Have you ever walked into a store that sells infant formula and all you can think is WTF do I buy?
Yup, I’ve been there too. The types “Hydrolyzed and Soy”, the brands “Enfamil or Earth’s Best”, the health claims “good for reflux or supports baby’s immune system”
Or maybe you hopped on one of those Mom groups and you see Mamas talking about goat’s milk formula or homemade formula. Which makes your head spin because you're like, I don’t know which one to buy or which one is best.
I’m about to make your life super easy because in this post you will learn everything you need to know about choosing an infant formula for your baby. I’ve come to learn that not every Mother can’t breastfeed (like myself with my first baby), some choose not to breastfeed, some Mamas have had mastectomies and others may have adopted their baby or had a surrogate.
If you choose to formula feed, I want to support you in the journey and keep you INFORMED on everything your need to know about formula and feeding your baby. This way you can make the BEST decision for you and your babe.
Commercial brands of formula include Enfamil, Similac, Nestle and Gerber. These companies are the most popular and well known out of all of the formula brands on the market. Unfortunately, these brands do not have quality and infant health in mind. What is on these companies mind? Money, money and more money. You will learn more about these commercial brands and the quality of ingredients they are using, like conventional milk, genetically engineered grains and toxic corn syrup.
BRANDS INCLUDE: Enfamil, Similac, Nestle and Gerber
Organic is not only a great marketing tactic that companies are using to catch the eyes of those who are more interested in giving their baby’s better quality ingredients but it is actually a qualification that companies MUST fall under to use “organic” on their product. Organic formulas must give their cow’s organic feed, this can be organic grains. However, cow’s are NOT meant to consume grains, grass fed is the only way to go. With the “organic” certification, companies are only allowed to use “approved” pesticides on their plants. If a formula states on the label it is organic, this does NOT mean NON GMO. NON GMO is a different verification that requires only NON GMO seeds being used, NON GMO feed given to animals. Along with other genetically engineered practices, like spraying of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides are not permitted to be used if the label claims NON GMO.
Companies like Enfamil and Similac claim their product is NON GMO however, it is only a marketing tactic they use and NOT actually sourcing their ingredients from NON GMO.
In my opinion, European brands of formula are much superior to any other formula that can be purchased in North America. Why? Europe has a higher standard of quality and testing when it comes to food and beverages that are being created and sold. Ingredients like corn syrup, certain food colourings and additives are in fact banned in Europe due to it being carcinogenic or toxic to human health. Here in North America, corn syrup tends to be the first or second ingredient in infant formula. Many European brands use grass fed cow’s milk which is exactly what you want to give to your baby. Don’t worry, I will explain further in detail why.
TYPES OF FORMULA:
Cow’s Milk Based
Cow’s milk based formula is the most commonly used formula on the market. All formula, unless stated otherwise on the label, the base of the formula is cow’s milk. Now when it comes to commercial brands of formula that are using cow’s milk, they are also using soy as a filler. Soy is a great way for companies to save money (and make money) because it is a cheap filler. If you didn’t know, soy is one of the LARGEST GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops. According to the FDA, in 2018, 94% of soy crops are genetically modified (1). I will touch upon what is Genetically Modified AKA Genetically Engineered is later in this post. These commercial brands that are using soy as a filler are also using corn syrup to sweeten the formula. FDA states on their website that in 2018, 92% of corn is sourced from genetically engineered crops.(2) 2 years later, these numbers are probably closer to 100%.
Issues with Cow’s Milk Based Commercial Brands Formulas:
Commercial brands are using GMO corn and GMO soy in the formula. The second issue I have with these types of formulas is that if they are using GMO ingredients, they are most likely using conventionally farmed milk. I don’t have proof yet of this being true, however, if money is on these commercial companies minds, using conventionally farmed milk will only add more money to their pockets. Conventionally farmed milk is coming from practices that can be less than ethical when it comes to cow’s welfare.
These cows are fed grains; grains that are being sourced from genetically engineered crops, like corn. Like I mentioned above, GM crops are very cheap for these companies to use, so feeding cows GM corn will save these industrialized farmers money. Grains are also a great way to fatten the cows up. Cows are naturally meant to eat grass, that is what their diet is supposed to consist of not grains.
These cows are fed hormones; hormones are given to cows to fatten them up, to produce more milk. Mo milk mo money.
These cows are also fed antibiotics; these industrialized farming practices pump cows full of antibiotics. Why? Well, these cows are kept in such close quarters, they are pretty much living in their own poop. Cows then can become contaminated with e coli and other toxic bacteria and die. To prevent this from happening, cows are given antibiotics to combat infections and reduce chances of death. Dead cow= no money.
With the use of grains, hormones, and antibiotics, the residue or by-products can potentially contaminate infant formula. However there has not been any studies done to prove this, which should be alarming to parents because if there is potential harm, it is unknown.
Now, I keep mentioning commercial brands of cow’s milk formula, but there are BETTER cow’s milk based formulas. If you are considering using cow’s milk formula, it is best to use European sourced formulas. European standards for food safety and quality are much higher and stricter than North American policies. Ingredients like corn syrup are actually banned in Europe which means it’s banned in infant formula. Here, in North America, corn syrup is the first or second ingredient in infant formula. Along with the standards being superior, cows from Europe tend to be fed ONLY grass and not grains. However, it is best to check the product to ensure it is 100% grass fed.
European Brands Include: Hipp, Holle
Goat’s Milk Based Formula
Goat’s milk can be a bit more difficult to purchase in North America since it can only be imported from Europe. Goat’s milk, in my opinion, is much more superior when it comes to cow’s milk based formula. Goat’s are closer to the size of a human, therefore the milk is much closer to Mom’s milk. It also can be much easier to digest because the molecules in goat’s milk are much smaller therefore easier for a baby to break down.
