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Baby Formula Roundup

Baby Formula Roundup

Being a mom is hard. You try your best to keep yourself and your baby alive, and most days this involves milk stains, breakdowns, and poop on your clothes. Then people start to lecture you on how your child will end up defective because of this product or that product or this thing or that thing.

I am a neuroscientist with a strong chemistry, biochemistry, and neurodevelopmental-pharmacology background. Although my largest credential is being a mom, I have made it my mission and passion in life to share scientific research, studies, and clinical trials with parents in an approachable way. I feel that most bloggers dumb down information too much and miss important points. I also feel that most published papers are too dense with statistics and methodology for most non-science mamas to wade through.

And that brings us here. To my mission and journey as a mom doing research for my own family in an attempt to live a healthier and HAPPIER life. At the end of the day, joy is so valuable to health. Never let anyone take that from you.

This information is provided with my disclaimer in mind, for educational purposes. Always consult with your pediatrician and physician regarding your child’s needs.

Important Factors to consider when evaluating formulas

The following categories are things that I would look into with a critical mind when choosing the right formula for your infant. I absolutely think that dietary and allergy issues should be taken into account, and the best formula for my family is not necessarily the best formula for yours!

Whey Protein

You have probably heard of Whey Protein because it is one of the proteins that we see all over GNC and other health stores!

But few of us really know WHAT Whey Protein actually is. In mammalian milk, there are two main protein parts — the liquid part which is known as the Whey, and the curd or solid portion which is known as the Casein. When milk coagulates, it separates into these two parts in the stomach and intestines. Whey proteins, which remain in their “liquid” form are therefore easier to digest than their casein counterparts.

Because the coagulated casein proteins are more dense, they take longer to digest and result in more allergies and greater discomfort for babies that are already inclined to struggle with colic, gassiness, or fussiness.

So now we understand that Whey and Casein both contribute to the protein composition of mammalian milk….how much whey does human breast milk contain?

Cows milk is 20% whey and 80% casein Human breast milk is 60% whey and 40% casein Goats milk is 20% whey and 80% casein

When choosing a formula, you want to look for a formula that is mammalian milk based, as this has the greatest similarity to human breastmilk, the largest amount of MFGM (see below), and the closest similarity in protein composition to breast milk (that 60:40 whey:casein ratio)


The European version of the FDA is monitored by the European Union and is known as the European Commission. The EC regulates baby formula, organic vegetable farming, and so much more. Maltodextrin in the US is not necessarily bad in formula when seen on an ingredient list, but because it is almost always a corn derivative, one then has to consider the pesticides and herbicides used on the corn. The FDA does not regulate this, but tthe EC does. Their corn production is highly regulated, and the system was designed to prevent organic corn from containing any toxic substances.

As a result, European corn-derived maltodextrin is far less likely to contain any toxic ingredients than American organic maltodextrin.

Palm Oil {BAD} and Alternatives

It is shocking to me how many baby formulas contain palm oil. Palm oil is high in saturated fats and it was deemed unsafe and unhealthy for adult consumption.

Formula companies, however, often incorporate it into baby formula. When it is the primary fat in a baby formula, that is bad news.


  • Lower fat absorption and lower calcium absorption, which results in lower bone density

  • Palm oil formulas are not ideal choices for preemies and babies born early due to the way that it effects fat absorption

Plot twist, breastmilk contains palmitic acid, found in palm oil. This is because the fatty acid contents of breast milk are effected by what the mother producing the breast milk eats. Companies often try to say that palm oil and palmitic acid are in breastmilk, and while this is true, the breastmilk and formula options are VERY different.

Palmitic acid in formula is absorbed very differently when sourced from palm olein oil, than the palmitic acid found in breast milk. It is much more difficult to digest and creates problems in the small intestine. When the palmitic acid in formula remains undigested, it attracts calcium clusters and forms these insoluble balls in the small intestine. This is bad, because INSOLUBLE translates to UNUSABLE as far as the small intestines are concerned. Because the calcium is bound up in this palm oil, palmitic acid chunk, it is eventually, and with much difficulty, passed by the baby, but the palm oil AND the calcium are pooped out — wasting and eliminating your babies’ calcium reserves.

