Organic Baby Formula: U.S. vs. Europe (My Experience)

Ok, so this isn’t a post about nursing vs. formula being better. With Rumi, I nursed her exclusively for 19 months. I thought I would do the same for my twin boys but have experienced some unexpected challenges with doing so (including the fact that they are voracious eaters!) so I need to supplement with formula. I have spent some time researching the best organic baby formulas in the US ( organic is a better choice than conventional formulas that have genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), milk from cows that were likely treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, and oils that were processed with the use of neurotoxic solvents like hexane.).

I’m not a medical doctor nor am I giving medical advice and I’m not getting paid by any company to write this. This is the information I have found on my journey that I think could be useful to other parents! It’s a long post, but I think the information can be useful. During my research, I was shocked to learn that in the US there are only 3 manufacturers of organic baby formula, and they are owned by pharmaceutical companies (connect the dots)…. and what they put in the formulas isn’t pretty. Given all this appalling information, I realized that the infant formula lobbyists in the US make it hard for European organic formula brands to come on the market here (the European Union is much stricter about what goes into foods – why wouldn’t they be? Since the government covers healthcare, wouldn’t they want a healthier population? Things that make you go hmmm, right?)

I have chosen the one organic formula brand that, in my opinion, is the best: HIPP Organic baby formula. It’s a German formula manufactured in the UK. I have found it on Amazon (they come in various stages for your baby). The only issue is that it could take 2-4 weeks to ship. I ordered it a few months ago and it took over a month because US Customs held the order from coming in (and even opened some of the boxes!!). I reported this to Amazon, they gave me a refund , but I had to use organic US formula during the wait which made my twins gassy, sick and even smelly (one of them smelled like cat litter, I kid you not!) And when I tried to re-order the HIPP from Amazon, I was surprised that they no longer had the Stage 1 formula in stock! I had to order it at a higher price from a company on EBay, and am waiting for it’s arrival.

HIPP

After starting them on the US formula, one of my babies also broke out with excema on this face and legs. In a panic, I also ordered another brand from the Netherlands called Kabrita Gold (infant stage) which is a goat based formula. Goat milk closely mirrors the milk of humans the most. It’s a good formula (doesn’t smell or clump up) except it does have syrups in it but it’s a better option than anything on the market here. This has arrived and my babies are loving it. They sell the toddler formula on diapers.com and I was able to get the infant stage on a site called SuperFoodsUK. It’s not cheap but I would rather pay a bit more for a high quality organic formula that won’t make my babies sick and cut out other things in life I can live without.

Kabrita

I will continue to order HIPP until the US formula industry is not controlled by lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies, who in my opinion, have a stake in making our kids sicker….

THREE U.S. ORGANIC BABY FORMULA MANUFACTURERS

1) One manufacturer is PBM Nutritionals, owned by Perrigo, the world’s largest manufacturer of private label (store-brand) over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. PBM makes organic formula for its own Vermont Organics and Bright Beginnings brands. It also manufacturers organic formula for Hain Celestial’s Earth’s Best brand, Whole Foods Market’s 365 Organic brand, and Walmart’s Parent’s Choice brand.

2) Similac Organic is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. Abbott, a major manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in the U.S., introduced Similac Organic in 2006.

3) Finally, Baby’s Only Organic is developed and marketed by Nature’s One. Nature’s One markets Baby’s Only Organic formula as a “toddler formula” rather than an infant formula (according to the company, this is done to encourage breastfeeding until age 1). Its products meet the same nutritional standards that the FDA sets forth for infant formula.

