Qn of the Month: What Should I Know About Organic Baby Formulas?

Every mother who plans to give her baby commercial infant formula is faced with this question: should I give conventional or organic baby formula? If you look at the marketing language surrounding some organic baby formulas, it definitely sounds attractive. For instance, here’s an excerpt from an online site selling Holle Organic infant formula: “Each farm raises its cows in a natural, caring environment where they are free to graze in organic fields cultivated according to modern biodynamic principles – in tune with nature and completely without chemicals… Grazing the cows on lush biodynamic fields and pastures is the reason for the quality of the milk used in the Holle formulas.”

If you have to choose formula over breast milk, then organic formulas may be a better alternative over conventional formulas. This is mainly due to concerns raised over the ingredients in conventional formulas, like the formulas being made using milk from cows that were likely treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, the use of genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), or ingredients produced from crops that are have most likely been treated with pesticides, herbicides or fumigated in storage. But even if you choose to give your baby organic formula, here are a few basic things you should know.

There are quite a few brands and products of organic formula currently available on the market. In the US, there are 7 brands (made by 3 companies) of organic formulas being sold. In the UK, the most well-known organic formula brand sold is Hipp Organic, though this only accounts for about 2% of the market share. Some other brands available in the UK are Natbaby and Holle Organic infant formula.

Not all brands of conventional or organic formulas are the same. Though most standard cow’s milk based baby formulas will contain lactose as the main carbohydrate source from using cow’s milk as an ingredient, formulas can add in other carbohydrate sources. Instead of using additional lactose, many formulas (including organic formulas) now use a less expensive plant based sweetener like corn syrup, maltodextrin, brown rice syrup or even sugar! So it is important to look at the ingredient labels of both conventional and organic formulas closely before buying.

Organic formulas are not the safest alternative to breast milk…yet. Some of the ingredients in organic formulas are still not being processed in the safest way. For example, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are fatty acids found naturally in breast milk. However, the DHA and ARA in most formulas (conventional and in some organic formulas) usually come from oils extracted using the petroleum-based solvent hexane from factory produced specific strains of algae and fungus.

If you are looking for more information on organic formulas in the United States, look at this article:  http://foodbabe.com/2013/05/28/how-to-find-the-safest-organic-infant-formula/ . I am not endorsing this website, but this is quite a well written article that may better help guide your decision on choosing an organic formula product for your baby.