If you are getting started on your research on the best organic formula in 2020, you should know of the recent positive developments in the organic baby food industry. Thanks to advocates such as the Organic Consumers Association and the increasing public awareness on the benefits of organic products.
Here are some recent good developments to note:
- There is a growing consensus that corn syrup in infant formula has several negative impacts and companies are substituting corn sugars with lactose.
- A number of cheaper organic oils such as canola and soy are being substituted with healthier oils such as coconut oil.
- There has been public scrutiny of product labeling with court cases being launched to curb companies falsely branding their products as ‘organic’. Read this lawsuit and this Change.org petition to have Similac eliminate corn syrup as an ingredient in baby formula.
One might ask themselves then, what is so special about organic products? Should their baby be raised exclusively on organic food? Will these products make a difference in the baby’s growth and development? I have had these questions all the time and so I decided to do some research, which I thought would be helpful to many other parents too.
What is baby organic formula?
These are baby formulas made from milk (mostly) or soy, which are produced without using growth hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics. Experts view organic formulas as the healthiest options especially when it comes to infants. To quickly identify if a formula is organic, you can check on the package for Organic certification by USDA.
The video provides additional guidance when picking the best organic formula for your baby:
Is baby organic formula better than regular and what is organic formula made of?
Both regular and organic formulas are designed to provide complete nutrition for the baby. However, organic formulas are thought to be healthier because they source ingredients that do not have harmful effects on the body, in addition to being nutritious.
Organic formulas are made primarily of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. To improve the overall nutritional value of the formula, they also add essential vitamins and minerals, prebiotics, and DHA & ARA (though these benefits are in dispute).
#1. Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO Infant Formula
Similac is a leading brand in the infant formula industry. It is popular around the globe and trusted for use in most hospitals. This is because the company uses choice ingredients to make their formulas as close as can be to human breast milk in characteristics and benefits.
Similac Pro Advance is specially made using Non-GMO ingredients to ensure your baby gets the healthiest formula. In fact, Similac boasts that parents report a reduction in fussiness, crying, gassiness, and spit-up after just one day of using the Pro Advance formula. This formula is excellent especially for infants with a sensitive tummy.
Similac Pro Advance is made from milk from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones.
The formula includes 2’FL HMO (human milk oligosaccharide), an immune nourishing prebiotic which is the most similar to the one found in breast milk.
It also includes OptiGRO, a blend of DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E. DHA supports brain development, lutein supports eye development, and vitamin E supports cell development.
You will also love that one Similac Pro Advance pack gives you 50% more power than the 1.45 lb container, and it does not contain artificial growth hormones.
- Contains ingredients very similar to real breast milk
- It helps to reduce unpleasant digestive symptoms associated with regular formulas
- It is completely free of artificial growth hormones
- It contains the controversial DHA
- It is costly
You can also read our detailed comparison of Similac Advance and Pro Advance.
#2. Plum Organics Grow Well Organic Infant Formula
Plum organic is a milk-based formula modelled after breast milk as a complete nutritious meal for babies up to 1 year. This second-best formula is manufactured by an American B-Corp certified company called Plum Organics and you can check out their range of organic products here.
In 2016, it announced that it was launching the Grow Well brand that now uses organic lactose. It was among the first few brands to exclusively use lactose as the source of carbohydrates and ditching corn syrup entirely. Here is their press release back in 2016.
Plum Organics Grow Well has no added corn syrup and is designed to be easy to digest. Also, it is Organic certified by Oregon Tilth and USDA, which means the formula meets the highest standards and it is free of GMOs, antibiotics, growth hormones, or pesticides.
We love the fact that it uses lactose from organic cow milk to provide carbohydrates, proteins are sourced from casein and whey which is also found in breast milk and easier to digest, fat from plant oils. It also supplies DHA and ARA, which are thought to contribute to brain and eye development. Vitamins and minerals, including iron, are also in abundance.
We have to caution you that the formula does include several controversial ingredients like soy oil, palm oil, DHA, and soy lecithin.
- Does not contain artificial sweeteners like corn syrup
- The taste is great for most babies
- It is easily digested even by sensitive tummies
- Provides all the nutrients babies up to one year need
- It includes some ingredients that are considered unhealthy
- Contains DHA extracted using hexane
- It becomes foamy when shaken, which causes gas.
#3. Earth’s Best Organic Infant Powder Formula with Iron
Earth’s Best is our third-best organic formula in this list. The company behind this formula has over thirty years of experience dedicated to providing wholesome infant nutrition. All their products are non-GMO and without harmful pesticides.
The golden rule they abide by is to make milk formula that closely resembles breast milk. The formula is made from milk from grain and grass fed cows.
Earth’s Best Organic formula contains omega-3 DHA and omega -6 ARA fatty acids, also naturally present in breast milk, that has been proven to be beneficial for the baby’s mental and visual development. The DHA is water assisted extracted, unlike other formulas that use hexane, which is toxic.
It also has prebiotic fiber for building immunity.
The formula is nutritionally balanced, providing proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids essential for the baby to grow healthy. Iron is also added for developing red blood cells.
