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Safe Baby Formula Guide
May 2022 Update: Widespread formula shortages are making it difficult for parents to get both European and even some American formulas. Our recommendation for an American formula was already ByHeart, and now we are please to learn that they are fully stocked and accepting new customers (we also love Bobbie but they aren’t taking on any new families right now). You can read more about ByHeart below, under The Good Stuff.
I wrote this guide on how to choose organic baby formula in 2012, and have updated it more than ten times since! The great news is that overall, things have moved in a positive direction on the formula front. Many new organic baby formula brands have come to market–while others have been discontinued.
This guide will review the current organic baby formula options, including European baby formulas, goat milk formulas, and which brands I consider the Best Stuff. (Speaking of goat milk formulas–this post goes into details about why you should consider it if you’re formula-freeding, but it needs to be updated from the 2018 version, mostly to include our new favorite goat milk brand, Loulouka.)
Bottom Line: Best Organic Baby Formula
If I were formula-feeding my infant, I would choose Loulouka. Loulouka Stage 1 is free of palm oil and maltodextrin. You can read more about why I think Loulouka is a superior formula below, under “The Good Stuff.”
As always, my goal with this updated guide is to make choosing the safest product easy. We’ve researched dozens of brands of organic baby formula, and I hope this guide will save you time and anxiety.
Here are two ways the industry has changed for the better over the last decade:
- Many companies have ditched corn sugars in favor of lactose. Lactose occurs naturally in cow (and goat) milk and much more closely mimics human milk.
- Many organic baby formula brands are using lower quantities of cheap, problematic oils (such as soy and canola). They’ve increased the amount of healthier oils (such as coconut and olive).
The bottom line: infants born today will almost certainly enjoy a healthier formula than did their siblings born even a few years ago.
What About the Baby Bottle?
Two important disclaimers before I jump in:
- I am not a medical professional or a nutritionist. I’m just a label-reading mom like the rest of you, here to share what I’ve learned and which organic baby formula I would choose if I were shopping for my own baby.
- If I recommend vendors from whom you can purchase European organic baby formulas, I am not guaranteeing that you’ll have a satisfactory experience shopping with them. I’m simply telling you the companies with whom I would feel comfortable were I looking to buy formula myself. I’m also an affiliate partner with some of them, so please read my disclosure page.
P.S. Breastmilk is Better Than Any Organic Baby Formula
Needless to say, I’m pro-breastfeeding. I have only two kids, but I breastfed for a total of 7 years, so you can do the math.
The reality is that many of my readers and clients— amazing moms with beautiful, healthy children– formula feed at least some of the time. And one thing that all formula-feeding moms want to know is, what is the safest, healthiest organic baby formula I can give my child? I hope this updated guide helps answer that question.
Best American Baby Formula
If you aren’t comfortable getting a European formula, you should consider By Heart. You’ll read more below about why I love this brand below.
What to Avoid in Baby Formula
When it comes to choosing a safe infant formula, it’s as much about avoiding the bad stuff as it is about finding the good stuff. What follows are some of the controversial ingredients and additives that you will find in most baby formula.
Even a few brands that I have deemed Good Stuff contain some of these ingredients–it’s impossible to avoid them all! Some of them are worse than others, but I mention them all here because these are at least worth considering when you are choosing baby formula.
An organic label alone doesn’t make a formula healthy, but avoiding any non-organic formula is a good start. Conventional formula likely contains traces of pesticides, milk contaminated with antibiotics or growth hormones, and oils extracted with hexane. Organic baby formula is almost always superior to anything conventional.
Organic baby formula cannot contain GMOs or artificial colors/flavors. Organic baby formula from Europe is even better: it must be free of sugar, corn syrup solids, and chemically-extracted synthetic nutrients. In addition, 30% of the calories in organic European formulas must come from lactose.
Soy formula is usually only recommended if a baby suffers from dairy intolerance.
If you’re buying non-organic formula, the soy is likely genetically modified. Synthetic l-methionine is added to soy formula to meet nutrition requirements. Because it is produced with things like hydrogen cyanide and other air pollutants, it is prohibited in European organic foods. This means that there is no such thing as organic soy-based infant formula in Europe.
Soy-based formula contains soy protein isolates, which my mother the health coach describes this way: “highly processed soybeans that have been chemically altered to no longer resemble a whole food.”
Soy formulas tend to have higher levels of aluminum contamination since soy sucks up aluminum from the soil.
Soy formula also contains high levels of plant-derived estrogens (phytoestrogens). In fact, the concentrations of phytoestrogens detected in the blood of infants fed soy formula were shown to be 13,000 to 22,000 times greater than the concentrations of natural estrogens. The effects of this are simply unknown.
Unfortunately, even most dairy-based formulas contain soy oils or lecithin, but it makes sense to avoid soy-based formulas unless a baby has a true dairy allergy. If that IS the case for your child, you can ask your pediatrician about Baby’s Only’s newer Pea Protein formula. Earth’s Best soy fomula contains corn syrup (as the FIRST ingredient), so this is a hard one for me to recommend even for lactose-intolerant infants.
