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Organic vs Regular Baby Formula – Differences Explained

Have you walked down the baby formula aisle lately? If so, your head is probably ready to explode with all of the options out there. When you give your baby formula, you want to be sure you are choosing one that keeps all of their nutritional needs in mind. 

One of the big decisions that a new mom has to make is whether to give her baby regular baby formula or go the organic route.

If this is your first time on the formula train, don’t worry mama, we’ve got you covered. 

We’re going to break down the differences between organic and regular baby formula so you can make an informed decision for your baby.

Regular Baby Formula Explained

First things first.

Baby formulas are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that each formula is held to a standard to provide a minimum amount of specified nutrients that are required for baby formula. Nutrition is important during all stages of life, but especially for babies because it can influence growth and development for their entire lives.

When you’re looking at the different brands of regular baby formula on the shelf, each one will basically contain the same combination of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. The difference between them comes in the sources of the proteins and carbohydrates they contain. This is why it’s important to read the labels.

Baby formula also comes in three basic types:

  • Cow milk protein-based formulas

This is probably the one you see most. This type of formula is altered to resemble breast milk. The goal is for the formula to have the right balance of nutrients so that the formula is easy for babies to digest. But, if a baby has a milk allergy, this formula isn’t going to work.

  • Soy-based formula

Soy-based formulas don’t include animal proteins and are a good option for babies with a milk allergy or babies who can’t ingest lactose, a carbohydrate that is naturally found in cow’s milk. 

  • Protein hydrolysate formulas

These types of formulas have protein that’s been broken down into smaller portions than those found in cow’s milk and soy-based formulas. This type of formula is meant for babies who can’t tolerate cow’s milk or soy-based formulas.

Besides the type of formula, you also have to consider the form. Here’s what you have to work with:

  • Powdered formula

This type of formula is mixed with water and is the least expensive.

  • Concentrated liquid formula

This is another type of formula that must be mixed with water.

  • Ready-to-use formula

While this is the most expensive option, it’s also the most convenient. There’s no mixing involved. Everything is done for you so all you have to do is feed it to your baby.

Organic Baby Formula Explained

Now that we have a general idea of the basics of regular formula, it’s time to see what’s inside organic baby formula. While organic formula can be made from cow’s milk or soy, it has no:

  • Hormones
  • Chemicals
  • Pesticides

For a formula to be certified organic, at least 95% of the ingredients need to be organic. This means the ingredients must come from farms that don’t use conventional pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients. There is also no bioengineering or ionizing radiation involved. Any animals used to make organic foods must have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones.

Organic formulas also often include long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and oligosaccharides. That’s a mouthful, we know. Basically, these are nutrients that make digestion easier for your baby and are better for their immune system as a whole. Pretty simple, right?

When you choose organic formula, you’re also getting formula with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids help with brain development as well as eye and nerve development. 

Probiotics and prebiotics are also commonly found in organic formulas. These help give your baby enough protein and can also help to keep skin and lungs healthy.

Just like regular baby formula, there are different types and forms of baby formula. You can choose from cow’s milk formula as well as soy formula. Organic formula can also be found in a goat’s milk formula. This may be an option if your little one has trouble digesting cow’s milk.

Organic baby formula also comes in powder or liquid forms. You can choose whichever you find easiest on your baby and your wallet.

What to Look for in Baby Formula

As you decide whether you’re going to go organic or non-organic when it comes to baby formula, it’s all about reading the labels. You want to be sure that whatever formula you’re choosing is packed with important vitamins for your baby.

Here are some vitamins that are a must:

  • Vitamin C: Helps with growth and to repair body tissues
  • Vitamin A: Supports vision and the immune system
  • Vitamin D: Helps to absorb calcium and support strong bones.
  • Vitamin E: Supports the immune system and blood flow
  • Vitamin K: Important  for bone growth and blood clotting
  • Vitamin B: Helps to convert food into energy

There are also important minerals to look for:

  • Iron: This is crucial for growth and development
  • Calcium: Encourages strong bones and teeth
  • Zinc: Helps with growth and development as well as taste and smell

Look to see that the formula you’re choosing contains these important vitamins and minerals. If they don’t, that’s a major deal-breaker and you’ll want to keep shopping.

What to Avoid in Baby Formula

While it’s important to know what to look for in baby formula, it’s also important to know what to avoid. These are the biggies:

Corn Syrup

This is a type of sweetener that comes from corn starch. You’ve probably seen it as an ingredient in lots of products. Unfortunately, it can also be found in baby formula. Yikes! While corn syrup is made of glucose, which is an important carbohydrate, it is artificial and processed.

The European Union bans corn syrup from European formulas, but the FDA does not. Avoiding corn syrup will help to limit the amount of processed ingredients your baby ingests.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is even worse than corn syrup. It has been processed even more to convert glucose into fructose. This makes it sweeter as it is used to make candy and soda. The FDA has not banned high fructose corn syrup from baby formula, so you definitely want to read the fine print on the label to make sure the formula you’re choosing doesn’t contain it.

Organic vs. Regular Baby Formula: Which do I Buy?

The decision on whether to go organic for your baby’s formula is ultimately yours. Choosing organic does have its benefits like no pesticides, no hormones, and no chemicals. Plus, organic baby formula is jam-packed with vitamins to help your baby to grow big and strong. Another bonus? Many organic formulas have extra whey which makes the protein ratio more similar to that found in breast milk. Many regular baby formulas can’t say that.

If you’re considering organic baby formula, you also want to weigh European vs. U.S. brands. As we mentioned above, the European Union bans ingredients like corn syrup from baby formulas, which the U.S. does not. Another interesting fact about organic formulas from Europe is that they are required to have at least 30% of their calories from lactose, which is not the case with U.S. formulas. At Organic Baby Formula, we pride ourselves on offering the best European formula brands such as Jovie, HiPP and Holle for your little one. 

As you decide whether to go organic or go home, do your homework and read your labels so that you can choose the best baby formula for your baby. You got this mama!