INGREDIENTS IN MOST U.S. ORGANIC BABY FORMULAS

These companies are trying to mimic human milk but are adding:

1) sweeteners (mostly corn based) instead of organic lactose sugar (The European Union banned sugar-sweetened infant formula in 2009, due to concerns with rising rates of childhood obesity and the possibility that overly sweet formula might lead to overfeeding)

2) Palm oil which creates soaps in your baby’s gut! Since palmitic acid from palm oil is not absorbed properly, it means overall fat absorption is lower in babies given formula with palm oil. Bone mass is significantly lower in babies given formula containing palm oil, perhaps because the calcium in the baby’s intestines turns into “soap” rather than reaching the baby’s growing bones. And the “soapiness” in the intestines also leads to hard stools. Sadly I have found that most organic baby formulas, including Hipp and Kabrita, list palm oil in their ingredients 🙁

3) Synthetic DHA & ARA. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Both are naturally found in human milk, and DHA is a component of brain and eye tissue. But the DHA and ARA added to most brands of infant formula are extracted from factory-produced C. Cohnii and M. Alpina—specific strains of algae and fungus that have never been part of the human diet, let alone the diet of infants. When the C. Cohnii and M. Alpina oils first appeared in infant formula, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received dozens of reports from physicians and parents who noticed diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal distress in infants given formula with these oils—symptoms that disappeared when the infant was switched to the exact same formula without these additives. When the USDA received legal complaints against the unapproved use of C. Cohnii and M. Alpina oils, a Washington lobbyist with the powerful law firm of Covington and Burling convinced USDA officials to open a loophole in the organic standards, which would allow the formula manufacturers to add the unapproved ingredients without facing enforcement action. While the USDA has since admitted that this was inappropriate, the agency has failed to take enforcement action and continues to bow to pressure from the infant formula industry. Kabrita lists DHA and ARA on its packaging, but after reading the ingredients, I did not see C. Cohnii and M. Alpina listed.

4) Carageenan. The US food industry, including the infant formula industry, has responded for decades by claiming that carrageenan is safe. It is prohibited in infant formula—conventional and organic—in the European Union. Carrageenan contributes no nutritional value or flavor to formula, or other food, but is added to stabilize ready-to-feed formula. Adding carrageenan means parents or caregivers do not have to shake the product before feeding it to the baby. The alternative is to put a “shake well” label on the bottle.

5) Synthetic Preservatives & Nutrients (two synthetic preservatives: ascorbyl palmitate and beta-carotene. Synthetic nutrients: lutein, lycopene, nucleotides, taurine, l-carnitine and l-methionine.)

  • Nicole Steel

    Fantastic post Samira. We currently have a 4 month old and I too needed to supplement with formula after exclusively nursing our first son for 1 year. I have to say, when you dig deeper and discover the ingredients and that lobbyists/pharmaceuticals are all over this, it makes me sick to my stomach and want to start a campaign to educate moms. I have been shipping HIPP Infant Formula from England. While we are fortunate to be able to this, it is cost prohibitive for most! I will definitely be spending time and energy on this in the near future!

    • Thanks Nicole – apologies for the delayed response as I just saw this comment! I totally agree with you – it’s worth cutting costs in other areas of life in order to be able to purchase a better formula for our precious babies!! Thanks for commenting!

  • Jonathan Collins

    Thank you for this post, Samira! As parents we all share the same discontent with the products offered in the U.S. Unfortunately, I came to realize what the situation here is only when my wife was pregnant with our first son. It was a frustrating moment but our search also led to the same European products which you mentioned in your post. To be specific, we found out that HIPP products are one of the best products available in Europe. However, the most difficult part was how to get hold of such products which are not produced in the U.S. We found a very good and reliant supplier here. The online store is called https://myorganicformula.com/pages/about-us and it offers very good prices. We’ve been ordering organic formulas ever since our first son was born. Our second son who is now 8 months old is crazy about the milk, so we’ll definitely keep ordering it in the next couple of months unless something changes here in the U.S.

  • Alaina Moore

    Hey, fellow Hipp user here. We buy from organic start.com and they are hardly ever out of stock. The best part is our formula gets delivered within 3 days of ordering, sometimes sooner. Just wanted to share that site with you, because I know it stinks having to give a different brand while waiting for the good stuff!

  • Dario Sanchevelli

    Thanks Samira for this post , I have actually a 6 months and I need to take the HA formula from Hipp stage 1 . There are not so many websites offering the option for hypoallergenic version for Hipp formula stage 1 and PRE . I found this page https://www.bestorganicformula.com/product/hipp-formula-stage-pre-ha/ that it sell it , but the product isn’t in stock .
    I would like to know if there some other websites that I can found the Hypoallergenic formula for a reasonable price .