Palm oil and palm olein
These are commonly added to formula to help replicate the high palmitic acid content of breastmilk. But the structure of the fat molecules in palm oil (and other vegetable oils) is different from that found in breast milk, and the fats are digested differently.
Palm oil and palm olein have been shown to inhibit the absorption of calcium and fat. On the other hand, plant-derived fats that match the structure of the most common fat molecules in breast milk have been shown to promote more healthy bacteria in the gut, reduce colic, gas, and constipation, and allow for fat and calcium to be absorbed better.
From what we know, only one company—Kabrita, which makes a goat milk formula—uses these more beneficial fats (high SN-2 palmitate, a.k.a. “OPO fats,” a.k.a. “structured truglycerides”), which are produced by an enzymatic reaction on a mixture of vegetable oils.
If you want to avoid palm oil, Loulouka doesn’t contain it.
Most formulas now boast the addition of essential fatty acids DHA and ARA. DHA and ARA are long chain fatty acids found naturally in human breast milk, which make up the major long chain fats in baby’s brain and nerve tissue.
We know that naturally occurring oils from food, food-based oils, and mom’s diet (in breast milk) is highly beneficial, but some studies have shown no benefits when DHA and ARA are added to formula.
The most common types of DHA and ARA extracted by the solvent hexane, a known neurotoxin, although the hexane is removed from the formula after it’s been processed. There are other methods for extraction, but these are relatively new and the jury is out on whether they are harmful, beneficial, or of no consequence at all.
Note that any organic oils in European formula cannot be hexane-extracted.
If you want to avoid DHA/ARA, avoid formulas with these ingredients:
- DHA oil
- algal oil
- cohni oil (DHA)
- alpina oil (ARA)
If you choose a formula without DHA added, but want to supplement on your own, this is the brand we like.
Note that since February of 2020, all European formulas are required to contain DHA.
You will find this additive in tons of stuff in your health food store, and infant formula is no exception.
Derived from seaweed, carrageenan helps stabilize liquid formula, but numerous animal studies suggest that it leads to intestinal inflammation and colon tumors. The European Union has outlawed the use of carrageenan in all infant formula, but in the United States it appears in both conventional and organic baby formula–typically the ready-made varieties since it functions as a stabilizer to ensure the nutrients are well-mixed.
Synthetic preservatives are sometimes added to prevent the oils in formula from spoiling. Two that have snuck into even organic baby formula: beta carotene and ascorbic palmitate.
There are several synthetic nutrients that you will find in many organic baby formulas.
Look out for the following:
- Lutein is hexane-extracted from marigolds.
- Lycopene is produced with toluene, a neurotoxic benzene derivative.
- Nucleotides are produced from chemically-treated yeast.
- Taurine is processed with carcinogenic sulfuric acid.
- L-carnitine was banned by the National Organic Standards Board because of concerns over carcinogenic properties. As of February 2020, the European Union requires infant formula to contain this nutrient.
Breast milk is naturally very sweet, so formulas invariably contain added sugars.
The sweetener that most closely mimics that found in human milk is lactose, but this cow’s milk-based sweetener is expensive. As a result, many manufacturers instead use plant-based sucrose, which was banned by The European Union in 2009 (except for babies with allergies), because of concerns of over-feeding and subsequent obesity. The FDA provides no such regulation on what kind of sugars can be used.
Other sweeteners include maltodextrin (made from rice, corn, or potatoes), and “glucose syrup solids,” which is just a clever name for corn syrup solids.
In 2012, concerns were raised about formulas sweetened with brown rice syrup when Dartmouth researchers found that organic baby formula made with organic brown rice syrup contained six times the EPA’s safe limit for arsenic. (More on arsenic in baby food here.)
Most organic baby formula these days, even the superior European brands, seem to choose maltodextrin as a sweetener, since it’s cheaper than lactose and helps powdered formula dissolve quickly.
My two cents on sugar: I’m not a big fan of maltodextrin, but I do feel that it’s better than white sugar or corn syrup. The best organic baby formula will contain only lactose as a sweetener.
Best Toddler Formula
If I were looking for a formula for a baby older than 12 months, I would consider Kabrita. There is strong evidence that goat milk more closely mimics human breast milk, and Kabrita is the only formula I know of that contains the beneficial type of palm oil (see more on this above).
Kabrita has generously offered 10% off for my readers with code GIMMEKABRITA.
“Sensitive” and Hypoallergenic Organic Baby Formula
For those babies who need a hypoallergenic formula, many pediatricians recommend Pregestimil or Nutramigen (both by Enfamil) or Allimentum (by Similac).
If forced to choose between these, I would go for the Allimentum since it skips the carrageenan and corn syrup. But I can’t call any of these Good Stuff since all three contain ingredients of concern and none is organic. Nutramigen is probably the very worst of these, comprised of 48% corn syrup solids!
If it were my baby, I would choose HiPP HA organic baby formula, which contains no sugar, corn syrup, or maltodextrin, and is full of good prebiotics. You also might want to try HiPP Anti-Reflux formula if your baby has a sensitive stomach. It’s made with 100% whey and no casein to prevent reflux. This site carries these versions of HiPP.
