For most new moms, there’s SO.MUCH.ANXIETY around figuring out how to be a mom. It’s just A LOT. From swaddling, to breastfeeding, to wake windows, to diaper changes, to making sure your baby is eating enough…the list of things that induce anxiety feels endless.
And if you’re a mom like me, who struggled with breastfeeding and had to make the tough decision about which formula to give to your baby, you might feel sad, confused, disappointed, and overwhelmed.
On top of that, you may take a quick peek at the ingredient list on the formulas on the shelf and be extremely disheartened by what you see – or you may just be overwhelmed by the options and not know where to start, all while wanting to provide the best nutrition for your beautiful little babe.
I felt the same way.
I had anticipated that my breastfeeding journey with my son would be very similar to my mom’s experience. She had an easy and enjoyable time breastfeeding both me and my sister for over two years with each of us.
My experience was VERY different and I ended up needing to supplement my breastmilk with formula. The shift in expectation versus reality was HARD, but what was even harder was thinking about giving my son formula that lacked the nutrient-density of breast milk. In fact, it made me sick to my stomach to think about giving him the formula that loaded with ingredients that I don’t consume myself.
Babies are growing SO FAST and so much is developing for them in that first year. Nutrition is paramount to building the healthiest little baby – both mind AND body.
This post is here to help you to navigate formulas purely from a nutrition perspective. I understand that there might be many reasons why you choose to give your baby a certain formula, and my goal is for you to have information about what’s being put into formulas and how to find cleaner options for your baby if that’s your desire.
Ingredients that do NOT build the healthiest little babe possible:
-corn syrup solids
-non-fat milk (versus whole milk – baby’s brains NEED fat)
-folic acid (instead of folate): folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Not everyone can convert folic acid into folate so it’s important to have folate in the formula so that it’s bioavailable for everyone.
-seed oils (aka vegetable oils) which include canola, sunflower, soybean, and safflower oil (there are more but these are the most common)
Additionally, most formulas also are NOT tested for heavy metals UNLESS it has the “clean label project” certification on it.
Here is the ingredient list for a formula that a friend of mine said was recommended to her by BOTH her pediatrician and a lactation consultant.
I’ve bolded the most concerning ingredients.
INGREDIENTS: LACTOSE, VEGETABLE OILS (PALM OLEIN, SOY, COCONUT, HIGH-OLEIC SAFFLOWER OR HIGH-OLEIC SUNFLOWER), WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE (REDUCED IN MINERALS), NONFAT DRY MILK, AND LESS THAN 2% OF: SOY LECITHIN, CALCIUM CITRATE, POTASSIUM CITRATE, CORN MALTODEXTRIN, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, 2′-O-FUCOSYLLACTOSE, C. COHNII OIL, M. ALPINA OIL, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CHOLINE BITARTRATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SODIUM CHLORIDE, TAURINE, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE, NUCLEOTIDES (CYTIDINE 5′-MONOPHOSPHATE, DISODIUM URIDINE 5′-MONOPHOSPHATE, ADENOSINE 5′-MONOPHOSPHATE, DISODIUM GUANOSINE 5′-MONOPHOSPHATE), INOSITOL, FERROUS SULFATE, ALPHA-TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS, ASCORBYL PALMITATE, L-HISTIDINE, ZINC SULFATE, NIACINAMIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, B. LACTIS CULTURES, L-CARNITINE, COPPER SULFATE, VITAMIN A ACETATE, RIBOFLAVIN, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, MANGANESE SULFATE, CITRIC ACID, POTASSIUM IODIDE, FOLIC ACID, PHYLLOQUINONE, BIOTIN, SODIUM SELENATE, VITAMIN D3, VITAMIN B12.CONTAINS: MILK AND SOY
What about organic brands?
Many organic brands still contain inflammatory and nutrient-lacking ingredients. Here’s the ingredient list for a popular one, again with concerning/inflammatory ingredients highlighted.
Organic Lactose, Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic High Oleic (Safflower Or Sunflower) Oil, Organic Soybean Oil, Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Organic Coconut Oil, Less Than 1%: Organic Soy Lecithin, Schizochytrium Sp. Oil*, Mortierella Alpina Oil**, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Hydroxide, Potassium Phosphate, Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Bicarbonate, Ferrous Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Choline Bitartrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Inositol, Mixed Tocopherol Concentrate, D -Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Niacinamide (Vitamin B ), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B.), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B.), Folic Acid, Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Biotin, Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D ), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B.2). *A Source Of Docosahexaenoic Acid (Dha)
What about European brands?
Many European brands are touted as being more nutrient-dense than American brands, and to some degree, this is true as European ingredients standards are more stringent than those of the U.S.
However, there are still concerns. Here is the ingredient list for a popular European brand (don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s organic).
Skimmed Milk*, Whey Product*, Vegetable Oils* ( Palm Oil*, Rapeseed Oil*, Sunflower Oil*) Lactose*, Prebiotic (Galacto-Oligosaccharides* From Lactose), Whey Protein, Fish Oil1, Calcium Chloride, Potassium Citrate, Choline, Mortierella Alpina Oil, Sodium Citrate, L-Phenylalanine, Calcium Salts Of Orthophosphoric Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, L-Tryptophan, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Stabilizer Lactic Acid, Vitamin C, Natural Lactic Acid Bacteria (Lactobacillus Fermentum Hereditum®2), Niacin, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B1 Potassium Iodate, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenic Acid, Vitamin K, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D, D-Biotin, Vitamin B12
Are there ANY good options?
This is what I fed my son and felt soooo good about it.