Keep in mind, if you have a baby who is reacting to cow’s milk, they can also react to goat’s milk. Cow’s milk and goat’s milk have the same proteins but goat’s milk proteins are much smaller. Now this wasn’t the case for my son, he reacted to every formula and goat’s milk formula was literally our saving grace.
Like I stated above, goat’s milk formula must be imported from Europe. It can also cost a bit more than commercial brands of formula. But when it comes to nourishing your baby, price shouldn’t matter especially if the quality is superior to any commercial brands on the market.
European Brands Include: Nanny care, Holle
Hydrolyzed, Partially, Extensively Formula
These formulas are predigested. The proteins are broken down into smaller forms called amino acids. When they are broken down into their amino acids AKA building blocks, it can be easier for babies to digest. Hydrolyzed formulas is what is given to babies who are born premature because they don’t have the full capability to digest lactose (3) Hydrolyzed AKA Hypoallergenic formulas are considered to be the best formulas for babies who are experiencing reflux and cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA)
What is the difference between partially hydrolyzed and extensively hydrolyzed?
Partially= proteins are only partially broken down
Extensively= proteins are full broken down
Issues with Hydrolyzed Formulas:
In the process of creating hydrolyzed formula, MSG is created. MSG AKA Monosodium glutamate is known as a flavour enhancer that is often used in Asian Cuisine and in large fast food restaurants. MSG has been linked to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ADD, obesity, depression and diabetes. Another issue with hydrolyzed formulas is that in creating a predigested, amino acid based formula, the formula becomes super bitter. Corn syrup is added to sweeten the formula to make it taste better for infants. You learned above that corn is a genetically engineered crop, below you will learn exactly why we must avoid these toxic crops especially when it comes to vulnerable infants. These formulas are not organic and not to mention they can be expensive.
Brand Include: Nutramigen- Enfamil, Alimentum- Similac
Lactose free/ Lactose Reduced
Lactose free or lactose reduced formulas are designed for infants who are experiencing issues with digesting lactose. Lactose is the sugar molecule that is found in milk/dairy. Infants that are born 34 weeks or under are lactose intolerant. (6) This means babies who are premature can not properly digest the sugar molecules (lactose), therefore need to be given a lactose free or lactose reduced formula to support their digestion. 70% of their enzymes to digest lactose are produced between 34-35 weeks. If a baby can’t digest lactose, symptoms will include: abdominal pains, severe diarrhea, bloating or gas. The AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), doesn’t recommend infants who are experiencing temporary lactose intolerance to be given a lactose reduced or lactose free formula for that time being. (7) An example of a baby who is temporarily lactose intolerant is an infant who is experiencing diarrhea or had/ has an episode of diarrhea. When infants experience diarrhea they flush out the lactase (enzyme to digest lactose) from the colon. This can make it extremely difficult for a baby to digest lactose and symptoms like gas or bloating can manifest. In my personal opinion, lactose reduce or free formula should be given during times of diarrhea and a few weeks after until those enzymes can replenish on their own. An infant’s digestive system could become overburdened and lead to lactose overload.
Symptoms of lactose overload (8)
poor satiety and wanting to feed frequently
belching due to swallowing a lot of air while feeding too quickly frequent
sloppy foul smelling bowel movements in formula fed
watery explosive bowel movements in breastfed
bloating and cramps leading to fussing
crying and irritability
Issues that I have with lactose free or lactose reduced formula is that the lactose is replaced with corn syrup. (My favourite, insert eye roll here)
Brands include: Enfamil A+, Earth’s Best Low Lactose, Similac Pro-Sensitive, Soy Based Formulas (lactose free)
Soy formula is usually the last resort formula that I tell anyone to use. Honestly, I would avoid soy formula at all cost since it can be potentially damaging. Soy is only used for rare medical disorders like galactosemia and congenital lactose intolerance. These are diagnosed at birth. Soy is also NOT recommended for baby’s under 6 months, unless advised by a practitioner or doctor. (9)
Here are some reasons why soy can be damaging.
Phytoestrogenic- this means soy contains plant based estrogens that can affect a male’s reproductive system. Phytoestrogens mimic endogenous (own) estrogen that are produced by the body. Estrogen is one of the female dominated sex hormones. Testosterone is the male dominated sex hormone. When estrogen is high in a male, it can affect the way their reproductive system functions and develops. If estrogen is high in females it can trigger early puberty. (10)
If cow’s milk is an allergy for children, soy can also be one as well. Soy causes 90% of allergies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases US Department of Health and Human Services (11) Gastrointestinal effects from soy protein can manifest as bloody diarrhea, ulceration and irritable bowel disease. (12) I personally think these effects are factors from consuming soy that is genetically modified. Which brings me to point #3
94% (13) of soy is sourced from genetically modified crops which all soy formulas are using. Remember genetically engineered foods are much cheaper to use and make good money for these agribusiness giants.
Soy should NEVER be given to premature babies. Soy is high in phytates. Phytates block the absorption of minerals which will lead to mineral deficiencies. Preterm babies are already trying to play catch up and have a high demand for nutrients like minerals. Giving soy formula can potentially lead to deadly deficiencies in premature babies. Along with mineral deficiencies soy can cause osteopenia which is poor bone function. (14) (15)
Brands Include: Isomil, Earth’s Own Soy Formula
Homemade formula, in my opinion is safer to use than ANY of the commercial brands of formula because you know EXACTLY what you are putting in there, where the ingredients are coming from and no fillers like corn syrup or soy that can damage a baby’s health and foundation.
However, if you are using or consider making homemade formula, there are a few things you MUST know before.
I only recommend using recipes from Weston A Price Association. They are tested, most often used and referenced when making homemade formula. Here is the link you can check out the 3 recipes.