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What is the Best Formula?

While Breast Is Best, or so they say, (See my other blog article on this topic) the reality is that many women, for several reasons, can not breastfeed, need to supplement with formula or choose to strictly use formula. It is actually one of the most common questions that I have had as a baby nurse. Is it ok to supplement? And if so, what formula is the best for my baby? 90% of the moms that I work with do supplement, even if they are nursing as much as possible. Newborns grow at a rapid rate in the first several months and need to keep up their intake. One of the most common things is that babies are thought to have colic, and in reality, the baby is simply hungry! There are so many formulas on the market now and it can be very confusing to choose one. Some of the better choices are unfortunately from Europe, making them more difficult to obtain. However, there are some reputable sites that are are shipping rather quickly these days. Holle and Hipp are overall the best organic formula, in my opinion, in case you are too exhausted to read further.

Holle was founded in 1933 and uses milk from cows raised on biodynamic Demeter farms. These farms must strictly adhere to EU organic regulations and, moreover, to the even more stringent international Demeter regulations. Demeter farms allow their cows to graze on pastures – free of pesticides or chemical fertilizers – and is the reason for the superior quality of the milk produced.

Holle has recently introduced Stage Pre which uses lactose as its sweetener. (Best Case Scenario). In addition, part of the fat source comes from high-quality Demeter milk fat, as opposed to plant sources, thereby reducing the proportion of processed vegetable oils.Stage Pre contains DHA & ARA oils (hexane-free) but uses soy lecithin as an emulsifier.

Lebenswert was introduced by Holle in 2009. The milk of Lebenswert comes exclusively from organic farmers who follow the strict guidelines of Bioland farming. In this method of farming, man, animal and land are valued and respected. Organic Bioland farmers stand for species-appropriate stock breeding, plant protection and soil fertilization without chemical or synthetic agents and careful management of soil’s fertility. ​​Produce made under these requirements are sustainable and preserve nature. Lebenswert is free of maltodextrin, relying instead upon lactose (which more closely mimics breast milk) to lend sweetness to the formula. Lebenswert does still contain palm oil and canola oil (called “rapeseed oil”), but it is definitely a better choice overall. It also skips a bunch of the synthetic nutrients found in most of the organic formulas in America. The downfall of Lebenswert is that it is more $$$.

​​HiPP was founded in 1932 and began selling organic baby formula in 1956. The milk is sourced from farms using sustainable farming methods. HiPP has a network of more than 8,000 selected farmers and is the world’s largest processor of organic raw materials. HiPP formulas contain prebiotics and use lactose as its sweetener.

Palm oil and palm olein are commonly added to formula to help replicate the high palmitic acid content of breastmilk. But the structure of the fat molecules in palm oil (and other vegetable oils) is different from that found in breast milk, and the fats are digested differently. Palm oil and palm olein have been shown to inhibit the absorption of calcium and fat. On the other hand, plant-derived fats that match the structure of the most common fat molecules in breast milk have been shown to promote more healthy bacteria in the gut, reduce colic and gas, reduce constipation, and allow for fat and calcium to be absorbed better.

DHA/ARA. Most formulas now boast the addition of essential fatty acids DHA and ARA. DHA and ARA are long chain fatty acids found naturally in human breast milk, which make up the major long chain fats in baby’s brain and nerve tissue. We know that naturally occurring oils from food, food-based oils, and mom’s diet (in breast milk) is highly beneficial, but some studies have shown no benefits when DHA and ARA are added to formula.

Breast milk is naturally super sweet, so formulas invariably contain added sugars. The sweetener that most closely mimics that found in human milk is lactose, but this cow’s milk-based sweetener is expensive, so many manufacturers instead use plant-based sucrose. Other sweeteners include maltodextrin (made from rice, corn, or potatoes), and “glucose syrup solids,” which is just a clever name for corn syrup solids. Most organic formulas these days, even the superior European brands, seem to choose maltodextrin as a sweetener, since it’s cheaper than lactose and helps powdered formula dissolve quickly. While adding maltodextrin is not ideal, I believe that it’s better than white sugar or corn syrup. The best formulas will contain only lactose.


The views and beliefs expressed on this blog are purely my own. I am not a healthcare or medical professional. I do not have a degree in medicine or nutrition. I am writing this blog based solely off of my own personal experiences and research as a layperson. If you need medical advice, speak to your pediatrician. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned in many studies and articles and passing on this information.