Two big brands battle for the bottle, but which “gentle” formula wins?
It’s a “no-brainer” that infant tummy troubles should be avoided. Gas, constipation, and just overall fussiness are pretty common among babies who are formula fed. Buying one in which the proteins are partially broken down, helps to reduce these tummy troubles. But, when comparing the Gerber vs Enfamil “sensitive” formulas, I think Gerber Good Start GentlePro wins by a long shot. It has my preferred ingredients, including some specialty ones, and just seems to relieve symptoms better. Although Enfamil Premium Non-GMO Gentlease is still a good choice because of a unique ingredient (inositol), I prefer an option that is free of corn syrup solids.
Gerber Good Start GentlePro
This gentle, non-GMO infant formula is designed to help your baby grow during the first year of life.
This formula’s ingredient list is fantastic. Unlike many popular brands on the market, its first ingredient is partially hydrolyzed whey protein sourced from cow’s milk. In contrast, other companies choose either corn syrup solids or a plant-based protein for the first ingredient.
Looking at the label, Gerber Good Start GentlePro appears to have less sugar. Lactose, a natural milk sugar, is the fourth instead of the first ingredient. This means that protein is the predominant ingredient. There is some additional sugar, however, in the form of corn maltodextrin. The result is 2.2 g of protein, 5.1 grams of fat, and 11.6 grams of carbohydrates per 5-ounce serving. This gives babies the fuel for muscle building and growth with a bit less sugar. Excess dietary sugar can lead to a preference for sweet tastes, and obesity later on in life (source).
One of the perks of breast milk is that it contains many essential fatty acids necessary for your infant’s brain development. This formula mimics that by including DHA and ARA. These are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are considered very important for brain and eye health (source). In addition, this formula has 15 vitamins and 12 minerals, including iron. Suffice it to say, everything your baby needs for optimal growth is in this formula.
Another specialty ingredient in Gerber Good Start GentlePro is a prebiotic derived from lactose called galactooligosaccharides. This is a type of fiber that supports the healthy bacteria (probiotics) within the intestines. The stronger the gut flora, the easier it can break down the milk proteins in the tummy. This promotes less gas, spitting up, and constipation. The prebiotic is probably your best tool to prevent constipation, and it’s much healthier than juices.
Recipe and Use
The main appeal of this product is how the proteins are processed. It has what the manufacturer calls Gerber Comfort proteins, smaller easy-to-digest protein particles. This, along with the prebiotics, is what makes the formula so gentle on a baby’s tummy. The partially hydrolyzed proteins also promote a soft stools. I love this aspect because it means that this formula won’t wreak havoc your baby’s still-developing digestive system.
For babies who were breast fed and are transitioning to formula, this option is particularly ideal The easy-to-digest proteins won’t upset your baby’s tummy during the transition. There should be less colic and constipation (source). And, since we parents know that a “happier tummy” means better and longer periods of sleep and parent bonding, this formula is a winner.
While this may be only a small concern for some parents, I love the fact that Gerber Good Start GentlePro is completely non-GMO. Corn, palm, and soy are some of the most commonly genetically modified crops. Until it is proven that genetically modified organisms are 100% safe for longterm, daily consumption, I think I’ll stick with a non-GMO infant formula.
There are, however, two negatives, in my opinion. First, it doesn’t dissolve in water as well as other formulas. This is most likely because of the type and consistency of protein plus the vegetable oil content. After several attempts, I found that stirring any clumps of formula with a spoon solved this problem.
My other complaint is that this formula gives your baby very stinky diapers. Formula-fed babies are notorious for having foul-smelling bowel movements. This formula, in particular, seems to become stinky when a baby digests it. I’m thinking that this may be due to those prebiotics. It’s a bit strange, but, after some time, stools become less malodorous.
Enfamil Premium Non-GMO Gentlease
This premium version of Gentlease is a “tummy tamer” for babies 0 to 12 months. Like the Gerber version, it is also non-GMO.
