If breastfeeding isn’t possible or desired, or when breast milk isn’t available please consider this information when choosing what type of formula to feed your baby and what alternatives are available for you.
“What Infant Formula do you recommend?” I am frequently asked this question working in the field of infant development…I began researching the topic. I am alarmed by what ingredients are allowed in America’s infant formula. Parents are buying infant formula from companies in the United Kingdom and Germany because of their stricter (and safer!) laws pertaining to ingredients. I have also found that some parents are making their own healthier versions of formula.
Organic infant formula remains a safer and a far superior alternative to conventional formula.
Organic formula does not come from cows that were fed GMO feed, given antibiotic shots, or injected with synthetic growth hormones. Organic formula’s sweeteners and oils cannot be GMO, treated with pesticides, or extracted with neurotoxic solvents.
I recommend organic formula. With further investigation, I have learned that there are still ingredients in America’s organic infant formula that parents need to be aware of…
- processed sugars
- synthetic nutrients
- synthetic preservatives
- ingredients babies don’t even need
While there are seven brands of organic infant formula currently available on market shelves, there are only three companies that make organic infant formula in the United States.
Top five ingredients to take a close look at – how do organic brands compare?
1. Sweeteners: corn syrup, sugar, or brown rice syrup:
The sweetener that most closely mimics human milk would be lactose (the naturally occurring carbohydrate in any mammal’s milk). But lactose is also the most expensive, and manufacturers have, over the years, switched from this milk-based sweetener to plant-based sweeteners.
Corn syrup: ‘Organic glucose syrup solids’ is another name for ‘organic corn syrup solids,’ which are partially hydrolyzed corn starch molecules that are dried to a low moisture powder (hence the name ‘solids’). Corn syrup solids are moderately sweet. Maltodextrins are partially hydrolyzed starch molecules, which can be derived from corn, rice or potatoes. Maltodextrin is less sweet than corn syrup.
Sugar: The European Union banned sugar-sweetened infant formula in 2009, due to concerns with rising rates of childhood obesity and the possibility that overly sweet formula might lead to overfeeding. Sucrose (sugar) is allowed only in special formula for babies with allergies, and even then, it may not exceed 20% of the total carbohydrate content.
Brown Rice Syrup: In 2012, researchers at Dartmouth University tested various foods for levels of arsenic, and found organic toddler formula made with organic brown rice syrup contained up to six times the U.S. EPA safe drinking water limit for inorganic arsenic (there are no established safety standards for arsenic in food, including infant formula)!!
2. Palm Oil: Forms “Soaps” In The Baby’s Gut:
Human milk is naturally high in certain types of fatty acids, which formula manufacturers try to mimic by adding certain types of oil. And to mirror the levels of palmitic acid, a fatty acid found in human milk, some manufacturers add palm oil.
However, palmitic acid from palm oil is structurally different from palmitic acid in human milk, and research has shown that human infants do not properly absorb it. Research suggests that the formation of “soaps” in the baby’s intestinal tract negatively affects a baby’s development and health.
*the first oil listed in Enfamil is palm oil*
3. Ingredients extracted with neurotoxic solvents from algae and soil fungus:
C. Cohnii oil (DHA) and M. Alpina oil (ARA): DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Both are naturally found in human milk, and DHA is a component of brain and eye tissue. But the DHA and ARA added to most brands of infant formula are extracted from factory-produced C. Cohnii and M. Alpina—specific strains of algae and fungus that have never been part of the human diet, let alone the diet of infants.
Studies repeatedly failed to show benefits from adding these additives to formula, and the FDA had been receiving dozens of reports from parents and pediatricians who noticed some babies do not tolerate these ingredients. It has become even clearer that these additives are not necessary and are primarily added as marketing tools.
Another concern with these additives is how they are produced: the oil is extracted from the algae and fungus with the use of hexane, a neurotoxic petroleum-based solvent. The National Organic Standards Board even explicitly stated that hexane-extracted algal oil and fungal oil should not be allowed in organic foods— but the USDA has failed to act on this very clear and legally binding vote, and hexane-extracted DHA and ARA remains in organic infant formula.
4. Carrageenan: Dangerous Inflammation In Your Baby’s Gut
Carrageenan is prohibited in infant formula—conventional and organic—in the European Union. The science linking carrageenan to intestinal inflammation is disturbing enough, but what adds insult to injury is that it is entirely unnecessary. Carrageenan contributes no nutritional value or flavor to formula, or other food, but is added to stabilize ready-to-feed formula. Adding carrageenan means parents or caregivers do not have to shake the product before feeding it to the baby. The alternative is to put a “shake well” label on the bottle.
When a Chicago Tribune reporter asked both the FDA and the carrageenan industry lobby group in 2016 to share studies that were not funded by the industry and that could indicate carrageenan is safe, they could not come up with a single one.
