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Bottles & Boobs

Organic Infant Formula: What’s In It and Why Is It a Safe Choice?

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With the advancements made in farming and food production, many people are making what they perceive to be healthier choices. When it comes to infant formula, non-organic or conventional was the standard but now there are many products that are organically made.  

Organic formula, like other non-GMO and organic products, is often touted as a healthier choice for your baby. However, many mothers have questions about how effective organic formula is and whether it’ll be a safe choice for their baby. This is especially true since most have been using a standard non-organic formula for a few months and are often worried about making a switch to their baby’s formula.

To help provide some clarity, this article aims to provide information about what’s in organic formula and why might it be a safe choice. 

What Does Organic Mean?

Before we get more into the topic for this article, it’s only right that we accurately and honestly discuss what organic means

Since we are in modern times, you would have probably seen the USDA organic seal on the label of certain products. But, how does it get there and what does it represent? 

Well, organic is much more than a label. It is more of a badge of integrity and certainty that is backed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In order for products to bear this label, the products must contain 95 to 100 percent organic ingredients with the exception of natural substances such as water and salt. 

Once an USDA organic seal is placed on an item it means that that item was produced without the use of certain types of potentially harmful preservatives or processing aids.  This often means that organically produced foods are made without certain synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones that may not be safe for consumption.

How does this apply to your baby formula? 

If you apply the meaning of organic as listed to your baby formula then it means that such an infant formula is produced with natural ingredients and processes – that are attuned with the specifications set out by the USDA. 

Furthermore, organic products are not genetically modified (non-GMO), meaning that they are not altered or engineered in a lab. This is a plus if you’re interested in minimizing how many GMOs you and your baby consume.

Ultimately, what is being said here is that organic ingredients have to meet certain preparatory or manufacturing guidelines in order to bear the seal from the USDA.

Why Use Organic Formula?

When choosing a formula for your baby, the primary concern should always be the nutritional component of the formula. The health of your baby comes first, and it’s good to know that the FDA ensures that all infant formulas marketed in the US meet certain nutritional requirements

So, why would you choose to use organic infant formula? The choice to use an organic infant formula is a personal decision that often aligns with family beliefs as well as the need for well-living. Here are a few reasons why one may choose an organic infant formula. 

To avoid Large Batch Processing

The reality of modern food culture and manufacturing environments sometimes means that many ingredients are processed far ahead of time. Large batch processing is often a consequence. This may mean that ingredients are created in large quantities using synthetic processes and with certain potentially harmful chemicals or preservatives. 

Often with an organic formula- large batch processing is not used – many companies source from small farmers as opposed to larger farms. 

To avoid possible health concerns 

Although the research surrounding the possible harmful effects of conventionally produced goods is not solid, it has been cited that certain unnatural emulsifiers can cause changes to gut bacteria among other issues. With that, there may be some legitimate health concerns, especially when it comes to things like baby formula. 

It is well documented that Infants have more sensitive digestive systems compared to adults. So, one can understand the logic in trying to prevent them from consuming potentially harmful pesticides or chemicals, even in very trace amounts. 

Now, it’s true that some babies can drink non-organic formulas without health complications as the nutritional content will be the same. However, if you can afford organic – then choose organic. The risks associated with non-organically produced goods may not be solid but, it is often said that people should lean on the edge of caution.  However, If an organic infant formula is not within reach for you at the moment then try not to worry – get your baby a formula that can provide all they need nutrition-wise and know that you are doing your best. 

Overall, lots of parents are choosing organic infant formula because it may be a little less risky. 

What Is Organic Formula Made of?

Organic baby formula isn’t made with ‘magical substances’ that are wildly different from the base ingredients in non-organic formula uses. Instead, it largely uses similar ingredients that are collected and preserved in a more natural way. 

For instance, organic formulas may be made with organic grass-fed cow’s milk or organic grain-fed cows milk protein as a base.  In both cases, the proteins are altered to be digestible by a baby’s tummy. 

