For moms who don't breast-feed, choosing formula is a crucial decision. Until your child is eating purees and solid foods, he'll rely on formula for the nutrients needed for proper development. Because conventional formulas may contain undesirable ingredients such as artificial preservatives and genetically modified organisms, health-conscious moms seek out formulas made with all-natural ingredients. The primary components of formula are protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. A growing number of organic formulas are available, but their nutritional value varies. Consult your pediatrician for help in choosing the best formula for your baby.
Fatty Acids in Formula
Conventional formulas are typically fortified with synthetic versions of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid -- DHA and ARA -- two fats that naturally occur in breast milk. Baby formula activist groups have raised concerns about adding these synthetic fatty acids to formula. Among the concerns is that the synthetic fats added to formula are different than those found in breast milk and aren't accompanied by co-enzymes found in breast milk that aid absorption. The American Academy of Family Physicians concluded there isn't enough information to recommend supplementing formula with DHA and ARA. For this reason, some moms choose organic formulas without DHA and ARA.
Carbohydrates in Formula
The primary carbohydrate in breast milk is lactose. Organic lactose-free baby formulas typically contain sucrose or brown rice syrup. Sucrose, another name for table sugar, is not allowed in formulas in Europe. If your baby is unable to tolerate lactose -- the sugar naturally found in milk that's sometimes added to formula -- an organic formula with brown rice syrup is an option.
A study published in the May 2012 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found high levels of arsenic from brown rice syrup in an organic formula. The manufacturer has since created a filter that removes arsenic from brown rice syrup, however, so this is no longer a problem.
Organic Dairy and Soy
Organic dairy milk formulas come from cows raised in accordance with organic farming methods. This means the milk is free of growth hormones and antibiotics that may cause harm to a developing baby.
Organic soy-based formulas are made from non-GMO soybeans. Organic soybeans tested free of herbicide and pesticide residues, while conventionally grown soybeans tested high in these residues, according to a study published in the June 2014 issue of the journal Food Chemistry.
Both organic soy and dairy formulas support healthy growth and development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends soy formula only for infants who have a problem digesting the lactose in cow's milk, however.
Choosing Safe Formula
Choosing organic formula doesn't guarantee that it is safe or best for supporting the growth and development of your child. For example, some organic formulas contain palm oil to better match the fat content found in mother's milk. A study published in the May 2003 issue of the journal Pediatrics found that the inclusion of palm oil in formula reduces bone mineral density in babies. Look for an organic formula free of palm oil and other ingredients that may negatively affect your baby's development.
- International Baby Food Action Network: 10 Reasons to Stop This DHA Claim
- American Family Physician: Infant Formulas
- Cornucopia Institute: Baby Formula With Banned Sugar Sold In Georgia
- Environmental Health Perspectives: Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup
- HappyBaby: The Organic Guide to Baby's First 24 Months; Robert W. Sears, M.D.
- Food Chemistry: Compositional Differences in Soybeans on the Market: Glyphosate Accumulates in Roundup Ready GM Soybeans
- Pediatrics: Reduced Bone Mineralization in Infants Fed Palm Olein-containing Formula: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Prospective Trial
- Consumer Reports: Arsenic in Your Food