15 Useful Tips for Smarter Baby Formula Shopping!

1.   Don’t Stock Up Before the Birth

If you’re planning to use formula, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation, but don’t buy much of it until after your baby is born.

Your baby may prefer one type of formula or be able to tolerate only a particular brand, so be prepared to experiment. No matter what brand you settle on, if your baby shows signs of intolerance, such as gas, a rash, persistent vomiting, bloody stools, diarrhea, or any other unusual symptom, consult your pediatrician. You may need to switch brands or change to a hydrolyzed or soy-based formula, or to a formula specially formulated to combat your baby’s condition.

2.   Get Free Samples

Many companies are generous with free samples, and the hospital may load you up with samples when you go home. If you register at a baby store for gifts (like Babies R Us) or word gets out that you’re expecting, you may receive unsolicited samples or money-saving checks in the mail from formula companies right around your due date.

3.   Consider a Store Brand

It was found that Walmart’s store brand of powdered formula (Parent’s Choice) was a bargain at a mean price of 57 cents per ounce compared with a leading national brand (Similac Advance), which was selling at Walmart for a mean price of $1.05 per ounce.

Are store brands as nutritious as national brands? They have to be. According to the FDA, all formula marketed in the U.S. must meet the same federal nutrient requirements, which are set at levels to fulfill the needs of infants. Although infant-formula manufacturers may have their own proprietary formulations, brand-name and store-brand formula must contain at least the minimum levels of all nutrients specified in FDA regulations, without exceeding maximum levels, where those are specified.

4.   Shop at Mass Merchandisers

In general, formula prices are lowest at mass merchandisers. For example, mean prices per ounce for Enfamil Premium Infant Powder are as follows: 84 cents at Costco, $1.04 at Walmart and Babies R Us, and $1.06 at Target. The highest prices are usually at drugstores–a mean price per ounce of $1.14 at Walgreens and $1.16 at CVS. Supermarket prices are in-between, with a mean of $1.10.

5.   Use Dairy Based, Unless Recommended Otherwise

Generally, milk-based formula tends to cost less than soy-based formula, so don’t buy soy or another type of special formula unless your pediatrician recommends it. Most infants are OK with diary (unless your baby is lactose intolerant), so check with your pediatrician if you want to switch to soy-based or any other special type of formula.

6.   Sign Up For Savings

Many formula companies offer exclusive offers and savings on their websites. At www.gerber.com, for example, you can register to receive special coupons. At www.similac.com, joining a membership program promises to bring you up to $329 in rewards, plus partner offers, infant formula, and coupons. You can also check prices with online retailers such as Amazon and Diapers.com, which sometimes offer free shipping. Some companies send you “Formula Checks” that you can use as a regular check to buy formula. Similac typically sends out $5.00 checks, while Enfamil’s checks range from $1.00 to $7.00.

7.   Use Powder, If Possible

Powdered formulas are the least-expensive option, and are super easy to mix and feed (takes less than 30 seconds with this quick method!). Both the FDA and the USDA report that liquid concentrate formulas, which are more convenient and easier to mix than powder, tend to cost more.

8.   Buy Big

Across brands, larger cans of formula, whether in powder or liquid form, cost less per reconstituted ounce than smaller cans. Buy the largest cans you can find.

9.   Check the “Use By” Date

When buying formula, look for the “use by” date on the label or lid, which is required by the FDA. Until that date, you can be sure the formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient declared on the product label, and will be of acceptable quality.

10. Be Brand Loyal

Although major brands of formula are roughly equal, it’s generally recommended that you stick with the brand your baby gets used to. But it’s fine to use liquid and powder within the same brand.

11. Cash In With Coupons during Sales

Before making a trip to the store for infant formula, scout for savings by previewing weekly store ads online, if possible. Then capitalize on sales by bringing any manufacturer’s coupons you’ve been stockpiling and load up on the largest cans you can find. Be sure to check those “use by dates” though–you don’t want to buy more formula than you can use before it expires.

12. Buy Online

Many retailers, including many mass merchandisers, don’t sell formula through their Web site, so you’ll have to go shopping, and then carry the stuff home. But you can purchase formula online at www.amazon.com. The site offers Enfamil, Similac, and Nestle Good Start, with free shipping on some quantities. The site also has organic formulas from brands such as Baby’s Only and Bright Beginnings. You can also sign up for Amazon Prime, which entitles you to unlimited “free” standard and two-day shipping on eligible items as well as other benefits for an annual membership fee of $79.

Another option is to buy formula online from the manufacturer’s Web site. Enfamil (www.enfamil.com) and Similac (www.welcomeaddition.com), for example, offer this convenient method. If you buy three or more cases at a shot from the manufacturer, you may find reduced prices. By checking around online, we found that this option can be a competitive deal, and unlike Amazon, there’s no membership fee.

13.Use Auto-Ship options

Some websites, like Diapers.com and Amazon.com, offer free “Auto-ship” or “Subscribe and Save” options – which means once you select your favorite brand of formula and select the quantity and size, they automatically ship it to you (for free!) every x number of weeks. They also provide huge discounts (5-10%) for enrolling in this. If you feel like you haven’t quite used up the current product and don’t need the next shipment right way (or vice versa), you can always go back and edit the dates of your shipment as per your convenience. They can also be cancelled anytime so there is no commitment burden.

14. Check with your Insurance Company

If your baby requires a specialty formula for medical reasons, your health insurance may cover the cost after your doctor provides a prescription. I wasn’t so lucky when I inquired with my company, but the representative told me that some health plans do cover baby formula and I’ve found many moms online who enjoy this benefit.

Be sure to ask your insurance provider before you buy.

15.Use this Price Compare Tool

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Once you find your favorite brand of Formula, use this cool calculator to find the cheapest prices in town!

Happy Shopping!

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