Breast milk palmitic acid has a different chemical structure than that found in formula — think organic chemistry. Check out this article by Kabrita (who makes Toddler formula) which has some really nice images that provide a good visual.

So, Katie, you’ve convinced me. Palm oil sounds bad.

What are my alternatives?

Look for organic plant-based vegetable oils. Expeller or Cold Pressed oils are so much better than hot-pressed or hexane extracted oils. They preserve the nutrients and do not introduce harsh chemicals during the extraction process.

Coconut Oils is a GREAT alternative. This has been being added recently. If you can find a baby formula with coconut oil higher up in the list of ingredients, that is a great sign.

Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, which are absorbed easily. Medium Chain triglycerides, instead of long-chains, are digested more readily for babies that may struggle with fat absorption.

  • Organic High Oleic Sunflower or Safflower Oil

  • Organic Soybean Oil

  • Organic Coconut Oil

These three oils are great options

Rapeseed oil is also present in some American and European formulas. Although not as good as the three oils listed above, the fatty acid structure of rapeseed oil is very effective in helping the body to process these essential Omega-3 fatty acids

Corn Syrup and Added Sugars MFGM – Milk Fat Globule Membrane

Milk fat globule membrane has been demonstrated, in recent years, to be an omportant ingredient in neural development. As a neuroscientist and clinical practitioner, this is near and dear to my heart. MFGM is a protein-lipid complex. It basically provides a protective bubble to the fat globules that are found in mammalian milk….a.k.a. it is present in cow, goat, and human breastmilk. Originally fat was thought to be a negative, and consuming large amounts of fat at a young age has been linked to the permanent development of fat cells — I have a whole blurb on this if you keep scrolling. Milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), a protein-lipid complex surrounding the fat globules in milk, has many health benefits but is usually removed from formula when they are homogenized.

However, recent progress in extraction technologies of MFGM from unpasteurized cow’s milk has made its upscaling a possibility,13 and has allowed researchers to examine the effects of its addition to formula in animal models and in clinical studies.

Emerging evidence from a recent clinical study showed MFGM in formula supports cognitive development similar to breast milk. Infants fed with formulas that have MFGM generally test higher on cognitive development testing and immunity, as compared to those not given formula with MFGM.

Goat Milk Fat Globule Research Non-Bovine MFGM Research and its relation to cell apoptosis and cancer Roles of MFGM in Infant Development

Enfamil Neuropro has added MFGM, unlike other formulas, MFGM formulas did not result in changes in growth, but they were linked to neural development improvement, as were other formula components, such as DHA, ARA, and other fats.

Pre and ProBiotics

Prebiotics and Probiotics are important for our little babes to aid with digestion and immunity. There are a bunch of different kinds of prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the human body cannot digest. They serve as food for probiotics, which are tiny living microorganisms, including bacteria and yeast. Both prebiotics and probiotics may support helpful bacteria and other organisms in the gut. 2′-FL HMO, or 2′-fucosyllactose (FL) human milk oligosaccharide HMO; is a prebiotic found naturally in breast milk.

About 80 percent of mothers make 2′-FL in their breast milk. Excluding water, HMOs are the third most abundant ingredient in breast milk after fat and carbohydrates.

Early Life HMO – Nature’s Prebiotic is available for purchase on Amazon, although it is not recognized by the FDA as it is produced in Germany.

Previously only found in Mother’s Milk HMO (2′-FL) sold by Early Life brand is naturally produced via fermentation without the problematic bi-products produced via chemical synthesis.

  • earlyLife HMO has achieved the FDA’s highest safety rating of “Infant GRAS” (Generally Regarded As Safe for Infants)


They are currently working on developing it in the US through BASF for private sale. It is also present in several US formulas — Similac and Gerber Good Start in particular. GOS – Galactoligosaccharides – are the other main prebiotic, present in many of these formulas.

There are numerous probiotics available on the market as well.

One brand that combines many different combinations is the GUTPRO INFANT PROBIOTIC POWDER It has: L. salivarius, L. gasseri, B. lactis, B. longum, B. breve, B. bifidum, B. infantis all of which serve different purposes.

Bovine vs. Caprine Milk a.k.a. COW VS. GOAT

I was really intrigued by differences between Cow and Goat milk formulas. Because MFGM is so important to babies’ health, I wanted to find out if there was potentially more fat, or more MFGM, or more anything in Goat’s milk.