I LOVE that the milk is the A2 milk protein which is easier to digest. My son is lactose-intolerant and thrived on this formula. Now that he is drinking whole milk (he’s 15 months), he continues to drink an A2 whole milk. We love Alexandre’s which is organic, grass-fed whole milk made on a regenerative farm. This milk is what’s used in Serenity Kids’ formula.
It is branded as a “toddler” formula, but only because they are a small business that doesn’t have the funding to get approved by the FDA to be considered an infant formula. I personally ran the formula by my son’s pediatrician before giving it to him and encourage you to do the same.
Here is what their website says about the toddler formula designation:
“This product is not an infant formula so we are not allowed to recommend this product for infants. Our Toddler Formula contains the required FDA nutrients for infant formula, however, it has not yet gone through the FDA evaluation process that is required for infant formula. So until then, we can only recommend our Grass Fed A2 Whole Milk Toddler Formula for children ages 12 months and up, or as directed by a health professional.”
To learn more about this formula and its nutrient-density, check out this podcast episode. You can also learn more about formula’s nutrients as well as why they are labeled a “toddler” formula.
This formula is also “clean label project” certified which means that every batch is third-party tested for over 200 different contaminants (that have long-term potential to adversely affect health and well-being) including heavy metals, glyphosate, agrochemicals, plastics, and other toxins.
Here is the ingredient list for Serenity Kids:
Organic Lactose, Organic A2 Whole Milk Powder, Organic Galactooligosaccharides, Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Palm Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, Less Than 2% of: Human Milk Oligosaccharides (2′-Fucosyllactose, Lacto-N-Neotetraose), Organic Inulin, Algal Oil, Organic Sunflower Lecithin, Organic Egg Lecithin, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Nucleotides (Adenosine-5-Monophosphate, Cytidine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Inosine-5-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine-5-Monophosphate), Choline Bitartrate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Inositol, Natural Mixed Tocopherols, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Methylcobalamin, Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Copper Sulfate, Ascorbic Acid, L-Methylfolate, Kelp Powder, Manganese Glycinate, Phylloquinone, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin D2.
CONTAINS: Milk, Egg
(Palm Oil is NOT an inflammatory oil. The key factor with it is making sure it’s sustainably sourced which it is in Serenity Kids.)
Hot tip: purchase the formula directly from their website and subscribe to regular shipments for 20% off your purchase.
(***This post is NOT sponsored in any way. I just really believe in giving our babies the most nutrient-dense diet for their little bodies and hope this can help you to navigate the layered and stressful decision of how to feed your baby.)
What if I can’t get my hands on Serenity Kids?
Here are two other options. These both DO contain inflammatory oils and folic acid. However, they are free from soy, corn syrup gluten, corn, and DO contain whole milk. Both are organic, and the quality of the milk is also extremely high.
Kendamil: made in the UK
Ingredient list: WHOLE MILK (107G PER 100G), DEMINERALISED WHEY POWDER ENRICHED IN ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN (FROM MILK), VEGETABLE OILS (SUNFLOWER, COCONUT, RAPESEED),
LACTOSE (FROM MILK), GALACTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (FROM MILK), SKIMMED MILK POWDER, CALCIUM CITRATE, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, CALCIUM LACTATE, SODIUM CITRATE, CHOLINE BITARTRATE, FRUCTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES, MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE, OIL FROM THE MICROALGAE SCHIZOCHYTRIUM SP., SODIUM ASCORBATE, POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE, INOSITOL, L-TYROSINE, OIL FROM MORTIERELLA ALPINA, TAURINE, NUCLEOTIDES (CYTIDINE-5’-MONOPHOSPHATE, DISODIUM URIDINE-5’-MONOPHOSPHATE, ADENOSINE-5’-MONOPHOSPHATE, DISODIUM INOSINE-5’-MONOPHOSPHATE, DISODIUM GUANOSINE-5’-MONOPHOSPHATE), L-PHENYLALANINE, IRON PYROPHOSPHATE, ZINC SULPHATE, VITAMIN E, NIACIN, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, COPPER SULPHATE, THIAMIN, RIBOFLAVIN, VITAMIN A, VITAMIN B6, MANGANESE SULPHATE, FOLIC ACID, POTASSIUM IODIDE, SODIUM SELENITE, VITAMIN K, VITAMIN D3, BIOTIN, VITAMIN B12.
By Heart: also clean label certified
organic grass-fed whole milk, organic lactose, organic vegetable oils (organic high oleic sunflower, organic low erucic rapeseed, organic coconut, organic sunflower), organic galactooligosaccharides†, alpha-lactalbumin* whey protein, whey protein hydrolysate, less than 1%: lactoferrin°, dha algal oilȣ (schizochytrium), mortierella alpina oil¥, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d3, vitamin e acetate, vitamin k1, thiamin hydrochloride, riboflavin, vitamin b6 hydrochloride, vitamin b12, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, folic acid, biotin, ascorbic acid, mixed tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate, l-carnitine, inositol, calcium phosphate, sodium citrate, calcium carbonate, potassium citrate, ferrous sulfate, potassium chloride, magnesium phosphate, calcium chloride, zinc sulfate, cupric sulfate, manganese sulfate, potassium iodide, sodium selenate, potassium bicarbonate, choline chloride. contains: milk
Note: By Heart has had some supply chain issues and is often out of stock.
Final thoughts: I know the decision of what to feed your baby is VERY sensitive and multi-faceted. My goal in sharing this information is NOT to shame anyone for how they feed their baby. As the parent, it is ALWAYS your choice, and you will do what you believe is best for your baby.
My goal in sharing this is to support the parents out there who, like me, want some information and support when navigating the formula aisle and help understanding which ingredients to look for as the most nutrient-dense and which to spot as inflammatory and lacking in nutrients.