Aptamil vs Cow and Gate – is there a difference?

When I asked my husband to pick up a bottle of ready to drink formula for the ‘just in case’ situation, off he went to the supermarket to be met with at least 5 shelves of these formula products. Choosing one, he came home and when I asked him what one he had got, he said “I got the most expensive one because that probably means it’s the best.” I totally understood where he was coming from. We hadn’t put anything in our little boy apart from breastmilk so if we were to introduce him to something else, we both had the same mindset of ‘only the best will do for my child’.

If you haven’t purchased ready to drink formula before then the prices do vary considerable for the first stage milk. If you go with a brand that is stocked in all the major supermarkets then you will pay probably between 75p and 99p for one 200ml bottle. Our little guy is on 5 feeds a day at the moment so £4.95 to feed him for one day if we gave him Aptamil Profutura  all day or £3.75 if we went with Cow and Gate. Not a huge difference but scale that up to a seven days worth of feeding and there is a difference of £7.7o between the two major brands and a difference of just over £400 for the year. The powder tubs of formula also have significant savings. Based on 5 feeds a day for a year with each feed being a 7oz/210ml feed and needing seven 4.5g scoops of powder – Aptamil Profutura (which has 100g less in each tub than Cow and Gate) would cost approximately £923 a year (for 71 tubs at £13 each) and Cow and Gate would cost about £576 a year (for 64 tubs at £9 each) which means a saving of £347.

With my breast-feeding position of choice being the rugby ball position, I found it was near-on impossible to feed my son in public without the mountain of pillows I used at home, so rather than be a slave to a feeding routine at home, if I wanted to leave the house and a feed was imminent, I popped a bottle of ready to drink formula in my bag.

This routine was fine until I noticed that my son was suffering with quite a lot of wind and I was keen to see if it was what I was feeding him rather than him just possibly being a windy baby,

So I decided to do some research to find out what the difference between the brands were and whether it would be detrimental if I switched to the cheaper version. Whether the following things can be confirmed or not seems shrouded in some mystery but:

  1. The recipe for infant formula is set by the government so basically all formula has the same things in;
  2. What seems to set the price is how much of a particular ingredient is in the formula. There is some discussion online at Aptamil spend more on research and product packaging. But if the government set the guidelines then what exactly are they researching?;
  3. There is a lot of suggestion that Cow and Gate and Aptamil formula are both made in the same factory in Ireland;
  4. Lots of people parents have found wind issues have been eased by switching between brands in both directions.

I decided to try him for some feeds on a different brand to see if it made a difference. It appeared to so, over the course of a couple of weeks, I weaned him over from the most expensive commercially available brand to the least expensive. This was especially handy as my maternity pay packet was getting slimmer by the month,

I discussed this switch with a mummy friend who said she had to do something similar and had exactly the same experience as me that there is a ‘Tesco finest’ image around the Aptamil Profutura formula and since switching, she has had, at times, felt a bit more self-conscious pulling Cow and Gate from the changing bag rather than Aptamil in public. Whilst I don’t feel get the same feelings, I could empathise as when I was shopping with my Mum as a teenager, I always used to ask her to hold my Primark bag as I didn’t want to be seen with it!

With it being unclear as to why exactly there is a significant difference in price, I think you just have to follow the signs your little one is giving you. My son told me that there was something in the Aptamil Profutura which made him incredibly windy and my bank account was grateful for the change!

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