of brand names?

  • Reliability. Major brands Enfamil and Similac have been on the market for decades, and their manufacturers have a stake in maintaining their quality.
  • Availability. You can count on finding branded formulas in pretty much every drug store in the US; that may not be the case with a generic formula. If your baby is used to drinking a generic formula, she may not be happy with a brand name replacement while you’re on vacation because you cannot find the generic.
  • Distribution. Major formula makers often give away samples of formulas through doctor’s offices and even through direct mail order. Babies can quickly develop a preference for one formula over another, so it may be difficult to switch from one to another.

The bottom line is, there is no reason not to consider a generic formula if you’re concerned about the cost of branded formulas. But ultimately, the decision is up to your baby and their definitive taste test.


  • Generic and brand-name formulas are both subject to government regulation.
  • Generic formulas can save you up to 50 percent of the price of brand names.
  • Although generic and brand-name formulas have the same basic nutrients, they’re blended differently and may taste different to infants.

Last reviewed by Sara Connolly, MD. Review Date: August 2019


  1. Mayo Clinic. Infant Formula: Your Questions Answered.
  2. CBS MoneyWatch. Similac Recall: Time to Switch to Generic Formula.
  3. The New York Times. Formula Fight: A Generic vs. the Giants.


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