Please check with your pediatrician first if you suspect an intolerance or allergy.
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Other Things to Consider When Choosing Baby Formula
When you’re shopping for an organic baby formula, you’ll also want to be cognizent of the whey/casein ratio, the addition of prebiotics and probiotics, A1 versus A2 milk, and potential aluminum or BPA contamination. Let’s look at these one by one.
In an attempt to mimic real breast milk as closely as possible, formula manufacturers engineer their products to have a specific whey/casein ratio. Not sure what whey and protein are? Here’s the deal:
- Whey proteins stay in liquid form in the stomach (when exposed to stomach acid)—think the watery whey that separates in a container of natural yogurt–and exit the stomach more quickly. Whey proteins are therefore easier to digest and are rarely a source of allergies.
- Casein proteins form solids in the stomach (like cheese curds) and empty at a slower rate. They are more likely to cause digestive issues and be a source of allergies.
There is controversy over the optimal whey/casein ratio for a baby formula because the ratios found in breast milk change over time: whey content is high in early lactation (with a ratio of about 90:10), and by late lactation, whey and casein protein amounts are roughly equal.
Goat milk and cow milk both have a whey to casein ratio of about 20:80. Whey protein is added to formulas to adjust this ratio.
So what is the optimal whey/casein ratio? This depends on factors such as how old your baby is (in other words, how developed his/her digestion is), whether your baby has any digestive issues (like reflux, which may be a reaction to too much casein), and whether your baby is sensitive or allergic to casein.
We also don’t really know how much of the whey and casein added to formula actually ends up being assimilated. It’s definitely worth having a conversation with your pediatrician about which formula has the right ratio for your baby, although in many instances the whey/casein ratio isn’t an issue you need to worry about. Most babies do fine on standard formulas.
Prebiotics & Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, and prebiotics are food for probiotics. You probably already know that good gut bacteria is key to healthy immune function.
Breast milk has natural prebiotic properties, such as its oligosaccharide content, and breastfeeding introduces lots of healthy bacteria to the breastfed infant’s microbiome. In an attempt to mimic human milk (and ride the wave of current health trend!), many formula manufacturers now add prebiotics and probiotics to their products.
There’s little research to suggest that this offers any real benefits, and the American Association of Pediatrics doesn’t officially recommend it, but they are probably also not harmful to healthy babies.
My two cents: I probably wouldn’t rely on what’s in formulas as an effective probiotic/prebiotic supplement (mostly because of dosage and quality/viability of the organisms). Parents who are really interested in supplementing with probiotics should choose a high-quality product like Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic.
Aluminum in Infant Formulas
Unfortunately, it seems like high aluminum content in formulas is pretty much ubiquitous (studies confirm this in UK and Canadian markets, and there is no research done yet on formulas in U.S. market).
It’s not clear exactly why this is, but there are a variety of modes of potential contamination: raw materials (powdered milk may have aluminum added to prevent clumpiness, for instance), additives (like phosphorous), and manufacturing processes.
It’s important to note that a lot of healthful foods we eat contain more aluminum than even that found in the most contaminated formula (which was HiPP in this study)–including fish, spinach, and many types of tea. I’m not convinced tha the amount in formula is something we need to be overly concerned about.
We also don’t know is how much of the aluminum that’s ingested ends up accumulating in the body of infants and toddlers. In adults, most aluminum is excreted, but what remains does accumulate and can cause problems in the long term.
There’s little that consumers can do about aluminum in formula, except for:
- Choosing breast milk if possible.
- Avoiding soy-based formulas, as these tend to be highest in aluminum.
- Preparing powder formula with a silicon-rich mineral water—in the U.S., Volvic and Fiji water fit the bill. Experts believe that this could reduce the absorption of aluminum across the gut of the child and also potentially help the child to excrete aluminum in the body via the urine. However, these are areas which are also being researched.
You will see that some of the Good Stuff formula listed below contains “A2 milk.” Cow milk has two primary types of proteins–A1 and A2 beta-casein. More studies are needed, but there is some evidence to suggeste that A2 milk is easier to digest and less likely to cause inflammation than is A1 milk. The strongest evidence is around lactose intolerance–studies suggests that milk with A1 protein is much less likely to cause gastrointestional distress. Three brands that contain A2 milk are Baby’s Only, Serenity, and Holle.
BPA in Formula Cans
Good news: there is one thing you no longer have to worry about when buying formula, and it’s BPA. The FDA has finally gotten with the program and banned BPA from formula container linings. Of course, I worry about what’s being used in place of BPA, but still this is a small victory!
Toddler Formula for Infants?
I know many parents who have chosen to feed their infants a “toddler” formula. In order to understand why, it might be helpful to know the following:
United States / FDA Infant Formula Regulations
- The recipe requirements are from the Infant Formula Act of 1980 (which I believe is in desperate need of an update!).
- Infant formula certification requires multi-year and multi-million dollar feeding studies.
