Lately I have been asked by parents which formula brand I recommend. We all know that “breast is best” and there are numerous benefits of breastfeeding but sometimes families find for whatever social, personal or medical reasons that they need to supplement their baby’s diet with formula. If you have found yourself in such a conundrum, you may have asked yourself “Are all formulas equal”? Generally speaking I recommend organic formula because the non-organic options are derived from GMO ingredients, milk from cows exposed to antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, crops that have been sprayed with pesticides, and oils that have been processed with neurotoxic solvents like hexane. Organic formula is much healthier but disappointingly imperfect. Here is a list of concerning ingredients to look for in your infant formula:
1) Palm Oil: Human breast milk contains palmitic acid and in an effort to mimic breast milk, formula manufacturers add palm oil to infant formula. Unfortunately palm oil is not well absorbed and can result in constipation and maldigestion, specifically impeding the absorption of fat. All organic infant formula contain palm oil acid except for Baby’s Only Organic and Similac Organic formulas.
2) Sweetener: Human breast milk contains the carbohydrate, lactose, which also happens to be a relatively expensive raw ingredient for formula manufacturers, most of whom are switching to plant-based sweeteners like corn syrup, corn maltodextrin and glucose syrup (a sneaky way to say corn syrup). Unfortunately none of the U.S. organic formulas are using lactose in their current formula preparations, although many of them used lactose when they initially came out on the market. 365/Whole Foods Organic formula, Vermont Organics, Similac Organics, Parent’s Choice Organic and Earth’s Best Organic all use corn syrup as their sweetener. Surprisingly, Similac Organics also adds additional sugar, an ingredient that has been rightfully banned from being added to formula in Europe. Baby’s Only Organic is the only one to use brown rice syrup. For those of you who are concerned about the use of rice syrup because of the recent report showing that rice is often contaminated with low levels of arsenic, Baby’s Only has been third party tested and cleared for using arsenic-free brown rice syrup.
3) Carrageenan is one of the most frustrating ingredients added to formula because it adds no nutritional value or flavor to formula. This inflammatory additive, which again has been banned from infant formula in Europe, is added only to ready-made liquid formulas so that the formula does not have to be shaken. Only Earth’s Best and Similac Organic offer ready-to-feed liquid formula, and therefore these liquid versions contain carrageenan.
4) Synthetic preservatives are added to formula to preserve the DHA oil. The only formula that does not contain DHA oil and therefore does not contain synthetic preservatives is Baby’s Only Organic.
5) Synthetic nutrients are usually made from plants that are treated with pesticides and processed with hexane, a solvent that is toxic to the nervous system. Similac Organics is the only formula that contains synthetic lutein and lycopene, again these are ingredients that have been banned in Europe.
It is clear to me that Baby’s Only Organic has the cleanest ingredient list of all the organic formula options on the US market.