Unlike other formulas that contain harmful artificial corn syrup, Earth’s best organic uses lactose both as a sweetener and source of carbohydrate. For protein sources, it uses whey protein concentrate, which is also easier to digest.
Earth’s best organic is FDA approved as an infant and toddler formula. Also, it is USDA certified as Organic.
Some of the ingredients included that are concerning are; palm oil, synthetic nutrients, soy DHA.
A lot of parents report that their babies did not experience gassiness or fussiness or spit-ups when using it.
- Contains hydrolyzed proteins that are easy for the baby to digest
- Because of the added iron, the formula has a metallic smell and taste that some babies dislike.
- Some parents report frothing when the formula is shaken.
#4. Happy Baby Organic Infant Formula
The Happy Baby formula is modelled after breast milk and made with carefully sourced premium ingredients. The company behind this brand is called Happy Baby Organics and was launched by a few parents on Mothers Day in 2006. You can read their inspiring story here. Their infant organic baby formula stands out with its prebiotics; it has four times more prebiotic than other organic formulas. It also has no corn syrup solids.
The formula uses lactose from organic cow milk as the source of carbohydrate. Proteins are sourced from nonfat milk, whey, and casein. The proteins provide the building block for the baby’s muscles and strong bones. It is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, choline, and more. For eye and brain development, the formula has DHA and ARA essential fatty acids.
The dual prebiotic used are GOS & FOS fibers which mimic prebiotics found in breast milk, for promoting a healthy gut.
Happy Baby organic is modeled to offer complete nutrition for infants and babies up to 1 year of age.
- It does not contain corn syrup instead it uses organic lactose
- It has the highest amount of prebiotic
- It is designed to be easy to digest without causing gassiness
- Some parents find the taste and smell unpleasant
- Some parents have found it very foamy when shaken
- It contains DHA which some experts in the field do not approve
#5. Baby Only Dairy with DHA Toddler Formula
Baby Only dairy was rated ”Best in Class” by CleanLabelProject.org for Superior Nutrition and Purity. It is also Organic certified by USDA and is manufactured by Nature’s One. We can understand why their formulas would be so highly rated. First, all their formulas do not contain GMOs, corn or glucose syrup, or palm oil. Their DHA & ARA, unlike other formulas, are derived from an organic egg without using the harmful, commonly used hexane. That’s not all; their packaging is BPA-free and kosher certified.
The formula is made primarily from cow milk without artificial hormones and antibiotics. Whey protein makes for the protein source, while lactose provides carbohydrates. DHA &ARA, like earlier mentioned, is obtained from organic egg yolks. Additionally, the formula is fortified with vital minerals and vitamins like choline, lutein, and iron.
Baby’s Only Organic formula is designed to help every baby thrive without sacrificing purity or nutrition.
- It has been highly rated by Clean Label Project
- It is certified organic by USDA
- It is gluten-free
- It helps to reduce gas, spit-ups, and colic.
- DHA is from egg yolk instead of algae that need hexane to extract
- The packaging used is BPA free
- It is a bit expensive
Vermont Organics infant formula is milk-based to provide balanced nutrition for a baby within the first year of life. We like how Vermont has packaged the formula by including a scoop handle that slides into a corner, which improves handling. Vermont is certified as organic by USDA as well as Quality Assurance International 02FTP
The formula is made using milk from organic feed and raised cows and other carefully selected ingredients to provide prebiotics, vitamins, and minerals and fortified with iron. It also has lactose as a source of carbohydrates from the milk, although it is further sweetened with glucose. Additionally, it has DHA, ARA & ALA, which are believed to help with baby’s brain and eye development.
Although the formula uses organic ingredients, we take issue with the added glucose for sweetening, palm oil, and soy oil. Some parents find these ingredients unhealthy to be in a baby’s formula.
- It comes with a scoop
- It is affordable
- Gluten-free, No-GMO, pesticides or antibiotics
- It contains unhealthy palm oil
- It contains soy oil which is not suitable for some babies
- It contains DHA extracted using hexane
- Some parents find it difficult to dissolve
- Includes glucose for sweetening
#7. Munchkin Grass Fed Toddler Milk Drink
Munchkins pride themselves in producing formula made from only grass-fed cow milk and milk products. They claim that the cows are never feeding on grains, and are not treated with antibiotics or artificial hormones. To get this kind of milk, they get it for you all the way from New Zealand.
We should let you know that although we have included the Munchkin formula in the organic formula category, it does not have an Organic certification yet. The only reason we included it is because it contains many qualities that parents look for in other organic foods that are already certified. If you can let the certification issue slide, then you will be able to appreciate this formula.
The formula provides carbohydrates from lactose, which also acts as a sweetener, unlike other formulas that use corn syrup. It also has a special ingredient Lactoferrin, which is naturally present in breast milk to promote a strong immune system. Because the formula is made from 100% grass-fed cow milk, it contains a higher level of vitamin A and E than formulas made from conventional cow milk. Also, it contains DHA (hexane free) and ARA, substances shown to promote brain and eye development.
