Court Decides Enfamil Lipil Not Better Than Generic Formula

Parents who enjoy saving up to 50% on store-brand infant formula will be reassured by this U.S. District Court ruling:

Mead Johnson, who makes Enfamil Lipil, was ordered to pay more than 13 million dollars to generic formula manufacturer PBM after a U.S. District Court in Virginia ruled in November that it had misled the public in Enfamil advertising that suggested that store-brand formulas were not as nutritious as formula brands produced by Mead Johnson. PBM supplies infant formula to Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Kroger, Walgreens, and other retailers.

The Mead Johnson advertisements mentioned in the case had said that “It may be tempting to try a less expensive store brand, but only Enfamil LIPIL is clinically proven to improve brain and eye development,” and that “there are plenty of other ways to save on baby expenses without cutting back on nutrition.” Mead Johnson is now prohibited from making similar claims about PBM formulas.

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photo by walknboston via flickr

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What Happened with Formula Deals, Coupons and Prices in 2009?

This is part 2 of Baby Cheapskate’s annual look back through the past twelve months of archives to see how readers found the best deals on diapers, formula, and everything else.

Store Brands:
Store brand infant formula saved readers up to $500 this year. Prices were as low as 50% off even the very best price we saw on Enfamil Lipil, with 25.7 oz. cans of powdered store-brand formula going for as little as $9.99 for a 25.7 oz. can. Common sale prices for store brand formula (25.7 oz. cans) ranged from $11.99 to $12.99. Shoppers who bought store brand formula generally paid less than .50 per ounce.

Of the store brands BC reported on, Walgreens’ formula was on sale most frequently. CVS brand formula was most expensive. It was advertised as “on sale” for up to $14.99 per 25.7 oz. can.

CVS and Walgreens occasionally offered online coupons which saved readers up to 20% on store brand formulas with free shipping. While readers buying one or two cans saved big, readers seeking to stock up during these online sales were often stymied by shipping surcharges.

Premium Formulas:

Enfamil Lipil (powder, 25.7 oz can): was offered at sale prices of $19.99, $20.99, $21.99, $22.49, $22.99, and $23.99. The most common advertised sale prices were $22.99 and $23.99 (.89 to .93 per ounce).

Similac Advance (powder, 23.2 oz tub) was offered at sale prices of $19.99, $20.99, $21.49, $21.99, and $22.99. The most common advertised sale price was $21.99 (.95 per oz.). Before coupons and/or formula checks, shoppers who bought at these prices paid from .86 to .99 per ounce.

  • Online retailers and also offered sporadic bargains on premium formula. Prices were as low as $19.99 a can with free shipping.
  • Similac Advance was advertised as being on sale about as often as Enfamil Lipil. Nestle Good Start was on sale least often, and never was listed as being cheaper than $22.99 a can.
  • In lieu of an advertised sale price, stores also offered coupons in their weekly circulars that saved readers $2 to $5 per can on premium formulas.
  • As with diapers, 2009 saw the production of new, more expensive varieties of formula, including Enfamil Premium (23.4 oz can). A recent Facebook discussion on the fan page suggests that many parents are willing to pay the extra nickel or so per ounce that the Premium costs.

Note: Stores regularly included in BC’s Top Diaper and Formula Deals of the Week posts include Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, Kmart, Target, Kroger, Publix.

Infant Formula Savings Tips:

  • You can save up to 50% ($500 per year or so) with store brand formula.
  • You’ll save $200 or more per year by buying on sale and using coupons and formula checks whenever possible.
  • Premium brands generally aren’t on sale every week like premium diaper brands are. Try to keep a month’s supply on hand so that you don’t have to pay full price.
  • To really take advantage of sales, switch back and forth between brands. You can mix the formula brands if you’re worried about transitioning too abruptly.
  • Check BC’s Top Diaper and Formula Deals of the Week posts for a list of available online coupons.
  • Want organic formula? Many stores are now offering their own brands at big savings.
  • Sign up for formula checks at manufacturers’ websites: Enfamil, Similac, Nestle and others.
  • Trade formula checks you don’t need for those you do at a coupon trading site like BC’s Baby Coupon Traders.
  • Check for free formula sample cans and formula checks at your local group.
  • Ask your pediatrician for samples. Ask again every time you go.
  • Many parents whose babies need expensive specialty formulas swear by the deals they find at
  • And of course, breast milk is best (and free)

Readers: How do you save money on formula?

