Gordonsville, VA, December 5, 2012 – According to a study published earlier this year in Clinical Pediatrics,* two-thirds of families in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) run out of WIC-supplied baby formula toward the end of most months. Among these families, 27 percent reported "formula-stretching" – watering down infant formula or reducing feedings – which can have serious health and developmental consequences for babies.
Furthermore, the study found that 50 percent of the caregivers mistakenly believe Store Brand Formulas and name brand formulas are not nutritionally comparable, while only 24% would consider buying a Store Brand Formula.
Another study conducted by pediatric medical researchers at the University of Virginia (U. Va.) looked into the tolerance of switching between different brands of infant formula. The study proved that switching baby formula is safe; infants did not have tolerance issues when switched from one formula to another regardless of brand. In addition, gradual versus immediate switching made no difference in tolerance.
The abstract from their clinical study, The Safety of Formula Switching for Infants, was presented at the University of Virginia Children's Hospital 24th Annual Research Symposium, a conference that celebrates research at U.Va. that improves the health of infants and children.
"First of all it is important to emphasize that human breast milk is the gold standard for infant feeding. For women who choose, for a variety of reasons to use infant formulas instead of breast milk, we designed this randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study to address concerns that had been overlooked in the literature on infant feeding," said James L. Sutphen, M.D., Ph.D., U.Va. Department of Pediatrics and lead study researcher. "First, there are no switch studies in the literature that include Store Brand Formula. Also, there is little information regarding the optimal manner to switch between formulas.
Store brand infant formulas, such as Walmart's Parents Choice™, Target's up & up®, Kroger's Comforts®, and Sam's Club's Simply Right™, are nutritionally comparable to national brands such as Enfamil® and Similac®, yet are typically half the price and can save parents up to $600 a year.** Although not supported by medical research studies, pediatricians often advise parents and/or guardians to switch baby formula for a variety of formula tolerance issues including colic, frequent spit-up and loose stools. However, in otherwise healthy infants, these formula switches, if they work at all, probably work by virtue of placebo effect."
The blinded study involved 67 infants who were randomized in groups of three according to the formula they were accustomed to being fed. The infants were then switched to a different brand formula or the exact same formula packaged differently. Each infant was observed during a four-day interval followed by a three-day transitional period to the new formula. The caregiver decided how to do the switch (e.g. staged or abrupt introduction of the new formula).
Caregivers documented tolerance variables (spit, burp, gas, crying, and irritability) throughout all study intervals. Study results proved formula tolerability regardless of brand, is similar between standard, milk-based infant formulas in healthy, term infants, as depicted in Figure 1.
The milk-based infant formulas used in the study were Similac® Advance® (Abbott Nutrition), Enfamil Premium® (Mead Johnson Nutrition) and Parent's Choice™ Infant Formula (Walmart Store Brand Formula).
"Our study shows that parents can safely switch to a less expensive Store Brand Formula without concern for tolerability," said Dr. Sutphen. "Store Brand Formula is sold at leading retailers and is a low-cost alternative to national brands and is just as well tolerated as major brands.
Recent statistics highlight the reality of formula use and the need for formula switching education. There is little support for the concept that these switches achieve any benefit. However, the practice is still widespread.
According to research published in the July 2012 Pediatrics,*** researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 1,457 pregnant women about their intentions for exclusive breastfeeding and found that only 32.4% of the moms breastfed for as long as they had intended (three months or longer). Additional research by Forerunner Strategy found that 37% of moms switch their baby from one formula to another at some point, while 58% of moms switch among national brands even though Store Brand Formula is clinically proven to be as well tolerated as national brand formulas.
"Based on the data in our study, there was no statistically significant difference in tolerance variables if infants are switched to a new infant formula," added Dr. Sutphen. "Switching between different brands of formula is well tolerated and we discovered there is no advantage to gradually switching versus immediately switching baby formula". All infant formulas sold in the United States are nutritionally comparable and are required to meet the same stringent quality and nutritional requirements. This latest research should help educate pediatricians and families and prevent formula stretching in the future.
This clinical study was funded by PBM Nutritionals, maker of Store Brand Formula. For more information, visit www.storebrandformula.com.
Breastfeeding is recommended for babies.
Similac® and Advance® are registered trademarks of Abbott Laboratories. Enfamil Premium® is a registered trademark of Mead Johnson & Co. Parent's Choice Infant Formula is neither made by nor affiliated with Abbott Laboratories or Mead Johnson & Co.
* Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2012 Mar;51(3):238-43.
** Retail prices are from an August 2012 retail price survey of national retail stores. Actual prices and savings may vary by store and location.
***PEDIATRICS Vol. 130 No. 1 July 1, 2012 pp. 54 -60
It's called formula for a reason™