Corn syrup solids are the primary ingredient in Enfamil Gentlease. They are the main carbohydrate and sugar source of energy for your baby. Like the Gerber product, it contains partially hydrolyzed whey protein, but as its third ingredient. Soy protein is also included. To provide a source of fats, a blend of palm olein, coconut, soy, and high oleic sunflower oils have been added.
This ingredient list is pretty typical for most “gentle” infant formulas. Compared to the Gerber option, it has similar amounts of fat and protein. It has one gram less of carbs, which is interesting, as corn syrup is the main ingredient. This type of sugar is digested differently than lactose, and alters the gut flora. Infants who consume infant formula made with corn syrup have fewer probiotics in their intestines than those who consume one with lactose (source). Although it may not cause digestive issues, corn syrup is not ideal for gut health and immunity.
Enfamil Premium Gentlease Non-GMO contains two additives that are similar to those in breast milk. The first is inositol. This is one of the naturally occurring carbohydrates in breast and cow’s milk. It’s used by the brain as a building block for healthy cells. According to the CODEX of international standards for infant formula, adding it is a good idea to prevent an inositol deficiency during the prime brain development years. Enfamil’s own studies have concluded that babies who consume proper amounts of inositol, whether from formula or breast milk, have higher intelligence scores at age two.
Inositol, combined with the second additive, omega 3 DHA, ensure that your baby is getting the proper nutrients for optimal cognitive development. The ratio of these ingredients in Enfamil Premium Gentlease formula is similar to that of breast milk. This is just one way the company attempts to produce a formula that is as close as possible to breast milk.
This formula includes all of the nutritional building blocks your baby needs with its 30 vitamins and minerals. According to the company, not only do these promote normal growth and development, but they also help to support your baby’s immune system. This formula is nutritionally balanced, and has all of the ingredients that one would hope to see on the label. It contains a good amount of iron which is a must-have if you are formula feeding a baby (source).
Recipe and Use
This formula is called Gentlease because it’s designed to be gentle on your baby’s tummy. The corn syrup solids and partially hydrolyzed whey proteins are easy for your baby’s tummy to tolerate. This is because the protein has been partially broken down for your baby, resulting in less gas, fussiness, and spitting up. Stools are also softer and are easier to pass. The manufacturer claims that Enfamil Gentlease will begin easing common tummy troubles within 24 hours. In my experience, this definitely seems to hold true. However, I think that any partially hydrolyzed formula would improve symptoms within 24 hours.
This formula is appropriate from birth to 12 months to help reduce these issues (source). It may also help babies who have normal reflux. Although the exact reason is unclear, some babies with reflux seem to tolerate this type of formula much better.
I’ve already discussed why a non-GMO infant formula is a good idea in my comments about Gerber Good Start GentlePro. Enfamil Gentlease is also non-GMO, so it wins a gold star from me.
The first drawback about this formula is that it smells terribly. While any infant formula can have a strong, iron sort of smell, this one is particularly foul. I think this equates with tasting horribly which is why corn syrup is added. If your baby has only been formula fed, he or she probably won’t notice it. However, a breastfed baby will detect a difference in taste and flavor. Depending your baby’s preferences, this formula may be rejected.
The second negative quality is how it blends with water. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like that this powder completely dissolves in water, but I would prefer if it didn’t develop a foam. This requires you to mix it, then allow the formula to settle in order for the foam dissipate. Let’s be honest. Most mom’s have no time for this, including me. The foam causes your baby swallows air during feedings which can cause gassiness. This defeats the purpose of using a “gentle” infant formula.
I also dislike the residue left in the bottle after feedings. For some reason, the vegetable oils leave a strange, slick residue inside bottles. This requires diligent cleaning to prevent oil build-up and residual odors.
Enfamil vs Similac
Read our comprehensive formula article to see how the two biggest manufacturer’s products compare.