There are a lot of things to think about as a new mom, and whether to breast or bottle feed your baby is one of those important choices. Although experts agree that “breast is best,” it’s not always an option for everyone. If you need to feed your infant formula instead, you’ll want to ensure that you pick one that’s easy to digest and filled with nutrients that mimic breast milk to help your baby grow up happy and healthy.
Although many formulas are filled with chemicals that could be toxic to your child, there are some excellent organic options that are nutritionally sound and won’t break the bank. In this helpful guide, we will unravel the myths around baby formula. We’ll go in-depth on the types and ingredients available, and review our top picks for organic brands for infants and toddlers.
Related Article: Best Organic Baby Food
Baby formula is one of science’s little miracles. Typically made from cow’s milk, but also sometimes derived from soy or protein hydrolysate, the mixture is modified to resemble breast milk as closely as possible.
Manufacturers then add additional vitamins and minerals and process the formula to make it easier for your infant to digest.
In the US, all baby formulas are regulated by the FDA to ensure that they are safe to consume and require the minimum amount of nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop normally.
Organic baby formulas have added benefits over conventional ones. They are made with ingredients that aren’t exposed to pesticides, which could cause gastrointestinal problems in infants and may cause issues later in life too. Also, the formularies in our top-rated brands have more natural elements that don’t add extra sugar or refined chemicals.
Depending on your situation, you may need to use formula as the only source of nutrition for your child. Some parents use a combination of breast milk and formula, and others use it as an option to ween their baby off of breastfeeding after a period of time.
Although experts still maintain that breast milk is nutritionally superior to any formula on the market, science continues to get us closer to perfection and has given us a lot of excellent options to choose from. In fact, recent scientific studies find few differences between the growth, development, and overall health when comparing breastfed babies with their bottle-fed counterparts.
One of the biggest perks of formula feeding your child is that you have lots of options. Fussy eaters or babies with tummy troubles can try several different varieties to find one that works best for them.
Regarding the forms of organic formula, there are there main types: ready to use, powdered, and liquid concentrate. Here’s what you need to know about each.
This option is a great choice for mom’s, and dad’s on the go as it requires no prep work. All you need to do is open the package and serve the bottle. It’s popular in hospitals and is also a preferred choice if you live in an area where you’re concerned about water quality or safety. Despite being a convenient choice, they have one major drawback. Ready to use formula has a very short shelf life and topically needs to be consumed within 48 hours before it will spoil.
Powdered formula is the most popular choice among parents for several reasons. It is the most cost-effective option, and it’s also the most environmentally friendly. One canister has a decent shelf-life, and won’t take up much room in your pantry. You can also customize the formula mixture if needed. The one downside to powdered formulas is that you need to save time to mix them up and follow the instructions closely.
At a price point between ready to use and powdered formulas, liquid concentrate is your third option. To prepare the bottle, you’ll mix equal parts of the concentrate with water. Although it’s not as economical as powdered, it is a slightly faster process, and some parents prefer it.
Reading the label on your baby formula is an essential step to understanding what you’re feeding your child. If your infant has sensitivities, it will be important to know what type of milk is the main ingredient in the mixture. Here is a summary of the most common.
The most popular type of milk featured in baby formulas, cow’s milk is used to deliver a good nutritional profile base. Manufacturers process and alter the protein in the milk to make it easier to digest. Organic brands will only use milk from cows who haven’t been exposed to pesticides, and some will also feature non-GMO labels as well.
For babies who can’t process dairy, soy-based formulas are an excellent alternative. Here, the manufacturer alters the plant protein to make it nutritionally dense and easy to digest. In organic blends, the plants haven’t been exposed to chemicals or pesticides.
Although it sounds like a name that conjures images of a chemical wasteland, extensively hydrolyzed formulas are an option your doctor may recommend if your infant has extensive health issues or allergies. In this type, the manufacturer breaks down the proteins in the milk to the smallest, and most easily digestible versions.
If your infant is lactose intolerant, your doctor may recommend a lactose-free formula. Although the condition is rare, and even if diagnosed your baby may grow out of it over time, some options offer a solution. Unfortunately, the main ingredient in most lactose-free formulas is corn syrup, which may carry its health concerns. Talk with your doctor about appropriate alternatives.
There is no shortage of organic baby formula options on the market, so how do you know which is best? Luckily, you have us as a resource. We’ve read all of the scientific studies, analyzed the ingredients, and scoured the marketplace for brands that check all of our boxes.
We’ve only included formulas that are nutritionally dense, organic, easy to digest, and that users love in this guide. We know what it takes to build a formula that will make your baby happy and healthy, and we’ve done the hard work for you. Read on for our top picks in each category.
Also contains probiotics to ease digestion and maximize nutrient absorption. Difficult, but not impossible to find in the U.S.
Made primarily from a combination of GMO-free organic skim milk and whey proteins, the HiPP formula has few added chemical or unnatural ingredients. It is cleaner nutritionally than other products. It incorporates beneficial DHA and ARA into the blend, but unlike most conventional formulas, it uses fish oil as the source for better absorption and less gastrointestinal issues. That said, if your little one has a shellfish allergy, this might not be the blend for them.
HiPP’s baby formula comes in both a ready to made and powder form and stands out as nutritionally superior to most others on the market. Manufactured in Europe with even stricter guidelines than what the FDA enforces in the US, this blend is as close to breast milk as you can get from formula.
It includes beneficial pre-biotics in the blend and also edges out the competition through the exclusive use of lactose as a sweetener. It’s difficult to find options that don’t incorporate ingredients like corn syrup to get the job done.
The one potential drawback of this option is that it may be difficult to find, and is expensive. You can order it online and ship to the US but expect to pay almost double what you would for many of the other organic formulas in this guide.
