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- Best organic baby formula for babies switching from breast milk: Burt’s Bees Baby Organic Dairy, Burt’s Bees Baby Ultra Gentle Organic
- Best organic baby formula with grass-fed lactose: Earth’s Best Organic Dairy
- Organic baby formula that’s most similar to breast milk: Similac Organic with Iron
- Best organic baby formula for sensitive stomachs: Baby’s Only Organic LactoRelief, Earth’s Best Organic Sensitive
- Best organic baby formula with prebiotics: Happy Baby Organic
Standing in the formula aisle of the supermarket and looking at all the options in bright packages can be intimidating. (Those clammy hands and that racing heart? You’re not alone.)
How do you know which brand is best?
While we cannot answer that question for you — and no study proves one formula is better or more effective than another — we’ve compiled a list of seven of the most popular organic baby formulas.
These were chosen based on:
- the organic label used — we opted for certified organic products
- user reviews on shopping sites like Amazon and Little Bundle (formerly Huggable)
There are many different types of baby formula. A few types you may come across in the store aisles include:
- Powder. Many formulas come in powder form with instructions about how much water to add for various size bottles.
- Liquid. Some brands offer premixed formulas. These won’t need additional water added and can usually be consumed as is.
- Milk-based. Most infant formulas are milk-based formulas that are made from cow’s milk that is altered to more closely resemble breast milk and include the nutrients growing babies require.
- Soy-based. Soy-based formulas are made from soy proteins. (It’s important to note that the AAP only recommends the use of soy-based formulas in certain situations, so you’ll want to talk to your child’s doctor before choosing one of these formulas.)
- Hydrolyzed/homogenized. The milk proteins in these formulas have been broken down into smaller pieces. Babies with milk sensitives may be better able to tolerate these milk-based formulas. (Interestingly, at least one study has indicated that there may be other developmental benefits to this type of formula.)
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, but there is one more thing: All the formula types listed above can come in organic and non-organic versions.
Chances are you’re familiar with what the term “organic” means when it’s used to describe fruits and vegetables, but you might not know exactly what it means when it comes to baby formula.
Organic baby formulas are made with ingredients produced without pesticides, growth hormones, herbicides, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Sounds simple, right?
Because organic baby formulas have many ingredients, you’ll need to pay attention to exactly what the product advertises as organic.
The key phrases to look out for in this case are “certified organic” and “made with organic ingredients.”
Certified organic vs. made with organic ingredients
You’ll probably notice that some organic baby formulas have labels indicating they’re U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic, and others will read “made with organic [ingredients].”
A formula that is certified organic by the USDA will have ingredients that are grown in pesticide-free soil and meet USDA regulations for processed foods, and will bear the official seal — a circle that’s half green and half white and reads “USDA Organic.” These include being free from artificial flavors and colors as well as growth hormones and preservatives. Certified organic products also exclude GMOs.
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 will not 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 that are certified organic by the USDA. But you’ll also probably notice that all variations of organic formulas tend to be more expensive than other formula varieties.
Baby formulas vary in taste, texture, and appearance — whether organic or non-organic. But the
However, non-organic formulas may include corn syrup solids or vitamins from petroleums along with traces of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
When choosing which formulas to include on this list, first and foremost, we considered the ingredients included and comments from parents.
We selected certified organic formulas instead of ones labeled “made with organic,” as those can contain 30 percent non-organic ingredients. We also focused on dairy-based formulas, given the AAP only recommends soy-based formulas under certain circumstances.
While there’s no perfect formula, we chose to focus on products that stood above the crowd for reasons like:
- how they were sourced
- their price
- standout reviews
- $ = under $1 per ounce
- $$ = $1–$1.20 per ounce
- $$$ = over $1.20 per ounce
Keep in mind: Prices fluctuate, and you can usually lower the price by buying larger quantities at a time. Also, the above prices do not take shipping into account, which is something else to consider.
Best organic baby formula for babies switching from breast milk
Burt’s Bee’s Organic Dairy is made with iron, and the formula also contains vitamins D, K, and E, and DHA for brain and eye development. The milk powder is dairy-based and is a great source of calcium to help bone growth in developing babies ages 12 months and younger.
