For new mothers, making use of baby formula can be really useful. The general consensus is that breastfeeding is always best for babies and provides the most benefits, but for mums who can't breastfeed or don't want to, using infant milk formula is perfectly fine. Here in the UK, there are a number of baby milk formula brands to choose from, with Aptamil and Cow & Gate being the 2 most popular brands.
Which brand is more popular?
It's actually quite hard to gauge which of these 2 brands is the most popular, because neither brand appears to be consistently collecting third-party reviews anywhere online. There is a Trustpilot that has been set up for Cow & Gate, but it hasn't been verified and only has 12 reviews. The one indicator which suggests to us that Aptamil is more popular is that we checked how many people search for each brand in the UK every month. using an online tool, and Aptamil had more than twice the amount of monthly search volume compared to Cow & Gate.
The best way to compare Aptamil and Cow & Gate is to go through some of the range of each brand and compare like-for-like products, let's start with the first infant milk:
Which brand has the best first infant milk/formula?
First infant milk (also known as first infant formula) is the first type of formula that you give your baby. Typically, this formula will contain a combination of whey and casein proteins. According to the NHS, first infant milk should be based on whey protein, as this is easier for the baby to digest.
Aptamil first infant milk
The first infant milk from Aptamil is available as a formula that you make up (pictured), in ready-to-feed bottles, or in pre-measured tabs that you add to water.
The formula is free from palm oil and, as required by the legislation for all infant formula, is suitable to be used as the sole source of nutrition from birth to 6 months old, and as part of a weaning diet from 6 months old to 1 year old.
Looking at the ingredients, this formula is made using vegetable oils such as High oleic sunflower oil and Coconut oil, and it also contains fish oil. It has also been fortified with vitamins such as Vitamin K1 and Vitamin B12. This formula tastes very similar to breast milk and is made using mostly natural ingredients, plus it is packed with nutrition, all of which is very impressive. You can grab a bulk pack here.
Cow & Gate first infant milk
The Cow & Gate first infant milk range also includes formula powder (pictured) and ready-to-use bottles but doesn't include the tabs that you can find in the Aptamil range. Similar to Aptamil, this Cow & Gate first infant milk is free from palm oil, but is also free from artificial preservatives.
The ingredients list of both products was very similar, with the Cow & Gate infant milk also being fortified with vitamins including Vitamin K and Vitamin B12. Both formulas also contain the exact same amount of calories per 100ml of prepared feed - 66kcal. So in terms of the makeup of these 2 first infant milk formulas, there isn't too much to separate Aptamil and Cow & Gate.
Which brand has the best follow on milk?
Follow on formula should never be given to a baby under 6 months old, and there is a bit more controversy surrounding the use of follow on milk compared to first infant milk. Even though both Aptamil and Cow & Gate advertise this formula as being suitable for babies once they reach 6 months old, the NHS website states that there is no need to give your baby follow on milk until they reach 1 year old. Let's compare the follow on milk from both brands:
Aptamil follow on milk
The Aptamil follow on milk is targeted at babies between the ages of 6 and 12 months. The formula is fortified with iron and Vitamin D, which are important nutrients for a baby once they reach the age of 1.
Whereas the first infant milk from Aptamil was very similar (almost identical) to the first infant milk from Cow & Gate, we notice quite a few differences when comparing the ingredients of the Aptamil follow on milk to the Cow & Gate follo on milk.
For example, the Aptamil formula has what is described as a "unique blend of Galacto- and Fructo-oligosaccharides", and you can also buy the follow on milk Aptamil formula in tab form.
Cow & Gate follow on milk
The first difference you'll notice between the Cow & Gate follow on milk and the formula from Aptamil is the age recommendation - Aptamil is recommended for babies between the ages of 6-12 months, and Cow & Gate simply recommends that this is suitable for babies "from 6 months".
It's a bit more vague and demonstrates our point that generally speaking, there is a bit more controversy surrounding the use of follow on milk. Once again, this follow on milk is available as a powder formula or a ready-to-use bottle. The follow on milk from Cow & Gate contains both Fructo-oligosaccharides and Galacto-oligosaccharides, but doesn't claim to have a unique blend of these nutrients like the Aptamil follow on milk has
It's also worth noting that again, the follow on milk from both brands contains exactly the same amount of calories per 100ml prepared feed - 68kcal. And once again, the Cow & Gate formula powder is around £5 cheaper for an 800g tub compared to Aptamil on amazon.
Anything else to mention?
The only additional thing to mention which might be useful to know is that Aptamil is a certified halal brand, whereas Cow & Gate is not. Aptamil is a French brand, whereas Cow & Gate was founded in the UK.
So as you can see, there isn't too much to separate Aptamil and Cow & Gate in terms of ingredients and nutrition. However, Cow & Gate is quite a bit cheaper, which could be a deciding factor for many parents.
Please let us know what you think of this comparison and if you have any additional thoughts on Aptamil versus Cow & Gate!