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Organic Infant Formula 101: Facts for Beginners

Organic Infant Formula 101: Facts for Beginners

The whole point of organic infant formula is to ensure that you are providing your baby with the healthiest possible alternative to breast milk.

The reason we need an alternative to breast milk is that for any number of reasons. Some women cannot produce it in sufficient quantities, if at all for their babies.

If you find yourself in that situation, you are not alone. The Chicago Tribune reports that 1 to 5 percent of women do not produce enough milk to feed their babies.

Amid government sponsored messages like “breast is best,” these mothers may have to fight through the feelings of failure and find the absolute best alternative to the natural, life-giving substance they cannot provide.

The infant formula industry swoops in as the savior of the day. And, we would all be better off for it if that were the end of the story. Unfortunately, it is not.

We still have to deal with questions like, which is the safest organic formula for your child.

Did you know that the USDA Organic label only requires the product to be 95% organic? In the same way that non-alcoholic beer still contains some percentage of alcohol, organic infant formula can still contain non-organic elements, up to 5%.

That is only one of many facts about organic infant formula new mothers need to know, Here are a few more:

Good Vs. Bad Sugar

No matter how much you would like to completely eradicate it from your diet, sugar is a part of who we are. We are partly made of the stuff. It is an important part of breast milk.

If you happen to be lactose intolerant, you may be chagrined to discover that lactose is sugar, and not just any sugar. It is one of the key components to breast milk. If you are going to make a breast milk analog, you have got to have lactose (or something very much like it).

But, this is one of those areas where one has to carefully read labels and weigh the options. There are all kinds of sugar. And too much of it is bad for your baby’s health. If the milk has no sweetness, the baby will not drink it. If it is too sweet, you are setting up your baby for obesity and diabetes.

A number of popular organic formulas went from 100% lactose sweetener to 0% in favor of other sweeteners such as corn syrup. Organic formula companies are still businesses. And, price seems to have been the deciding factor over creating the closes possible analog to breast milk.

Know your sugars. And choose wisely.

Organic Infant Formula Oils

Some organic formulas use synthetic oils. Even if we eliminate synthetic oil, not all oils are created equally.

Remember, the point of the formula is to closely mimic natural breast milk. One of those ingredients manufacturers are after is the palmitic acid found in human milk. For this, palm oil is often used as the substitute.

But despite the naming similarities, palm oil contains a palmitic acid that is structurally different from that which is found in human milk. Human infants do not properly absorb it.

As a result, it can actually cause the formation of soaps in a baby’s intestines. This carries a number of serious consequences including lower bone mass due to the calcium being turned into soap, hard stools, and developmental issues.

Despite these well-documented concerns, many of the leading organic brands continue to use palm oil as a part of their formula. Even if you find a brand that doesn’t, you are far from done with reading the label.

Other Ingredients You Need to Avoid

Corn syrup, check. Palm oil, check. Scanning the label, you find neither of these two ingredients. But it is not yet safe to place that formula into the shopping cart and on the menu of your little one. There are other ingredients to avoid. You might also want to check for the following:

  • Soy
  • DHA/AHA
  • Carrageenan

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you void soy in baby formula apart from special circumstances. Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens which can cause developmental issues in pre-term babies.

The good news about Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) is that they are naturally occurring and essential fatty acids found in human milk. The problem is that it is very difficult to exactly reproduce what humans produce by nature.

The attempts to do this in a lab do not exactly equate to Frankensein’s monster. But, there are definitely problems worth avoiding. Besides these acids being made up of hundreds of compounds that are hard to reproduce in a lab, dangerous chemicals are a part of some attempts to produce it.

We are talking about small differences on a cellular level. But you wanted organic infant formula. And this is one of those little compromises that can have a big impact.

Carrageenan is one of the most controversial ingredients found in baby formula. Besides being linked to gastrointestinal issues, it is also thought to be a carcinogen. That is a cancer-causing agent for those keeping score. It has also been banned in the EU since 2007.

Conclusion: Love and Research

Choosing the right baby formula is a highly personal and technically difficult choice.

It seems there is no formula out there that eliminates all the bad ingredients you should avoid. There are also special needs to consider. Your baby might have allergies and other health issues that eliminate products that would have otherwise been good choices.

Beyond health are practical considerations. Mothers have to make the same choices as businesses every day. They have to consider the overall budget while balancing the art of the possible.

At the end of the day, you have to make the best decision you can based on a mother’s love and your best research. This also has to pass through the filter of family budget and practicality. Humans are highly adaptable. We figure out ways to thrive even in the most objectionable circumstances.

Remember that you are choosing between matters of degree. Even the worst organic infant formula is likely better than the non-organic alternatives. There is good reason to feel confident that with a little love and research, you and your baby are going to be just fine.