This is not a good choice for babies with lactose sensitivities, but for caregivers who do use this formula, it may be good to know that the milk is produced from cows that are pasture-raised and on a strictly organic diet.
Along with being organic the formula is gluten-free, and many parents love that it’s cheaper than some other options that use similar ingredients.
Though many parents rave about this formula, some complain that it is hard to mix.
- The formula is gluten-free in addition to being certified organic.
- Cows that produce the milk base for this formula are raised in pastures on a strictly organic diet.
- The formula includes iron as well as Vitamins D, K, and E.
- This formula is on the pricier side, overall — even though it’s reasonable compared to others with comparable ingredients.
- Children with lactose sensitivities may struggle with this formula.
- The formula can be difficult to thoroughly mix.
Similar to Burt’s Bees Dairy Formula, the Ultra Gentle formula contains vitamins D, K, and E, and DHA for brain and eye development. This formula is dairy-based, but added proteins in this formula help babies with digestion, gas, and fussiness.
The Burt’s Bees brand is known for producing milk from pasture-raised, organically fed cows. The brand also uses water-assisted DHA extraction rather than hexane extractions to avoid adding chemicals to the formula.
Many parents say that this formula is helpful for their babies who have colic, and some others say that it’s great for babies that are transitioning away from breast milk.
Some parents have complained about the smell of the formula, while others say that their babies are not fans of the taste.
- The formula has added proteins to aid with digestion and gas.
- The dairy base comes from pasture-raised cows on strict organic diets.
- The formula is gluten-free.
- Not all babies enjoyed the taste of this formula.
- Some buyers found the formula’s scent less pleasant and stronger than other brands.
- The cost is higher than many of the other options on our list.
Best organic baby formula with grass-fed lactose
Earth’s Best organic formula contains lactose from cows that are grain- and grass-fed. (One of the benefits of 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 help 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 did we mention it’s kosher?
There are a couple of reasons you might hesitate before pulling this formula 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 said caused their baby to have more gas.)
- This formula is kosher and includes iron.
- The DHA and ARA are water extracted, which may leave fewer residual chemicals in the formula.
- The formula has a metallic taste and smell.
- Some users felt this foamy formula made their baby gassy.
- The ingredients include some synthetic components and palm oil.
GMO-free baby formula that’s most similar to breast milk
As the number one baby formula brand used in hospitals, Similac is considered a safe formula choice by many. Similac Organic Formula with Iron 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 everyone is not feeding this formula to their child, some parents do not 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 concerns about this brand.
- This is the formula used in many hospitals.
- The price tag is lower than that of many other organic formulas.
- There have been some recalls in the past of formulas by this brand.
- The formula contains some soy ingredients.
Best organic baby formula for sensitive stomachs
Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity formula has a reduced lactose base to help with digestion in babies ages 12 months and younger. The company uses water-assisted extraction for the DHA contained in this product, which is paired with ARAs to help with brain and eye development.
The formula also contains lutein, an antioxidant found in breast milk that helps with the development of your baby’s eyes, and prebiotic FOS to help with immunity.
Earth’s Best is kosher and has no artificial colors or flavors. It’s also one of the least expensive options, and some parents rave about the easy digestibility of the formula.
Some parents complain that this formula gets foamy quickly, which could make their little ones gassy after consuming it. The formula also contains corn syrup solids and palm oil, which some parents may want to avoid.
- This formula is kosher.
- This is one of the cheaper options on our list.
- It has less lactose for easier digestion.
- Some parents felt the foaminess caused their babies to have extra gas.
- The formula includes palm oil and corn syrup solids.
Although labeled an organic toddler formula, this formula is actually designed for infants. (The company says the labeling is because they suggest breastfeeding for babies under age 1 year. 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 parents for its taste and keeping gas at bay.
Why might you steer clear? Some parents do not support the use of 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.
- Babies tend to enjoy the taste of this formula.
- Consumers felt the formula kept baby gas low.
- Some parents don’t embrace all of the formula’s ingredients, like the brown rice syrup.
- The label says the formula is for toddlers, which might be confusing.
