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Standing in the formula aisle of the supermarket looking at all the options in bright packages can be intimidating. (Those clammy hands and that racing heart? You’re not alone.)
You want the best for your child, but how do you know which brand that is?
While we can’t answer that question for you — and no study proves one formula better or more effective than another — we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most popular organic baby formulas.
These were chosen based on availability, experience, and user reviews on shopping sites like Amazon and Huggable.
Looking at all the formulas on display, you’ll probably notice that some include a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification on the label and some say that they’re “made with organic [ingredients].”
A formula that is organically certified by the USDA has ingredients that are grown in pesticide-free soil and meet USDA regulations for processed foods. These include being free from artificial flavors and colors as well as growth hormones and preservatives.
If a package indicates that the product is “made with organic [ingredients],” the formula contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. The other ingredients are produced without prohibited practices like genetic engineering. This type of product won’t bear the official USDA organic seal, but it’ll have a USDA-accredited certifier.
About that price tag…
Products “made with organic [ingredients]” will typically run a little cheaper than those organically certified by the USDA. But you’ll also probably notice that all variations of organic formulas tend to be more expensive than other formula varieties.
All formulas vary in taste, texture, and appearance — whether organic or non-organic. But they’re all considered safe and nutritionally appropriate for your baby.
Non-organic formulas may include corn syrup solids or vitamins from petroleums along with traces of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- $ = less than $.05/gram
- $$ = $.05 to $.07/gram
- $$$ = more than $.07/gram
Note: Prices fluctuate, and you can usually lower the price by buying larger quantities at a time. Also, above prices don’t take shipping into account — something to consider, particularly if buying an overseas brand.
When choosing which formulas to include on this list, we considered first and foremost at the ingredients included and comments from parents like you.
While there’s no perfect formula, we chose to focus on organic products that really stood above the crowd for reasons like how they were sourced, their price, or standout reviews.
This popular European formula is gaining a big following in the United States. Looking at the way the ingredients are sourced, it’s easy to see why.
It’s made by one of the oldest formula companies in the world with more than 85 years of experience making organic baby food products. Holle works with German organic ingredient suppliers and carefully tracks the development of every ingredient it includes in its formulas (working with Demeter certified farms for sustainability).
Available in both cow milk and goat milk forms, this brand also offers a variety of formula options for littles with sensitive stomachs.
If you’re wondering why not everyone is snatching up this product, the slightly higher price tag can be a deterrent. Additionally, some people don’t love the high amount of palm oil included as it can cause gassiness for babies with more sensitive stomachs.
Another foreign organic formula option, this product from Lebenswert (produced by the Holle company) lists skim milk as its first ingredient — which feels better to many parents than the sugary alternatives in some formulas. The ingredients used are sourced at Bioland certified farms, which adhere to one of the most stringent organic certifications in Europe.
Found to be gentle on babies’ tummies, this may be a good option for littles prone to gas. As a bonus, its taste tends to go over well with infants switching from breast milk.
The biggest obstacle to using this produce is the higher price tag. As a foreign formula, it’s also not one that you’ll just be able to grab at your corner market. (But websites like Huggable have started making it easier and more cost efficient to access in the United States than it has been in the past.)
Our third and final foreign organic formula suggestion, HiPP, comes with the same problems as many other foreign formulas — a higher price tag, lots of palm oil, and difficulty with purchasing as it’s produced in Germany. But many parents can’t stop raving about the probiotics included and the low amount of processed ingredients — including no corn syrup!
Parents of even the pickiest formula drinkers talk about how much their children love the formula despite the fact that it doesn’t include a lot of the sugars other formulas do. The anti-reflux version is designed to stay down well thanks to the addition of organic locust bean gum.
Like its fellow European counterparts, HIPP formula is well sourced and meets the rigorous European organic certification requirements.
Earth’s Best organic formula contains lactose from cows that are grain and grass fed. (One of the benefits to this brand is that it produces a variety of non-lactose or low-lactose options as well.) This formula takes pride in using water to extract DHA and ARA (which promote eye and brain development) instead of other more common extraction measures that can potentially leave chemicals behind in the formula.
Parents give Earth’s Best good reviews for digestibility — and the price tag is a little better than some other brands. Did we mention it’s also kosher?
Why might someone hesitate at pulling this off the shelf? There are some synthetic nutrients, palm oil, and in the sensitivity version of this formula, lots of soy. The low-lactose versions also include added syrup solids (aka sugars).
The added iron in this formula may give it a metallic smell and taste — but iron is also crucial for growing babies. Some feel iron can lead to constipation. (It can also be a little foamy once mixed, which some parents say leads to extra gas in their child.)
Why are DHA and ARA controversial?
The benefits of DHA and ARA for babies — particularly those born prematurely — are well established. They’re also found naturally in breast milk. That’s why formulas add these omega-3s.