- Thus, there is a huge barrier to entry for innovative companies or smaller brands. ByHeart is one of the few brands who did their own study (more on them in our Formula Guide and dedicated ByHeart post.)
- In early 2022, the FDA recalled brands (e.g., Similac, Alimentum and EleCare) after babies drinking these formulas became ill; this was nearly 6 months after the FDA found out but failed to act on the information. In March of 2022 the FDA finally shut down the facility producing these formulas, which lead to a formula shortage.
- Members of Congress are questioning the FDA’s ability to effectively regulate the infant formula marketplace.
European Infant Formula Regulations
- European food standards are among the strictest in the world.
- The EU updates regulations every few years with modern science and ingredients.
- Europe does not require infant feeding studies for certification.
If I had been a formula-feeding mom, I would have definitely considered a “toddler” formula for my infant. Most toddler formulas contain the 29 key nutrients that are required by the FDA for infant formula. These formulas are not marketed as infant formula because the brands haven’t completed the infant feeding studies, not because they don’t provide adequate nutrition for infants. Again, ask your pediatrcian to review the nutrition label on any formula you’re considering, but this is worth keeping in mind!
One Important Way to Make Formula-Feeding Safer: Filter Your Water!
Tap water may be contaminated with chlorine byproducts, weed killers, insecticides, solvents, lead, BPA, phthalates…the list goes on. Fluoride is present in infant formula, and when combined with fluoridated tap water, infant exposure levels can exceed safe amounts. I think everyone should Invest in a good carbon water filter, but especially if you have a formula-fed baby in your home.
The Good Stuff
While it’s not perfect, Baby’s Only, in particular the Gentle variety, is one of the best formulas available in the United States. Here’s why:
- Baby’s Only makes an organic baby formula with no added DHA. Their other formulas include DHA and ARA extracted from egg lecithin, which may or may not be problematic for babies who react to hexane-extracted DHA.
- Baby’s Only organic baby formula is made in the USA by a family-owned business that is not publicly traded.
- Baby’s Only does not contain palm oil.
- As of 2021, Baby’s Only is using A2 milk, making it an even better choice.
Here are all of the ingredients in the Gentle formula: Organic lactose, organic whey powder, organic nonfat milk. organic canola oil, organic high oleic oil (organic high oleic sunflower and/or organic high oleic safflower oils), organic linoleic sunflower oil, organic whey protein concentrate, organic coconut oil, less than 2% of: organic sunflower lecithin, calcium ascorbate, calcium phosphate, inositol, magnesium oxide, ferrous sulfate, niacinamide, d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, zinc sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine hydrochloride, vitamin A, copper sulfate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, manganese sulfate, phylloquinone, biotin, vitamin D3, sodium selenate, vitamin B12.
Some concerns I have with Baby’s Only:
- Baby’s Only regular dairy formula contains brown rice syrup–it’s actually the first ingredient. In response to concerns about high arsenic levels, they created a high-tech filter that removes inorganic arsenic from brown rice syrup, reducing it to undetectable levels, as confirmed by the Consumers Union. Still, I recommend Baby’s Only Gentle formula because this one is sweetened with just lactose.
- Baby’s Only formulas are technically “toddler” formula, because in order to have FDA approval as an infant formula, a company must conduct clinical trials and undergo extensive testing. Many people choose Baby’s Only even for infants, but you should check with your pediatrician before doing so.
- Baby’s Only contains canola oil (hard to avoid!).
Bellamy’s Organic Baby Formula
This Australian formula is very similar to to the European brands. It doesn’t have DHA/ARA or corn ingredients, but it does contain soy and palm oil. It contains 97% organic ingredients, but unlike Lebenswert, the dairy in this formula doesn’t come from biodynamic farms. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a way to get Bellamy in the United States.
Bimbosan Organic Baby Formula
This Swiss brand of organic baby formula looks similar to the other European brands. I love the lack of maltodextrin, palm oil, corn syrup, and sugar! Bimbosan doesn’t include DHA/ARA. Unfortunately, I can’t find any vendors selling this formula.
We are super excited about ByHeart, the newest formula on this list, because it’s the only formula to be produced in its own factory.
ByHeart was more than five years in the making. They worked with an impressive array of scientists and pediatricians to build from the ground up–ByHeart has its own ingredient manufacturing and sourcing, and they even ran their own nation-wide clincal trial.
The ingredients in ByHeart are different. For one, they use whole milk (organic and grass-fed) instead of skim. Their formula features a proprietary protein blend that combines the two most abundant proteins found in breast milk (alpha-lactalbumin and lactoferrin) and a whey to casein ratio of 80:20, which mimics colostrum.
ByHeart is free of corn syrup, palm oil, maltodextrin, and soy–all problematic ingredients often found in organic formula. The sole source of carbohydrates is lactose, and ByHeart meets both US and EU regulations.
ByHeart is also the first formula to be certified by the Clean Label Project, and was awarded the highest tier “Purity Award.” Clean Label screens the formula for 400 contaminants, and ByHeart’s internal quality control program screens for more than 700.
