Non-GMO, Organic, and Grass Fed Baby Formula

Baby feeding

Choosing the best infant formula can be a daunting task for parents. Since breast milk or formula are babies' primary source of nutrition for the first year of life, it’s important to make sure their adorable needs are being met. Getting in enough calories from either of these liquid options will help to promote growth and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

One of the hardest tasks is trying to make sense of the vast array of products on store shelves. With dozens of brands of formula on the market, the lengthy ingredient lists alone are enough to drive sleep-deprived parents insane. Formulas can also be very expensive, leaving many parents stressing to find the healthiest and most affordable options. Use this guide to get the facts.

Formula Facts

Most traditional formulas are milk-based. Infants with allergies may need to explore dairy-free options that are made from other ingredients like soy and corn. If you suspect your baby has a food allergy or tolerance issue, work with your pediatrician to determine the best course of action.

Infant formulas are designed to emulate what is naturally found in breast milk.

Infant formulas are fortified with nutrients that growing babies require including protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Some use corn syrup-derived ingredients to provide carbohydrates, though other brands are using lactose or a combination of lactose and other sugars. Many formulas also include omega-3 fatty acids (usually the DHA and ARA forms) to aid with neurological development as well as probiotics to support digestive health. One of the newer additions to formulas is an ingredient called lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is naturally existing in both cows and human milk. It is promoted to support immune health but more research is needed.

Since these long ingredient lists are filled with hard to pronounce ingredients, they are often associated with unhealthy foods. Medical professionals such as registered dietitians are often asked if homemade infant formula is a reasonable consideration. While parents are encouraged to make homemade versions of solid baby foods like fruit and veggie purees when children are old enough to tolerate them, creating a homespun version of the formula is next to impossible to do accurately, and is not recommended. In addition to the traditional brands of infant formula, there are various organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) varieties now available.

New Kids on the Block

Nutrition buzzwords like “non-GMO” and “grass fed” have made their way to the world of baby formulas. While organic options have been around for quite some time, parents are now looking for options that go beyond the lack of pesticide and insecticides. More research is needed to determine if foods produced via GMOs are harmful in any way, but many parents want to know what products may contain them. Since current labeling laws do not require companies to disclose their usage of GMO ingredients unless they have Non-GMO Project Verification, the only way to know if it’s made without GMO is if it’s organic. Some companies are beginning to disclose voluntarily.

The popular baby-focused Honest Company also offers an organic baby formula. There is no added DHA/ARA but it is fortified with vitamin D, iron and various other vitamins and minerals. It sells for $1.42 per ounce on the Honest Company website.

Munchkin will soon be unveiling a formula made exclusively from the milk of grass-fed cows. According to the manufacturer, this 2-stage feeding system offers high amounts of vitamins A and E as well as a balance of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). The company makes a similar product for older toddlers aged 1-3 years that sells for $1.34 per ounce on the company website.

Earth’s Best organic formulas are available with or without DHA and ARA. Unlike many other formulas, these use no corn syrup solids and sells on Amazon for $1.15 per ounce.
Plum Organics is another option using exclusively lactose and fortified with DHA and ARA. It was the most expensive brand at $1.71 per ounce on the company website but this site did offer a downloadable $5 off coupon.

Finding a Formula Checklist

When shopping for an infant formula, keep these dos and don’ts in mind:

  • Do your research ahead of time instead of standing in a store aisle frustrated.
  • Try not to get overwhelmed by long ingredient lists.
  • Do read labels and remember that organic products are also non-GMO.
  • Do shop around for the best deal—join rewards programs, download coupons, and buy in bulk when on sale.
  • Don’t feel like you must purchase an organic or non-GMO product, but be aware of what the various labels mean.
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