5. Synthetic Preservatives and Nutrients In Organics: A Mirror-Image Of The Synthetics In Conventional Formula
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected two synthetic preservatives: ascorbyl palmitate and beta-carotene. One of the primary reasons why formula manufacturers add these synthetic preservatives is to prevent the algal DHA and fungal ARA oils from going rancid. Lutein is produced from conventionally grown marigolds—likely treated with insecticides—and processed with the neurotoxic solvent hexane. Lycopene is most commonly found in tomatoes, but the version in organic infant formula is produced synthetically by the chemical manufacturer BASF. A three-stage process is used to produce synthetic lycopene, and involves the solvent dichloromethane and the solvent toluene. Toluene is a neurological toxin derived from benzene.
None of these nutrients are required in infant formula by the Food and Drug Administration, and all are prohibited in organic formula in the European Union. Some, like lutein and lycopene, are even prohibited in conventional infant formula in the European Union.
Taurine used in infant formula is produced synthetically; one processing method includes the use of sulfuric acid, a toxic and carcinogenic material, and another technique involves aziridine, listed as a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nucleotides are produced from hydrolyzed yeast. The yeast undergoes multiple chemical changes in order to extract nucleotides, including heating to denature proteins, cell wall proteolysis, enzymatic hydrolysis, and dehydration.
The production of synthetic l-Carnitine involves epichlorhydrin, a list 2B material (possible human carcinogen) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. For this reason, it was rejected for use in organic foods by the National Organic Standards Board.
L-Methionine is required in soy-based infant formula to meet basic amino acid requirements. Given its incompatibility with organic principles, synthetic l-methionine is prohibited in European organic foods. The synthetic version of l-methionine used in infant formula is produced with materials including acrolein, an EPA Hazardous Air Pollutant, and hydrogen cyanide, described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “systemic chemical asphyxiant” and “chemical warfare agent,” “used commercially for fumigation, electroplating, mining, chemical synthesis, and the production of synthetic fibers, plastics, dyes, and pesticides.”
America’s infant formula is not the safest option.
Infant Formula: America vs. Europe vs. Make Your Own
Want to know why I’m uncomfortable with America conventional formulas? Check out this excellent article on How to Find the Safest Organic Infant Formula from the Director of Farm and Food Policy at The Cornucopia Institute. It very clearly illustrates many of the concerns about infant formulas. Another informative and alarming article that has made me aware of the harmful effects of conventional formula is The Scandal of Infant Formula: A Poor Replacement for Mother’s Milk.
What do I do when breastfeeding isn’t an option or desirable?
Parents concerned about formula make their own infant formula:
Get Breastmilk from their local Milk Bank
America Parents import organic formula from Europe: Holle from Germany Or HiPP Organic Infant Milk from the United Kingdom:
Holle from Germany does not contain any of the unapproved synthetic preservatives and nutrients (Holle still does contain palm oil and maltodextrin). In Europe, as in the U.S., these ingredients are prohibited, and manufacturers there follow the law.
HiPP Organic Infant Milk from the United Kingdom contains important prebiotics and omegas, but doesn’t contain any of the questionable additives of the brand names like Enfamil or Similac, and no brown rice syrup like the US Organic formulas. HiPP uses the finest organic ingredients in milk, which means no chemical pesticides and no GM ingredients.
Before deciding on what and how you will feed your baby, it’s very important for parents to become well informed about breastfeeding, feeding expressed breast milk from a bottle, and formula feeding. Each method of feeding may have advantages and drawbacks, depending on your circumstances.
Except in rare circumstances, almost all health-care providers recommend breastfeeding because of its health benefits for both babies and mothers.
Some benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Breast milk adapts to meet your baby’s changing nutritional needs, unlike formula, which explains why breast milk can boost the development of baby’s immune system, leading to fewer infections
- cost free, always available, always right temperature, never spoils
- helps mothers physical and emotions health during postpartum
- reduces risk of diseases in both mother and baby
Rare circumstance when health care experts recommend formula feeding:
- baby has galactosemia (rare condition in which the baby can’t digest the sugar in breast milk)
- mother is HIV positive and lives in developed country
- mother has untreated tuberculosis
- mother takes certain medication that may harm the baby (such as radioactive drugs), uses street drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines), is receiving high does of methadone, or has had extensive breast surgery
Speak with a midwife, doula, lactation consultant or obstetrician for help to overcome psychological worries and concerns about breastfeeding
- being overly anxious about nursing in public
- chronically worrying about milk production
- worried about changes in breast appearance
- overwhelming anxieties from sexual abuse
Remember feeding your baby has greater significance than simply providing nourishment. Consistently responding to feeding cues develops baby’s sense of trust, security, and well-being. Cuddling your baby during feeding promotes emotional development and offers an opportunity for baby to express affection to you.
Read more from reviews.com on America brands of Formula: The Best Baby Formula, Which come closest to the “real thing”?