Overall, ByHeart focuses not only on optimal infant nutrition, but also on a clean, uncontaminated formula. It engages in more auditing and testing than any other brand on U.S. market.
Finally someone is producing a European-style formula that meets all FDA requirements and is now available in the U.S.
Here’s why Bobbie is Good Stuff:
- The milk used in Bobbie’s formula comes from pasture-raised cows from Organic Valley Farms.
- Bobbie sweetens their formula with lactose, not sugar or maltodextrin.
- Bobbie meets the EU levels for iron and is the only US formula to meet EU DHA standards.
- Bobbie’s formula does not contain palm oil.
- Bobbie received the Clean Label Project’s Purity Award as well as their Pesticide Free Certification.
Bobbie includes DHA and ARA, and while hexane is used to retrieve the ARA, it is removed and undetectable in the final product. Bobbie formula does not contain prebiotics or probiotics. Bobbie contains some healthier oils (like coconut), but does still contain soy.
You can read my complete review of Bobbie formula here.
Here are all the ingredients in Bobbie: Organic lactose, organic nonfat milk, organic high oleic safflower or sunflower oil, organic soybean oil, organic whey protein concentrate, organic coconut oil, less than 1%: organic soy lecithin, schizochytrium sp. oil, motierlla alpina oil, calcium phosphate, potassium citrate, sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, potassium phosphate, magnesium chloride, zinc sulfate, cupric sulfate, maganese sulfate, potassium iodide, sodium selenite, choline bitartrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), ascorbyl palmitate, inositol, mixed rocopherol concentrate, dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), niacinamide (vitamin B3), calcium pantothenate, vitamin A palmitate, riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), folic acid, phytonadione (vitamin K), biotin, cholelciferol (vitamin D3), cynacobalamin (vitamin B12)
Happy Baby’s organic baby formula is a great option for parents who want to avoid corn syrup and maltodextrin, but don’t want to order European formulas. I put this brand as a close second to Bobbie when it comes to formulas you can buy in this country.
I love that lactose is the first ingredient in Happy Baby’s formula, and that it skips synthetic taurine.
I also like that this formula contains a nice prebiotic blend; in fact it contains nearly four times the prebiotics found in an other organic baby formula in the U.S. market.
The only negatives of this formula are that it contains soy oil and algae-derived DHA.
The complete ingredients of Happy Baby formula stage 1: Organic Lactose, Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic Palm Olein Or Palm Oil, Organic Soy Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic High Oleic (Safflower Or Sunflower) Oil, Organic Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, <1% of: Fructooligosaccharide (FOS), Choline Bitartrate, Potassium Chloride, Organic Soy Lecithin, Calcium Hydroxide, Mortierella Alpina Oil, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Chloride, DHA Algal Oil (Schizochytrium), Potassium Bicarbonate, Inositol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherol Concentrate, Vitamin E (Dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Sulfate, Beta-Carotene, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Vitamin K (Phytonadione), Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), Cyanocobalamin
Note: Happy Baby makes a stage 1 and a stage 2 formula, both of which are Good Stuff. Happy’s Sensitive Formula is Sneaky Stuff–you’ll see more on this below.
The major upside to HiPP is the lack of plant-based sweeteners (it uses lactose instead). HiPP also contains beneficial probiotics. Hexane is used to extract the DHA and ARA, but it is removed and undetectable in their formula.
There are actually three versions of HiPP–one from the UK, one from Holland, and one from Germany. They are so similar that I wouldn’t worry about which one you get. The only distinction worth noting is that the HiPP UK does not contain probiotics, only prebiotics. You can read more about my thoughts on pre/probiotics above.
If your baby needs a hypoallergenic formula, I recommend HiPP HA (more on that above, too!).
Complete ingredients in Stage 1 HiPP: Skim milk, Whey powder, Vegetable Oils (palm, rapeseed, sunflower), Lactose, Galactooligosaccharies from Lactose, Whey Protein, Fish Oil, Calcium Chloride, Potassium Citrate, Choline Oil, from M. Alpina, Sodium Citrate, L-Phenylalanine, Calciumorthophosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, L-Tryptophan, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Stabilizer Lactic Acid, Vitamin C, Natural Lactic Acid Culture (Lactobacillus Fermentum Hereditum3), Vitamin E, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Potassium Iodate, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin K, Maganese Sulfate, Vitamin D, Biotin, Vitamin B12
As with Holle, HiPP can be hard to purchase in the U.S. and expensive to have shipped from Europe. At the moment, these two retailers have HiPP in stock: Organic Baby Food 24and My Organic Company(for 5% off everything at My Organic Company, use code GIMME5 at checkout).
This European brand of formula comes from grass-fed, organic, and biodynamic milk. It doesn’t contain a host of the synthetic ingredients that you’ll find in American formulas. It also doesn’t contain soy or corn ingredients.
I love that Holle formulas are made from milk from Demeter-certified farms. This means that the cows are pastured in organic farms, but goes beyond organic to ensrure biodiversity and sustainability.