Best organic baby formula with prebiotics
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 concentration of prebiotics. It also does not contain corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
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 well in water and may require extra time and effort to prepare. 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 DHA and ARA — and the company doesn’t specify how they’re extracted.
- This formula has a high concentration of probiotics.
- There is no corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in it.
- The packaging is BPA-free and designed to be easy to carry in a diaper bag.
- This formula comes with a higher price tag.
- The flavor tends to get good reviews, but the texture isn’t always popular with babies.
- It can take a little extra work to get it to fully dissolve in water.
|Burt’s Bees Baby Organic Dairy||$1.23/oz.||– gluten-free |
– includes iron and vitamins D, K, and E
|– not the most budget-friendly|
– some users say it’s hard to thoroughly mix
|Burt’s Bees Baby Ultra Gentle Organic||$1.23/oz.||– added proteins to help with digestion and gas|
|– not the most budget-friendly|
– taste doesn’t appeal to all babies
– some parents didn’t like the strong scent
|Earth’s Best Organic Dairy||$1.31/oz.||– formula is kosher with iron|
– DHA and ARA are water-extracted
|– formula has a metallic taste and scent|
– includes some synthetic ingredients and palm oil
|Similac Organic with Iron||$0.52/oz.||– lower cost|
– formula is used in many hospitals
|– past recalls for this brand|
– includes soy ingredients
|Earth’s Best Organic Sensitive||$1.11/oz.||– formula is kosher|
– has less lactose for easier digestion
|– can get foamy, which might cause babies to be gassy|
– includes palm oil and corn syrup solids
|Baby’s Only Organic LactoRelief||$1.30/oz.||– babies tend to enjoy the taste|
– buyers felt their babies didn’t have much gas on it
|– technically labeled as a toddler formula|
– contains brown rice syrup
|Happy Baby Organic||$1.42/oz.||– high concentration of probiotics|
– no corn syrup or artificial sweeteners
|– not the most budget-friendly|
– texture isn’t always popular with babies
– it may take time to get the formula to fully dissolve
When buying an organic formula, it’s still important to keep your eye on the ingredient list as some might have things that surprise you. The best formulas on the market will boldly state that they include:
- lactose, as opposed to real sugars or synthetic variants to improve taste, which have been
linked to obesity and overfeeding.
- whey protein that digests easier than synthetic proteins
- low amounts of
corn sugarsand preservatives
- organic options may also say they don’t have
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 formulas made outside of the United States before using them.
Why are DHA and ARA controversial?
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 with your doctor if you’re worried about what’s in your baby’s formula.
What is the closest formula to breast milk?
Many brands of formula claim their product is the closest to breast milk. The truth is there’s no definitive answer to which formula is most similar.
Breast milk is full of nutrients, so regardless of the formula you choose, you’ll want to make sure it has as many vital ingredients as possible. Some key ones to keep an eye out for include:
What is the healthiest baby formula?
There’s no scientific proof that one formula is better than another. So, when determining what formula is best for your little one, you’ll want to consider the ingredients and how well your baby is able to digest it.
If your baby has dairy sensitivities (and even if they don’t), you may want to consider a hydrolyzed/homogenized formula because the broken-down proteins could be easier for their stomach to digest.
You’ll also want to consider your budget and locally available options to ensure that you can purchase enough formula for your growing baby.
When in doubt, your child’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant may be able to offer suggestions and personalized guidance.
Is organic baby formula necessary?
There’s no requirement to buy organic baby formula. There are plenty of non-organic options out there.
There are many factors to consider when determining what formula best fits a baby’s needs. Ingredients are one important consideration, but cost and availability may also be worth weighing.
The cost of organic formulas could rack up more quickly over time, given they’re generally more expensive to begin with. Pick something you can sustain and easily find.
Keep in mind that even if a formula is certified organic or made with organic, it may include components you wish to avoid. That said, it’s essential to check the ingredients list regardless of whether you opt for an organic or non-organic option.
There are a variety of doctor-approved ways to keep your baby fed — all of them completely legitimate, 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 pediatrician and make sure that an option you can afford ends up in your grocery store basket!