But some people question how these fatty acids are extracted synthetically (with a chemical called hexane) and whether the extraction process can leave trace chemicals in the formula. So some parents prefer to avoid them.
Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about what’s in your baby’s formula.
As the number one baby formula brand used in hospitals, Similac is considered a safe formula choice by many. Although not strictly organic, Similac Pro-Advance is a crowd favorite among parents who want to avoid artificial growth hormones, and the brand takes pride in using ingredients that make it a close recreation of actual breast milk.
While no formula presents an identical match to breast milk, Similac is close enough that most babies can adapt fairly well.
If you’re wondering why not everyone feeds this to their child, some parents don’t support DHA (because of how it’s extracted) and may try to steer away from Similac as a result. There have also been some recalls in the past that have left some parents with a bad taste towards this brand.
Although labeled an organic toddler formula, this formula is actually designed for infants. (The company says the labeling is because they suggest breastfeeding for under 1 year of age. As with any formula check with your doctor before using.)
One of the few organic formulas on the market for sensitive stomachs, this product gets rave reviews from moms and dads for its taste and ability to keep gas at bay.
Why might you steer clear? Some parents don’t love the use of soy products and brown rice syrup in making the formula. Instead of whey, it has high levels of the milk protein casein, which can be harder to digest for some infants.
(For those who are less lactose sensitive, there’s Baby’s Only Organic DHA and ARA.)
This organic formula steer clears of controversial DHA — none of the ingredients are extracted with hexane. It includes high amounts of prebiotics and iron. There’s no corn syrup nor artificial sweeteners, but it does have lactose to stay sweet enough tasting for most babies. (There is also a sensitive version of this formula that includes less lactose for babies who may be a little sensitive.)
While the Honest Company tries to avoid most of the controversial ingredients in their formula, they do use soy and palm oil. One major downside is that this formula may not be available at your corner drugstore, so you’ll have to plan ahead and keep your house stocked. (It’s also usually on the more expensive side of the organic formulas.)
There have also been a few complaints of constipated babies from this formula — though to be honest, you’ll see those complaints with every formula. You have to find what works for your unique little one, and know that constipation can occur even with breastfed babies.
Another formula that prides itself on its sourcing and similarity to breast milk is Happy Baby Organic infant formula with iron. One thing that parents love about this formula is that it has a high amount of prebiotics concentrated in it. It also stays away from GMOs and corn syrup, with no artificial sweeteners included.
And get this — the packaging itself is BPA free and designed to tuck neatly away in a cupboard or diaper bag. (Nice bonuses!)
One common complaint is that this formula doesn’t always dissolve as well in water and may require extra time and effort to get it prepared. And while the ingredients resemble breast milk, the texture doesn’t! (Many babies like the taste, but the consistency isn’t universally popular in the under-1 crowd.) Like many formulas, it includes controversial DHA and ARA.
This is a newer formula option. Many parents are pleased to find that this is another formula that has no corn syrup solids. It’s also kosher, gluten-free, and contains no genetically modified ingredients.
While some consumers have mentioned that they don’t find it to be the best tasting, it’s sweetened with lactose, so many babies will tolerate the taste. (What adult likes the taste of baby formula, anyhow?)
Downsides? It’s not intended for premature babies, and some disagree with its inclusion of palm oil and soy. (Worth noting: The DHA it contains is water-extracted.)
A great option for parents wanting to keep down the price of organic formula is Gerber’s Natura Organic infant formula. Made with lactose as its only sweetening agent, it successfully avoids the corn syrups. It’s also non-GMO and gluten-free.
It includes prebiotics to help with the constipation that can come from the added iron in formulas. This formula also tends to get good marks from parents for acceptance from babies.
On the less positive side, it does include the soy and palm oils common in many organic formulas. It also has DHA and ARA, which some parents wish to avoid. While the ingredients list (and levels of lactose) may not make this formula the easiest on sensitive tummies, for many families, Gerber offers a solid organic option.
When buying an organic formula, it’s still important to keep your eye on the ingredients included as some might have things that surprise you. The best formulas on the market will boldly state that they include:
- Lactose instead of real sugars or synthetic variants to improve taste. (These alternative sugars have been
linked to obesity and over feeding.)
- Whey protein that digests easier than synthetic proteins.
- A low amount of corn sugars, GMOs, and preservatives.
And if purchasing a formula from another country, make sure to think about just how reasonable it is for you to frequently buy the product. Also, remember that the United States has different standards for organic formulas than other parts of the world, so fully investigate any foreign formulas before using them.
There are a variety of doctor-approved ways to keep your baby fed — all of them completely legit, no matter what the mom shamers may say. Even if you’ve decided to go with an organic formula, there are a range of options with different prices and ingredients available to you.
If in doubt about which direction to go, consult with your baby’s doctor and make sure that an option you can afford ends up in your grocery store basket!