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!

Please say I’m doing “a good job”

Work is a cycle of performance management reviews, targets and catch up meetings. Simply setting three or four targets for an employee to structure their year around and if at the end, the targets are met or even partially met, they could be in line for a reward.

What’s the equivalent for a new parent? That the baby meets the milestones suggested by Apps or best-selling books? Communication seems to confirm the baby is satisfied? The parent feels like they can function adequately? New Mum’s don’t trigger alarm bells with the points-scoring questions asked by their Health Visitor? There isn’t a clear cut answer.

It’s the little daily triumphs. Myself and one of my closest friends had babies within 11 weeks of each other. We live in different parts of the country but made efforts to see each other before we dropped and when our little ones were about one month old. In the blur of the first few weeks of me being a Mum, the comments from other Mums were what I clung onto when I was feeling fragile – “You’re a natural”, “You’re doing so well”, “He’s a happy baby”, “I’m so impressed” were said by friends and my Mum. I’m sure they meant these but, deep down, I’m sure all of these comments were said by Mums as they know the power of these little nuggets.

When I went to visit my friend with her little one, we had a wonderful time. Harking back to how light my son must have been at the same point as I was having a cuddle, sharing gems of what to look forward to, enjoying listening to the sounds little newborns make and when the time came to leave, I gave my friend a huge hug and made sure I looked her in the eye as I said my little praise nugget. She didn’t need me to say this, she was trying to be a Mummy for unfairly too long and I like to think I would have said something if I was a Mum or not.

Whatsapping later on, and I echoed the sentiments. My friend replied that she was delighted I thought so. She didn’t need any verification but if she was anything like me, I understood the vital necessity to hear it from anyone in particular other parents. .

I wonder if all new parents feel like this?


Breast is best. We know so give it a rest.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had the inevitable questions of ‘When are you due?’ ‘What are you having?’ ‘Have you thought of a name yet?’ daily. I became a bit robot-like with my answers trying to shrug off the attention from well-wishing total strangers as I went about my business in the luxury that is the start of maternity leave. The questions whizzing around my head were slightly different ‘Will an epidural make what’s coming bearable?’, ‘Is it normal to feel scared and excited in equal measures?’ and ‘What if I do things wrong?’. I know my main role in the upcoming venture was to love, protect, shelter and provide. I was hoping the first three would come fairly naturally but there is a lot of stigma over the last one. An unfair amount of stigma loaded with expectation.

When my little man was placed on me and a little while later, I was encouraged to breastfeed for the first time, I was lucky enough to experience that mind-blowing exchange between us for the first time. I was so tired that I just let him get on it with and for many minutes, he took a feed and rewarded himself after his birthing ordeal with a very long sleep.

I’d been warned by a very good friend that ‘breastfeeding is f***ing difficult’ and listened as my Mum spoke of time when she was trying and trying to breastfeed me but to no avail and turning to formula after four days of trying was rewarded with me sleeping more than an hour or two for the first time. I’d always had the mantra of ‘I’ll give it a go’ when people asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding.

I began my second day of my son’s life in the hospital bed and feeling confident from our success last night. I picked him up and assumed the same position that had worked for us the previous night. No latch. After arranging pillows, careful re-positioning, various approach angles attempted, I conceded and pressed the magic red button requesting assistance from one of the wonderful midwives at the hospital. Seconds later, one arrived and together we attempted to feed the little man. Successfully latched and after a few sucks, the satisfied midwife left. Immediately my son, detached himself and I began the whole ordeal again. With NCT wisdom rolling around in my head that only a few millilitres was needed at this point and his stomach was around the size of a marble, I stopped as he wasn’t crying and seemed to have got enough during the first attempt. Hours later – the same again. And then again a few hours after that. Don’t get me wrong – the midwives were wonderful and their advice did as much as it could to give me confidence and know-how required but it was becoming a battle.

Later that day, we left for home as he had fed briefly enough each time to satisfy his hunger. Then I really missed that little red button. Armed with literature about the benefits of breastfeeding and all the nutrients and everything else the milk from me provided, I dug my heels in and tried my best with every feed. I asked the midwife (who visited the next day) to watch me breastfeed and show me how to get my little man into the best position. She agreed that the position I was trying was likely to be the most successful and prescribed a duvet day. Me being relaxed in an environment I felt comfortable in was going to be the best medicine for successfully breastfeeding.

Day 4 (known in my world as the ‘worst day of my life’) arrived as did the tidal wave of hormones on broken sleep as my milk came in. I phoned my parents in tears and asked them to come over as I just wanted to be looked after. My other half was doing as best as he could but surviving on the same amount of sleep as me, I needed people who had slept! They arrived and made me feel better in a way that only very close friends and family can do. I asked my other half to go out and get a bottle of formula ‘just in case’.

That beacon of hope was placed in my cupboard.

I reached for that beacon about 12 hours later. It was a break from the battle. My little man wanted to feed. I desperately wanted to be able to provide for him but between us we couldn’t figure out how to feed him for more than 20 or so sucks.

Upon opening the bottle and looking at the back for how to serve / warm the formula, I did my best to ignore the obvious obligatory statements that breastfeeding is best and covered them up with my fingers as I decanted some formula into a bottle. That point was when I felt my first dose of ‘Mum-guilt’ which is a term I find disgusting especially for its use in daily conversations between some mums.

But my only jobs were to love, protect, shelter and provide. With this beacon, I could do all four until I could figure breastfeeding out. Which, on day 6, we did. And we fed together for four months (with me upping the ratio of formula to breast milk as needs and lifestyle changed).

On our first trip abroad together as a family last week, I made the private decision to breastfeed for the last time, The next morning when my son woke, I dutifully prepared a bottle but before offering it to him, I breastfed him for the last time for a few minutes listening to the sounds of Paris waking up. It was wonderful. It was empowering.

I have no idea why I am crying writing this. it’s not Mum-guilt, it’s not that I miss breast feeding. I think it is just because that chapter is closed and time is whizzing past with my little man. I want to slow things down but for now, me breastfeeding him isn’t enough. I can’t provide him with enough for an entire feed, I wasn’t enjoying starting the day with the battle. He is more satisfied with a formula feed and now we are enjoying the weaning process together.

I have a healthy, happy son and it takes more than breast milk to ensure that.