Includes GOS and POS prebiotics.
A milk-based powder formula sweetened with lactose, this option from Happy Baby is known for being gentle and easy to digest for even the fussiest infants. It provides a broad spectrum of essential nutrients like Vitamin D, Iron, and Calcium, as well as fatty acids like DHA and ARA, folic acid, and choline to aid in your baby’s growth and development. The addition of dual prebiotics makes it easy to digest and help to align the nutritional profile closely with breast milk.
This all organic, non-GMO blend from Happy Baby is one of the closest things to breast milk you’ll find. Made in the US, this option is easy to source despite its high price tag. Like many other organic baby formulas, this one is made from cow’s milk, but unlike some of its competitors, it has absolutely no corn syrup solids in the blend. Instead, it’s sweetened with lactose, the primary ingredient in natural breast milk.
Parents who use the product love the addition of the probiotics which make it easy to digest and don’t cause tummy issues or sensitivities. The inclusion of DHA and ARA fatty acids, like those found in breast milk, support eye and brain development in infants and are a beneficial ingredient in this blend.
One notable feature is that this formula is completely gluten-free, and also doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners. This is especially beneficial if your child has allergies, but also could have positive long-term effects on babies without any sensitivities.
Also Kosher certified.
Earth’s Best has long been a leader in developing organic products, and their soy-based infant formula is a top-notch example. This powder is packed with nutrition and boasts a similar profile to that of breast milk.
Enhanced with DHA and ARA, it also provides a dose of iron and other nutrients and meets all the FDA requirements for infant nutrition. The formula is developed without using any growth hormones, antibiotics, steroids or exposing your infant to dangerous fertilizers or pesticides. This option is intended for babies during their first year, and they have a toddler formula that makes for a smooth transition once your child is old enough.
Won best in class for organic purity in an independent research study.
The soy-based formula by Baby’s Only is a completely organic, non-GMO option suited for toddlers ages 12 months and older. A perfect choice if your little one is sensitive to milk or you want them to eat a vegetarian diet, it’s sweetened with organic brown rice syrup rather than corn syrup. Despite not including DHA or ARA as a supplement in this powder, it is a good source of essential fatty acids that your baby can use to convert to these critical building blocks for development.
Won best in class for organic purity in an independent research study.
Baby’s Only Soy Organic Formula makes our list twice, and for several good reasons. Not only is it a nutritionally sound soy-based formula choice for your infant, but it’s also one of the most cost-effective options out there. Most high-quality products have a high cost per ounce, but this one is nearly on par with traditional, non-organic options. If you’re on a budget, but eating organic, non-GMO, and vegetarian is important in your household, this Baby’s Only formula should be a top contender.
Also fortified with iron.
A non-GMO, organic, powder formula, this is a budget-friendly option from Earth’s Best. Although it is pricier than many non-organic options, it delivers a stellar nutritional profile and gives you peace of mind knowing that your infant isn’t being exposed to any harmful pesticides or chemicals.
Perfect alternative to soy for lactose-intolerant babies
If you want a cow’s milk-based formula, but your infant is sensitive to lactose, it might seem like an impossible find. Luckily, Baby’s Only uses a patented process to break down the lactose in their product to make it easily digestible for even the most troubled tummies. Just like the other options we’ve reviewed, this one delivers a robust nutritional profile that will give your infant what they need to grow and develop in their first months of life.
Fortified with iron.
This cow’s milk-based powder formula has all of the supplemental ingredients you need for your baby. It includes AHA and DHA, as well as a healthy daily dose of Iron to enhance your child’s development. The company never uses corn syrup solids, and this blend is organic and GMO-free.
One alternative that many parents who want to switch to bottle feeding may consider is making their own organic baby formula. As it’s challenging to find a mixture that is one hundred percent free from potentially harmful ingredients, it’s tempting just to make your own.
Organizations like the Weston A. Price foundation provide recipes for making homemade formula for your infant and give you ideas on how to craft both a dairy and non-dairy alternative.
There are pros and cons to this approach. It is time-consuming and requires some exact science to get the mixtures just right. You’ll also need to be extremely careful when you look at the quality and types of ingredients you use and pay close attention to the freshness and expiration dates. You’ll also want to speak with your pediatrician to ensure that the recipe you decide to use delivers everything nutritionally that your infant needs.
However, some parents swear by homemade formulas. On the Weston A. Price website, they offer a helpful FAQ section that addresses many issues and could help get you started if you want to try something other than store-bought formula.
If you’ve decided that formula feeding is the best fit for you and your infant, be sure to follow these tips to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for you both.
Choosing the right bottle is a crucial step to a good formula feeding experience. If you opt for inexpensive plastic bottles, check the label to ensure they are BPA-free. Glass bottles are more pricey but are sometimes a better choice to avoid potentially hazardous chemicals.
Be mindful of selecting an age-appropriate nipple for your child and keep on eye on how well it works when they’re feeding. If your infant looks like they have to pull too hard, or they are getting flooded when it’s time to feed, you may need to change out the nipple to find a more suitable size.
If you’re new to bottle feeding, finding the most comfortable position for you and your baby is important. Aim for an angle that would be similar to breastfeeding and position the bottle so that it delivers the fluid without overwhelming them.
Although breast milk is undeniably the best choice for your infant, sometimes feeding them that way exclusively is impossible. In these instances, you’ll want to look for a baby formula that meets all of your child’s nutritional needs and doesn’t expose them to harmful chemicals or pesticides.
The best organic baby formulas deliver everything your infant needs to grow up healthy and active, and many do it in ways that are both affordable and easily accessible. Talk with your pediatrician before making any changes, but know that there are many excellent options if bottle feeding is the best choice for you and your family.