Related: See more formula savings tips at BC

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Tips for Saving on Specialty Formula

Earlier this week I posted asking for your feedback on buying formula from eBay. Most of the readers who commented that they did save money buying formula on eBay (and Craigslist) were parents needing specialty formulas like NeoSure and Nutramagin. Reader and frequent commenter Jessie Leigh just posted a fabulous comment on saving money on specialty formulas. We were fortunate in that we were able to use just about any formula out there, but I hear from many of you who find yourselves paying incredible sums to keep your baby fed. I’m bumping her comment up to post status. Thanks, Jessie Leigh!

it seems likely lately i’ve read about so many babies needing specialty formula. being mom to a preemie who was on neosure advance for over a year and aunt to a little boy with severe dairy and soy allergies, i KNOW how expensive this stuff can get. furthermore, it certainly doesn’t help that they only sell it in those rinky-dink 12 or 13 oz cans.

neither my sister nor i qualified for WIC’s income guidelines, but neither of us is exactly rolling in it either (you probably guessed this by the fact that i love baby cheapskate : )). here are a few things that worked for us to try and ease the expense of specialty formula:

1) don’t be afraid to ask doctors and/or nurses for formula; my preemie would periodically receive a “care package” in the mail from some of our beloved NICU nurses. each of those packages was probably worth close to $100.

2) while you’re at it, ask about formula checks. our NICU had pads of checks for NeoSure like some pediatrician’s offices have for more traditional formulations.

3) check with your insurance company. in my sister’s case, their insurance company would reimburse them the difference in the cost of her son’s specialty formula vs. regular formula. she still had to cough up the “retail value” of similac advance, but at least she didn’t have to shell out $25 or so a can… this meant saving receipts, but it was worth it!

4) network with parents of children with similar issues. shortly after my preemie turned one year old (corrected), i was at a family support snack hour for NICU parents and encountered a family whose preemie was just being discharged. i was able to hand off 12 cans of neosure to them that we would no longer need.

5) be clear and specific and ask your pediatrician when you can try something else. obviously, the health of our children is the most important thing… that being said, oftentimes your doctor may not think to suggest you could try switching to something else until YOU bring it up. my nephew was able to switch to rice milk with a vitamin supplement (i can’t remember the exact age, i’m sorry…) and that saved a bundle.

maybe, just maybe, you can save a little money with one of those. i hope so!

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Need to Buy Formula? Tips for Saving Big

I’m loving these reader-submitted tips!!! This one’s from Lindsay:
You can get a $5 check (coupon) for NeoSure (a preemie formula from Similac) here. Lindsay tells us that they used to also send out free 32 oz. bottles of ready-to-feed formula. I couldn’t find any indication that they still do that, buy hey, you may get lucky. You’ll also get $70 worth of “additional savings” when you sign up.

For those of you without preemies who could use some big savings on formula, be sure to sign up with Similac, Enfamil, and GoodStart. You’ll get coupon checks for about a year after the date you put down as your baby’s b-day. Some people I know also made their mom and friends sign up so they could pass on the checks if they didn’t need them. Ahem. Once you have the checks, wait for the sales and stock up. You should try to pay less than 70 cents per ounce (bring a calculator) for powdered formula. My son could switch back and forth between brands with no problem, so we were able to take advantage of any sale that came up. Buy the big cans and count on going through roughly one a week. You can also ask the pediatrician for samples. Don’t be shy about that. That’s what the reps give them out for. Of course there’s nothing cheaper than store brand formula. Read my post about that here. More posts about formula here.

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There IS such a thing as a free lunch.

Obviously the cheapest way to feed your baby is to breastfeed. Duh. But here’s a tip for those of you who buy formula:

EVERY time you go to the pediatrician, ask for formula samples. Don’t be shy, even if you asked for some last time they won’t care! At my ped’s checkout desk there are piles of small-size cans of Enfamil and Similac. One of them was packaged in a box with a cool classical music cd and two Fisher-Price Peek-a-Blocks. FREE for the taking! If you’re lucky, your baby can switch back and forth between Enfamil and Similac, so you can ask for one of each.

We also signed up for free coupons and offers before my son was born. We received a free can of formula in the hospital and one in the mail. I think we signed up at the formula companies’ websites, though it might have been through Mimi Maternity. Not sure. The companies REALLY want you get hooked on their brand, so they’re willing to ply you with free goodies. And the stuff keeps for a year (unopened), so stockpile it however you can.

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Formula Buying Resources

How Low Will it Go?
The cheapest way to buy formula, hands, down, is to buy the 25.7 oz. cans of powdered formula. To really take advantage of sales, switch back and forth between brands. You can mix the formula brands if you’re worried about transitioning too abruptly.

The cheapest you’ll find Similac Advance or Enfamil Lipil is $19.99 per 25.7 oz. can. Store brands can save you lots of cash–up to 50%.

Read more helpful posts on saving on formula

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