Holle’s Bio Pre formula contains no maltodextrin, and is only sweetened with lactose. I like that the Bio Pre line has more milk fat than other formulas. This means it contains fewer vegetable oils. Stage 1, 2, and 3 contains skimmed milk and maltodextrin. (Holle Bio Pre has basically the same ingredients as Lebenswert–more on that brand in a moment!).
The ingredients in Holle Bio Pre: Whole milk**, whey powder* (partly demineralised), vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), lactose*, skimmed milk powder**, calcium carbonate, vitamin C, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, vitamin E, ferrous lactate, zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-Dpantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
Unfortunately, Holle has not been approved by the FDA, so it’s difficult and expensive to obtain in the U.S. Here are three companies with whom I have affiliate relationships:
- Organic Baby Food 24 (based in Germany)
- My Organic Company(for 5% off everything at My Organic Company, use code GIMME5 at checkout).
This formula forgoes the most concerning preservatives and the most problematic synthetic nutrients. (Formula 1 does have L-methionine).
I don’t like that maltodextrin is the primary added carbohydrate here, but I appreciate that it is organic. I gave Holle a few points for including lactose. I’m also not a fan of the palm, sunflower, and grapeseed oils, but they are organic in this case.
If you’re debating between Kabrita and Holle goat milk formulas, keep in mind that Holle goat milk does not contain whey. Because of this, Holle goat might be constipating for some infants.
Holle Goat Organic Baby Formula ingredients: Organic Goat Milk Powder, Organic Maltodextrin, Organic Lactose, Organic Vegetable Oils [Organic Rapeseed Oil, Organic Sunflower Oil], L-Choline, Calcium Hydroxide, Algae Oil (DHA), L-cystine, Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Chloride, Vitamin C, L-tryptophan, L-Tyrosine, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Iron Lactate, Inositol, Vitamin E, Zinc Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B2, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D3, Biotin, Vitamin B12
Holle isn’t imported to the U.S. so can be hard to purchase. Here are three places with whom I have affiliate relationships:
- Organic Baby Food 24
- My Organic Company(for 5% off everything at My Organic Company, use code GIMME5 at checkout).
For now, Kabrita is approved for 12+ months (although people do use it for infants). The whey/casein ratio is 50:50, making this an ideal option for babies 12 months and older. (Kabrita hopes to debut an infant formula in the U.S. market later this year.)
I like that Kabrita uses non-GMO goat milk (from Missouri and the Netherlands) and has lactose as the primary added carbohydrate.
What really makes Kabrita stand out, however, is the fat blend that they use. From what we know, Kabrita is the only brand that uses plant-derived fats that match the structure of the most common fat molecules in breast milk. These fats (high SN-2 palmitate, a.k.a. “OPO fats”), which are produced by an enzymatic reaction on a mixture of vegetable oils, have been shown to promote more healthy bacteria in the gut, reduce colic and gas, reduce constipation, and allow for fat and calcium to be absorbed better.
For parents with children with coconut allergies, Kabrita doesn’t contain coconut oil (of course, this could change at any time, so always read the label!).
Ingredients in Kabrita formula: Lactose (Milk), Nonfat Dry Goat Milk, Goat Whey Protein Concentrate Powder (Milk), High sn2-Palmitic Acid Oil, Soybean Oil*, Galacto-oligosaccharides (Milk), Palm Kernel Oil, Sunflower Oil, and less than 1%: Tri Calcium Citrate, Mortierella Alpina Oil, Tri Sodium Citrate, Crypthecodinium Cohnii Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Hydroxide, Choline Bitartrate, Sodium L-ascorbate, Choline Chloride, Ferrous Sulphate, L-ascorbic Acid, Zinc Sulphate, Vitamin E Acetate, Inositol, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulphate, Retinyl Acetate, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Vitamin B6 Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Manganese Sulphate, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K1, D-biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin.
You can read my in-depth review of Kabrita here.
Kabrita has generously offered 10% off for my readers with code GIMMEKABRITA.
Kendamil is another great European formula, and has been made organically in the UK since 2018. Kendamil uses whole milk from grass-fed cows and doesn’t contain soy or palm oil.
Kendamil formula comes from the milk of English Jersey cows, whose milk is richer in good fats, protein, and calcium. Furthermore, Jersey cows produce mainly A2 milk.
This formula does not contain probiotics, but it does have prebiotics and its DHA and ARA are not extracted with hexane. Kendamil contains taurine, l-carnitine, and nucleotides.
The complete ingredients in the stage 1 Kendamil are: Organic whole milk, Organic demineralized milk whey protein powder, Organic skimmed milk, Organic vegetable oils (sunflower, coconut, rapeseed), Organic galacto-oligosaccharides (from milk), Calcium citrate, Sodium citrate, Potassium chloride, Calcium lactate, Magnesium chloride, Docosahexaenoic acid, Arachidonic acid, Vitamin C, Potassium hydroxide, Choline bitartrate, Inositol, Taurine, Nucleotides (cytidine-5’-monophosphate, disodium uridine-5’-monophosphate, adenosine-5’-monophosphate, disodium inosine-5’monophosphate, disodium guanosine-5’ monophosphate), Iron pyrophosphate, Zinc sulphate, Vitamin E, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Copper sulphate, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Manganese sulphate, Folic acid, Potassium iodide, Sodium selenite, Vitamin K, Vitamin D3, Biotin, Vitamin B12
One thing that makes Kendamil special is that even their Stage 2 and Stage 3 formulas do not contain maltodextrin—almost every other formula adds this carb beyond Stage 1.
