What does baby formula taste like? Do the major brands taste different from one another? What are you feeding that kid? In the interests of science, and because we felt vaguely uncomfortable feeding this foul-smelling concoction to our precious little angel, I decided to sample the major three brands of formula. Here is my report. You're welcome.
[10/1/04 update: Read The Man Who Loves Formula: A True Story]
We (the adventurous wife and I) tasted milk-based powdered formula with lipids from three companies: Similac, Enfamil, and Bright Beginnings. Figuring it wouldn't take much formula to get the idea, I made three bottles and poured a couple of teaspoonsful of each one into a shot glass.
First up: Bright Beginnings. This brand's most notable characteristics are value pricing and an endorsement from Brooke Shields. And that, one night when we ran out, it was the only milk-based formula left on the CVS shelf.
Bright Beginnings didn't foam hardly at all. The taste was very mild, faintly ressembling plain soy milk. It was the least creamy of the three, but somewhat paradoxically, it coated my mouth and throat more than the others. Which turned out to be a problem. An unpleasant aftertaste grew worse and worse; it was like catching wind of a latenight fish market on an August morning. Alas, my solution--several big swigs of Diet Coke--is not yet available to the kid.
Similac was the sweetest and creamiest of the three. It's not bad taste was apparent immediately. None of the formulas had a strong taste; any flavor at all comes on top of extreme mildness. Similac's taste was the mildest, with an overtone of sweetness. My wife said she almost thought she might drink it sometime, which I promptly told her was weird--and more expensive than a drink at Schillers' Liquor Bar.
Although I'm not quite sure why, Enfamil is the formula we use 90% of the time. Compared to the others, which have fairly clumpy powder, Enfamil is very granular, which seems easier to dissolve (if you're timid about shaking the bottle. Ladies.). So it came as a shock to find out how nasty it was. Enfamil tasted like it smelled, which is awful. (The other two smelled formula-y too, but tasted better, like soy milk.) And to top it all off, it actually kept a slightly gritty texture, even after a vigorous, manly shaking.
We went back and sampled all three again, just to make sure of our conclusions. Enfamil still tasted bad. But does it matter? What does the kid think? What does the kid know? She eats all three equally well, after all. But it must make some difference; I'd hate to think I drank that crap for nothing.