We must caution you that the milk contains some Soy products like soy oil soit might not be suitable for babies that are sensitive or allergic to soy.
- Made from purely grass-fed cow milk
- No GMO or antibiotics
- Has lactoferrin similar to breast milk
- Uses sunflower and coconut oil instead of palm oil
- DHA is hexane-free
- It is not organic certified
#8. Honest Company Organic Non-GMO Premium Formula
The Honest Company has taken a firm stand to show how they feel about the controversial DHA by choosing not to include it in their formulas. They claim that the current DHA being used in the industry has failed to meet their rigorous Honest standards. Instead, they have carefully balanced and modeled their formula after breast milk by using milk that is free from gluten, corn syrup, sucrose, GMO, and rbST treated cow milk.
The formula is designed to offer complete nutrition providing premium ingredients such as iron, vitamin D, calcium, choline, and folic acid.
To supplement DHA, they use non-chemically extracted, pure premium fish oil, which has been shown to promote brain development. Also, the formula contains prebiotics meant to support the baby’s immune system.
- Does not contain the controversial DHA
- No GMO
- It does not contain corn syrup or gluten
- It is expensive
- It contains palm oil and soy ingredients
#9. Honest Co. Organic Non-GMO Sensitive Infant Formula
This formula from Honest was designed to help reduce tummy problems like causing gas and fussiness. Like all other Honest formulas, the sensitive formula uses milk without added DHA/ARA, gluten, GMOs, corn syrup, or from cows treated with robust or added sucrose; rather it is modeled after breast milk.
All ingredients in this formula are gentle for the stomach. The lactose used is reduced in amounts to make it easier for the sensitive tummy to digest. Also, FOS prebiotic further aids digestion and promotes strong immunity.
The formula also has a nutritious blend of iron, vitamin D3, calcium, choline, and folic acid among others, for the baby’s growth and development.
- No DHA (for the parents who do not like it in infant formulas)
- Includes reduced lactose which is easier for sensitive tummies to digest
- Made from grass fed cow milk
- Contains palm oil
#10. Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant Formula with Iron
Earth’s Best Organic Soy infant formula is designed to meet the nutritional needs of babies up to a year old. It has a soy-based formula made with carefully selected ingredients and patterned after breast milk. This formula is a good substitute for babies that are lactose intolerant. It does not include artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or harmful pesticides or herbicides. It is also USDA Organic certified.
The formula has high-quality protein from soy, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids including DHA & ARA. It is also fortified with iron to boost the baby’s red blood cell production.
This formula is not particularly the healthiest since it contains additional sweetener to substitute lactose. Also, some parents and experts have a problem with DHA. Nonetheless, it is wholesomely organic, the ingredients are gentle to digest and suitable for lactose intolerant babies.
- It does not have lactose
- Great for babies that can’t tolerate cow milk products
- Provides balanced nutrition
- Some find the taste unpleasant
- Includes DHA extracted with hexane
Guide to Buying the Best Organic Baby Formula
Organic Baby Formulas – What makes them the best?
The best food for the baby is, of course, breast milk, with organic being the second-best option. Organic formulas use the most natural ingredients and form the best platform to ensure sustained long term health, growth, and development.
Ingredients to Avoid in Any Baby Formula
Both regular and some organic formulas contain ingredients that have been proven to have negative effects on the body. Some of these ingredients you need to watch out for include:
DHA/ARA: most formulas extract this ingredient from algae using hexane, which is proven to be toxic. The two fatty acids are beneficial for the baby’s development, but the extracted version has the potential to interfere with the baby’s reflexes, cause vertigo, and anorexia.
Carrageenan: they cause inflammation in the body. In severe cases, carrageenan can cause tumors or ulcers.
Palm oil: it is cheap and unhealthy oil, which affects bone density and can even become a soapy substance in the digestive tract.
Soy: studies have shown soy to negatively affect natural body processes like thyroid, brain development, and immune system.
Organic Milk – How is it made sweet?
The best Organic formulas use lactose which is similar to breast and cow milk for sweetening. Lactose is more expensive, which is why some manufacturers opt for cheaper alternatives like corn syrup or brown rice syrup. The two syrups are unhealthy for babies. Corn syrup is associated with a tendency for obesity because it has much higher sugar levels than breast milk, and influences the baby to crave sweet things from an early age. Rice syrup, on the other hand, has traces of arsenic which affects the body negatively.
Other formula manufacturers use Maltodextrin which is a polysaccharide usually extracted from rice, corn, or potatoes. Although it is accepted, it has fewer benefits than lactose, but it also makes the formula dissolve better.
Frequently Asked Questions
Earth’s Best Organic Soy Infant formula with iron
Honest Co. Organic Non-GMO Sensitive Infant formula
None can be like breast milk, but all supply the essential nutrients for your baby
HiPP Organic Formula
Holle Goat Organic formula
There are no plant-based or vegan formulas in the market so far, the closest formulas you can get to plant-based are Soy formulas.
There is no single organic formula that will work well for every baby. Use trial and error until you identify one that agrees with your baby.
Earth’s Best Organic infant formula with Iron