All About Baby Formula: A Comparison of Brands

It’s unfortunate that there is a bit of a war between moms on how best to feed a baby. In my opinion fed is best. Whether you are using baby formula or breastfeeding as long as your baby is gaining weight and is healthy you are doing the right thing! I exclusively breastfed until about six months when I had to start adding formula to Aiden’s bottles. He still gets breastmilk, but we do supplement with formula.





I was overwhelmed when our pediatrician recommended that we start supplementing with formula. It’s quite a bit different from breastfeeding and formula has a bad reputation. It didn’t help that some of the moms in one of the mommy facebook groups I am in discussed how horrible formula is for your baby. According to several in the group, the only “safe” formula is an organic formula from Europe (which is not approved by the FDA by the way). The formula, Holle, is sold in only two “reputable” places in the US and it is very expensive (no surprise)! Is it really better though?  Surely in this day and age, the formula on the market must be pretty good — or at least SAFE for a baby to consume.

I was overwhelmed when our pediatrician recommended that we start supplementing with formula. It’s sad that you have to have a science degree to be able to understand what you are feeding your baby.You, of course, should do your own research and work with your pediatrician to make sure you are doing what is best for your baby, but here are some resources to help you get started.

I started to research and was really confused by all the information and ingredients. It’s sad that you have to have a science degree to be able to understand what you are feeding your baby. You, of course, should do your own research and work with your pediatrician to make sure you are doing what is best for your baby, but here are some resources to help you get started. I have tried all the formulas discussed in this post.

What are the complaints?

I thought it would be helpful to start with what consumers complain about to see how bad the issue is. I came up with five things:

  1. Formulas use Palm Olein. Palm Olein is part of a fat blend that is supposed to replicate the fat content in breastmilk; however, studies have shown that it may be harder for a baby to digest. Some suggest that coconut oil is a better fat because it is more easily digestible.  Palm Olein may also lead to bone density issues because it does not absorb calcium the way the palm in breastmilk does.
  2. Formulas are non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). In basic terms, this means they are made with ingredients that are genetically altered.
  3. Formula contains milk which comes from cows that are fed with rBGH growth hormones.
  4. Formulas with DHA and ARA added are created using a toxic chemical called Hexane.
  5. Cost

How do the formulas stack up?

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We tried Enfamil Enspire, Similac Advance Optigrow, The Honest Company Formula, Baby’s Only Organic (Nature One), and Holle.

Enfamil Enspire

Pros: This formula claims to be closest to breastmilk. It does include Lactoferrin and MFGM which are both in breastmilk (although less than 2%). This formula is also non-GMO. Enfamil now offers the option to have non-GMO or GMO formula for almost all products. I’m not really sure why you would want the GMO over the non-GMO other than price point, but according to their consumer research, there are parents who want to feed their babies GMO products…

Cons: I found it interesting that when you look up this claim on their website you have to go to 3-4 different web pages to find out that they cannot guarantee that there is no genetically engineered ingredients. Additionally, the milk likely does come from cows that are fed with growth hormones. Enspire does contain Palm Olein.

Rough cost estimate (assuming exclusive formula use 24oz per day and avg. 30 day month): 1 day =$7.27 | 1 month =$218

Similac Advance Optigrow:

Pros: This formula does not have Palm Olein.

Cons: This formula does not claim to be non-GMO and they will not confirm that their milk doesn’t come from cows that are fed growth hormone.  It does contain DHA/ARA and is not organic so it is likely that the Hexane chemical is used to create the DHA/ARA.

Rough cost estimate (assuming exclusive formula use 24oz per day): 1 week =$23.52 | 1 month =$101

Honest Company:

Pros: This formula is certified organic by the USDA. This means that it is non-GMO and there is no added DHA/ARA. It is also gluten free. They claim the milk comes from cows that are not given growth hormone.

Cons: This formula contains Palm Olein and sugar (Organic Glucose Syrup Solids). Also, interestingly, there is a lawsuit against the Honest Company challenging their organic claim.

Rough cost estimate (assuming exclusive formula use 24oz per day and avg. 30 day month): 1 day =$4.56 | 1 month =$137

Baby’s Only Organic:

Pros: This formula is certified organic by the USDA. This means that it is non-GMO and there is no added DHA/ARA. It is also gluten free. They do not use the hexane method of extracting the fatty acids (they use a water process).