You may also find organic formulas that are made with soy or goat milk-based proteins. These are often good choices if your little one is lactose intolerant or otherwise can’t digest regular cow’s milk proteins.

Interestingly, any organic soy baby formula will be produced without certain potentially harmful components. This could possibly make organic soy formula a little healthier and safer for infants overall – but this too has its drawbacks as research is still forthcoming. 

Additionally, organic formulas will contain many other healthy nutrients and additives that a complete formula product needs to meet the same health standards as breast milk. These include ingredients like probiotics, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, folic acid, DHA, ARA, choline, prebiotics, and essential fatty acids among others. Others may include certain vitamins and minerals, like iron (in fact, iron-rich formula is something most mothers should look for).

However,  what may not be in your organic infant formula may be of more concern to you so let’s get into that for a bit.

What’s Not in Organic Formula

As mentioned, many soy-based formulas, or even cow’s milk formulas that have some soy isolates or additives, contain trace amounts of certain air pollutants that can cause health issues. Certain crops are more prone to be affected by conventional processes – including soy. 

Other things purposefully left out of most organic infant formula brands include:

  • Palm oil and related extracts – this is important since some palm oil and palm olein products can prevent your infant from absorbing calcium and fat.
  • Carrageenan – an additive that’s used to stabilize liquid formulas. 
  • Artificial preservatives – these are usually added to formulas to stop the product from spoiling. Names you should watch out for include taurine, l-carnitine, hexane, lycopene, nucleotides, and lutein.
  • Fructose or other similar sugars – baby formulas may be infused with processed sweeteners such as corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup – typically found in soft drinks. Some organic baby formula will normally forgo these in favor of better compounds like maltodextrin or lactose.
  • GMOs, or genetically modified organisms -this means that none of the ingredients used in organic formula will be genetically engineered or modified, nor will the ingredients be extracted or mixed with GMO ingredients. Although research is still on-going, some may prefer to skip GMO products. 

Is Organic Formula Better or Healthier?

This is the golden question: is organic formula actually healthier for your infant, and should you buy it instead of non-organic formula?

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this question. Whether or not organic infant formula is a smarter choice for your baby largely depends on your own informed opinion about the possible health risks of certain non-organic ingredients. The research surrounding this topic is mixed and so your decision will be based on your interpretation of the findings presented here as well as from your further readings. 

On the one hand, non-organic formula has been used for quite a few years before the lobby for organic produce. Additionally, most baby formula manufacturing companies now use lactose instead of fructose as their primary protein compound. As well as non-organic baby formula brands use lower quantities of various problematic oils and preservatives. Instead, they now use healthier oils whenever they can. This change in the production process is huge for overall formula efficacy and nutrition and isn’t exclusive to organic products. 

On the other hand, an organic infant formula may prove to be better across the board so long as you get a product that has the same nutritional components your baby needs to grow healthily. Organic compounds don’t come with certain risks as a result of their ingredients, no matter how rare or minuscule. 

In addition, formulas that are closer to natural order and processes can often be a good choice. It may very well be that organic formula is closer to nature attuned living making it an option for those who want to give their baby as many natural supplements as possible.

All in all,  it may be suggested that: 

  • go with organic formula if you’re interested in limiting risk to GMO or artificial preservative-based side effects.
  • choose a non-organic formula if you are pleased with the ingredients and an organic option is not available to you. 

Summary

Ultimately, organic formulas will be a great choice for many as well as a non-organic formula may be the same. 

In this situation, it may be best to strongly consider all your formula options before settling on a formula brand, and don’t hesitate to reach out for more questions; we’re formula experts, after all. While the research isn’t concrete, there is enough for you to make an informed guess about what’s best for your family.

It’s also always a good idea to speak to your pediatrician and get their recommendation when you’re setting up your infant with a new baby product for the first time.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.
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Meet the Author

Bridget Reed, contributing writer for Milk Drunk with the expert advice of Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann

Bridget Reed is an experienced writer, editor SEO content manager and proud mom of three.

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