Kendamil also makes a goat milk formula that is Good Stuff.
You can buy all Kendamil varieties at My Organic Company.
As I mentioned above, this newer Swiss formula is the very Best Stuff. Loulouka Stage 1 is free of palm oil, soy, corn syrup, sucrose, carrageenan, and maltodextrin, contains lactose, and is certified organic with milk from grass-fed cows.
Loulouka contains DHA and prebiotics, but does not contain ARA or probiotics.
Please note that the stage 2 and 3 Loulouka do contain maltodextrin. Some parents choose to keep their older babies on the stage 1–this is a decision you should make with the help of your pediatrician, but we do still consider Stage 2 and Stage 3 Loulouka to be Good Stuff.
Loulouka Stage 1 ingredients: Organic Skimmed Milk, Organic Demineralized Whey Powder, Organic Vegetable Oils [Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Rapeseed Oil], Organic Lactose, Galactooligosaccharides (GOS from lactose), Minerals (Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Citrate, Zinc Sulphate, Sodium Selenate, Manganese Sulphate, Potassium Iodate, Potassium Hydroxide, Copper Sulphate, Iron Sulphate), Emulsifier (organic sunflower lecithin), Refined Fish Oil, Choline Bitartrate, Vitamins (C, E, A, D, B3, B5, B7, B12, K, Folic Acid, B1, B6, B2), L-tyrosine, L-tryptophan, Inositol, Antioxidants (tocopherol-rich extract), L-cysteine, L-carnitine
Goat’s milk formula is worth considering if you have a baby with sensitivities to cow’s milk (or maybe even if you don’t). If you’d like to consider a goat milk formula for your baby, our top choice is Loulouka. I like that the primary ingredients in Loulouka’s goat milk formula—goat milk, carbohydrates, and oils—meet a very high, European organic standard. Goat milk formula is not usually organic, so that makes this one special.
It is superior to Holle’s goat milk formula because it does not contain maltodextrin.
Lebenswert formula is produced by Holle, and is even better.
One of the the biggest problems with Holle’s original formula is that it contains maltodextrin. Lebenswert’s stage 1 formula is free of maltodextrin, relying instead upon lactose to lend sweetness to the formula.
Moreover, Lebenswert adheres to Bioland organic guidelines for farmers and manufacturers. These guidelines are even more stringent than the European Union’s Eco-Regulation; you can read more about them here.
Lebenswert also skips soy and a bunch of the synthetic nutrients found in most of the organic formulas in America, but does still contain palm oil and canola oil (called “rapeseed oil”).
Here’s a complete ingredients list of the stage 1 formula: Organic skimmed milk, organic whey powder (partly demineralised), organic vegetable oils (palm, rapeseed, sunflower oil), lactose, potassium chloride, calcium, vitamin C, sodium chloride, ferrous gluconate, vitamin E, zinc sulfate, niacin, calcium pantothenate, copper sulphate , Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6 , Vitamin A, manganese sulfate, folic acid, potassium iodate, vitamin K1, sodium selenate, vitamin D.
Because it’s from Germany, Lebenswert is not FDA approved, so it can be challenging to obtain here in the U.S.
I’ve vetted the several places to purchase this formula, and am happy to have established affiliate relationships with the following sellers (this list continues to be updated as the market changes):
- Organic Baby Food 24
- My Organic Company(for 5% off everything at My Organic Company, use code GIMME5 at checkout).
PLEASE NOTE: Lebenswert organic baby formula in stages above 1 do contain maltodextrin. While these are still “Good Stuff” and on par with original Holle, Lebenswert stage 1 is superior.
Serenity’s new toddler formula uses milk that is not only grassfed and organic but also A2. It contains a lot of the Good Stuff we look for–lactose to sweeten, prebiotics, olive and coconut oils, and non-hexane extracted omega acids. It’s free of corn, rice, and soy.
You should ask your pediatrician about giving this formula to an infant, but it’s worth noting that it’s
These are all the ingredients in this Serenity Formula: Organic Lactose, Organic A2 Whole Milk Powder, Organic Galactooligosaccharides, Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Palm Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, Less than 2% of: Human Milk Oligosaccharides (2′-fucosyllactose, Lacto-N-neotetraose), Organic Inulin, Algal Oil, Organic Sunflower Lecithin, Organic Egg Lecithin, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Nucleotides (Adenosine-5-Monophosphate, Cytidine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Inosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine-5-Monophosphate), Choline Bitartrate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Inositol, Natural Mixed Tocopherols, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Methylcobalamin, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Copper Sulfate, Ascorbic Acid, L-Methylfolate, Kelp Powder, Manganese Glycinate, Phylloquinone, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin D2.
