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 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:
- 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.
- Formulas are non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). In basic terms, this means they are made with ingredients that are genetically altered.
- Formula contains milk which comes from cows that are fed with rBGH growth hormones.
- Formulas with DHA and ARA added are created using a toxic chemical called Hexane.
How do the formulas stack up?
We tried Enfamil Enspire, Similac Advance Optigrow, The Honest Company Formula, Baby’s Only Organic (Nature One), and Holle.
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.