Cons: There is added sugar (as with all other formulas). One thing to note is that it is marketed as toddler formula; however, it is safe for infants. The company markets to toddlers because they want to reinforce that breastmilk is best for babies.

Rough cost estimate (assuming exclusive formula use 24oz per day and avg. 30 day month): 1 day =$2.86 | 1 month =$86

Holle:

Pros: Of all the formulas we have tried Holle was the only one that was actually like milk in my opinion. It did not have a weird smell or texture like most of the others do. If you look at the labels there are far fewer ingredients and most of them are recognizable unlike many of the American products.  The milk comes from cows that are grass-fed on farms that follow Demeter farm standards. This means that the farmers consider the species specific peculiarties of plants and animals. They do not dehorn cows, which is a painful process that non-demeter farms do. Holle farms are certified organic and biodynamic.

Cons: There are only two reputable places in the US that you can get this formula. Unless you get Lebenswert Holle, there is maltodextrin which is a type of sugar.  The best place to buy Holle is Little World Organics.

Rough cost estimate (assuming exclusive formula use 24oz per day and avg. 30 day month): 1 day =$7 | 1 month =$210

So, what’s best?

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I was surprised when I did the research that the seemingly best formula in terms of ingredients is also the most affordable. In terms of overall ingredients and cost, Baby’s Only Organic might be the best option out there today. It’s what we use and we are happy with it! Again, be sure to do your own research and talk to your pediatrician to make the best choice for your baby.

One good thing about trying all these formulas is the containers make great tower blocks for Monster Aiden 🙂

If you liked this post, you may also like Bottle Feeding Basics.

 

It's sad that you have to have a science degree to be able to understand what you are feeding your baby. This is what you need to know about baby formula.

 

 

Resources:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/baby-formula/buying-guide.htm

https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/safe-product-guides/safe-infant-formula-guide/

https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/where-to-buy-infant-formula/

http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/05/17/organic-101-can-gmos-be-used-in-organic-products/

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/64/3/291.abstract

PART I: Baby’s First Encounter with Big Food

 

Best Baby Formula 7 – Baby Formula Fat

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, so if you make a purchase using one of the links I may make a small comission. This does not cost anything to you and I only talk about products I love.

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About Melissa

Hi, I’m Melissa! I am a mama to my baby Aiden Milo (born November 2015), and a police wife to my husband Dan. I started this blog because, after having Aiden, I quickly learned that exhaustion and baby brain causes you to forget some of the er-lovely (sometimes horrible and sometimes wonderful) details related to the first several months of raising a baby. Considering we may have more kids in the future, I want to document everything we do, so we remember what worked the first time around, and hopefully help other first time mamas along the way!
  • mirinadler

    Thank you for the comparison, including cost estimates!

    • Melissa

      Thank you for reading!

  • reneejessome

    My baby has been formula fed since 2 weeks old (I wasn’t producing enough and she had trouble latching on) and by looking at her you would think she was exclusively breast fed by her size! It’s definitely scary looking at the ingredients in formula though. I actually can’t wait until she’s off formula! This was a very helpful and informative post!

    Renee | Life After Lux

    • Melissa

      Thank you Renee! It is scary :-/

  • Themommytantrums

    This post is great! I formula fed all three of my kids and I felt attacked often and also felt like tthere wasn’t a lot of information out there or support for formula feeders. I remember looking for info like this with my first 8 yrs ago and it was very hard to find.

    • Melissa

      Thank you! I am very sorry you felt attacked. I also found it difficult to find good information on formula so I wrote it 🙂 I hope someday we as mamas support each other instead of tearing each other down.

  • Chanel van Reenen

    This post was SPOT on! I formula fed my babies purely by choice. Breastfeeding is just not for me. It’s funny how formula moms always feel attacked by those who are pro-breastfeeding but it’s never been the other way around. Like you, all I care about are healthy, fed babies. I never once have judged a mom for not formula feeding her baby but I got my fare share of snarky comments and rude looks when I didn’t breast feed.

    • Melissa

      It’s so crazy Chanel! I am sorry you experienced that. As mamas we should be more understanding and definitely not attack others!!

  • Good list with good details! I think it’s good for momma’s to know their choices if the go the formula route and this post would be an easy, simple resource for them. Thanks!

    • Melissa

      Thank you Gloryanna! It can be so confusing so I am glad this made some sense 🙂

  • Shannon Marie

    This is GREAT info and will be so helpful to moms!!

    • Melissa

      Thank you Shannon!