Use code GIMME15 for 15% off anything at Serenity.
The Okay Stuff
I am so happy to see that Earth’s Best has gotten rid of the corn syrup in their formula! The only sweetener is now organic lactose, making this formula almost Good Stuff. I’m still only calling it Okay Stuff because of the sheer number of synthetic nutrients. It also contains several soy ingredients. Earth Best’s sensitive organic baby formula as well as their dairy-free version both have corn syrup solids as the very first ingredients, so those two are Sneaky Stuff.
The complete list of ingredients in the basic dairy infant formula is: Organic Lactose, Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic Oils (Organic Palm or Palm Olein, Organic Soy, Organic Coconut, Organic High Oleic Safflower or Sunflower Oil), Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Less Than 1: Mortierella Alpina Oil*, Crypthecodinium Cohnii Oil**, Fructooligosaccharide, Lutein, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin E (DL-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Mixed Tocopherol Concentrate, Vitamin K (Phytonadione), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cyanocobalamin, Niacinamide, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Bitartrate, Inositol, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Bicarbonate, Potassium Chloride, Potassium Iodide, Potassium Hydroxide, Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Citrate, Taurine, Organic Soy Lecithin, Nucleotides (Cytidine-5-Monophosphate, Adenosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Inosine-5-Monophosphate)
Topfer Lacatana Bio
A lot of you have inquired about Topfer, and I like that it’s the very oldest of the German formulas! Still, when I drilled down on the ingredients, I don’t think it’s as good as the other European options. This is really just because it isn’t biodynamic, contains canola and palm oils, and uses maltodextrin as a sweetener.
The ingredients in Topfer are as follows: Skimmed milk, whey powder partly demineralized, vegetable oils (Organic Palmoil, Rapeseedoil, Sunfloweroil), maltodextrine, skimmed milk powderˡ, starch, oil of Mortierella alpina, fish oil, calcium carbonate, sodium citrate, potassium chloride, vitamin C, calcium phosphate, iron lactate, vitamin E, bifidobacteria cultures (B.breve, B.bifidum, B.infantis, B.longum), zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-Dpantothenate, copper sulfate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D.
(Note: Topfer’s Stage Pre does not contain any sweeteners at all, making it Good Stuff!).
The Bad Stuff
Avoid any infant formulas that are not organic, for all of the reasons listed above.
Aptamil Nutura is a British brand about which many of you have inquired. Because it isn’t organic and contains corn syrup, I can’t recommend it.
Gerber’s BabyNes is admittedly super convenient, but there are lots of problems with these pods. For one, they are plastic-heavy, with lots of surface area exposure (as opposed to bigger traditional containers.) They also involve warm water running through plastic tubing and other parts in the machine. You probably know that warmth and plastic equals increased chemical leaching. Plus the pods are super wasteful from an environmental standpoint. And what’s in the pods isn’t Good Stuff anyway, with corn sweeteners and no organic ingredients.
Nan formula is perhaps the best of the Bad Stuff, since it does contain lactose as a sweetener. But this formula, made by Nestle, isn’t organic. And if you read all the way down the ingredients list, you will eventually find the corn syrup!
Two other definite Bad Stuff brands who don’t even make an organic variety of their formula:
- Gerber Good Start. This should come as no surprise. Their jarred baby food is also Bad Stuff.
- Enfamil. For some horrible reason this is the brand I chose for Felix when I needed a nursing break due to bleeding nipples and ran out of pumped milk. Wah! Enamel’s Pregestimil and Nutramigen lines (for sensitive or allergic babies) are made up almost entirely of corn syrup and vegetable oils.
The Sneaky Stuff
Bright Beginnings Organic Baby Formula, owned by pharma giant PMB, contains corn syrup, rather than dairy-based lactose, as well as lots of vegetable oils.
Enfamil Enspire doesn’t have a terrible list of ingredients (it’s sweetened with just lactose rather than corn syrup or white sugar), but nothing is organic and it has a ton of synthetic nutrients and some questionable preservatives.
Parent’s ChoiceOrganic Baby Formula contains maltodextrin, as well as all the other bad stuff.
Similac Organic Baby Formula is the only organic formula to contain actual cane sugar, and lots of it. Their ready-to-use formula also contains carrageenan. The only upside? Similac is free of palm oil.
Similac Advance Non-GMO Baby Formula. This marketing ploy really annoys me. GMOs are the least of the problem with conventional infant formula.
Still, I was surprised to see that there isn’t sugar or corn syrup in this formula. If you’re going for a conventional formula, this is the one to get.
This version of Similac contain galactooligosaccharides, which are prebiotics. It isn’t unlike the Baby’s Only Whey in fact, except it isn’t organic (and btw, organic by definition means non-GMO).
This version is actually better than Similac Organic, but it still contains a significant number of synthetic ingredients.
Similac Pure Bliss is yet another version from this pharma giant. This one uses dairy from grass-fed, antibiotic-free cows, but it’s not organic, and is still loaded with synthetic nutrients.
Whole Foods 365 Organic Baby Formula, also produced by PMB, contains palm oil and corn-based sugars.
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