I also know that Goat’s milk is often recommended for babies with more sensitive stomachs and I wanted to find out WHY.

Here’s what you can expect from a one-cup serving of goat milk, according to the USDA:

  • 170 calories

  • 9 grams of protein

  • 10 grams of fat

  • 11 grams of carbohydrates

  • 11 grams of sugars

  • 25 milligrams of cholesterol

Meanwhile, here’s what a one-cup serving of whole cow milk offers, per the USDA:

  • 160 calories

  • 8 grams of protein

  • 9 grams of fat

  • 11 grams of carbohydrates

  • 11 grams of sugars

  • 30 milligrams of cholesterol

So when it comes to macronutrients, goat milk and cow milk are almost identical. Goat milk comes out on top for protein and cholesterol, but cow milk’s fat content is ever so slightly lower.

And as far as vitamins and minerals go, both milks have a lot to offer, just in different amounts. Goat milk has more calcium, potassium and vitamin A than cow milk, but cow milk has more vitamin B12, selenium and folic acid.

Data retrieved from here

When comparing proteins and fats from these various sources, it is important to remember or Whey discussion above. As a reminder, Casein is not soluble. Because of the calcium clumps it forms, it is hard to break down in baby tummies. All Casein is surrounded by these floating sphere things that allow them to mix around in liquid called Micelles.

Goat protein micelles are larger and the Casein proteins are slightly different when compared to their bovine counterparts.

Because there is more surface area in the goats milk micelles, it forms a softer larger curd which is easier to digest because it has a larger surface area, and therefore, is easier to digest in small intestine. In the small intestine these micelles are then digested using enzyme and acidic action.


Parents used to be told that fat was bad for babies, as it would result in an inability to combat obesity later in life. Since that time, a newer popular model has emerged. People believe that different foods will affect them in different ways (e.g., a carb calorie is far worse for you that a protein calorie) and they also feel that genetic and neurobiological components have larger effects on ones pre-disposition for obesity.

Obesity is linked to many illnesses, however, recent research ACTUALLY demonstrates that these findings provide evidence that MFGM may PROTECT against diet-induced adiposity by suppressing adipogenesis and promoting brown-like transformation.

TRANSLATION: MFGM protects against getting fat from your diet by suppressing the creation of new fat cells.

European vs. American Formula

Many health conscious parents have switched to importing European formula for their children. When looking at the formula options for my son, I wanted to consider everything available, and was intrigued to determine whether this was simply a trend, or if the European formulas offered something that we did not have here in the states.

Many parents that jump to defend American formulas claim that European formulas are not as well regulated or controlled because they do not have to meet FDA compliance. They also state that they are lacking critical nutrients and do not have any regulations on DHA/ARA content.

As of 2020, this is no longer the case. I explain briefly above, the role of the European Commission in regulating baby formula and organic/grass-fed components. In many situations, I feel that they regulate additives and chemicals better than the FDA. However, I would encourage you to look into this further on your own.

If you’re interested in learning more about European Formulas click here.

As for the DHA/ARA debate, the EC is now requiring a certain level of DHA and ARA in most formulas. Unlike the FDA, the EC and EU require this DHA and ARA to be naturally sourced and not hexane extracted, unlike US options. I have gotten explicit numbers for several popular formulas and wanted to compare them to American competitors.

Experts in the US recommend that DHA should account for 0.2% to 0.36% of total fatty acids in the formula.

  • Holle Bio Stage 1 has 19.4mg of DHA/100ml, 52mg of ALA/100ml

  • HiPP Stage 1 UK has 13.2mg of DHA/100ml

  • Enfamil Neuropro (with added DHA) has 17mg of DHA/100kcal

I noticed that there were differences between the amount of DHA in these formulas. If you are solely feeding formula, this matters. If you are supplementing with food and purees or breastfeeding in combination, this matters less, as your baby will be getting DHA from you or the food he is eating. Read below to learn more about what DHA is and where to find it.

DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid. Natural sources of chemicals and supplements are always better than artificial or chemically developed ones, as they are more easily digested in the human body.

Natural sources of DHA – seafood, salmon, clams, eggs, tuna, mussels, basically most seafood.

While breastfeeding mothers can transmit larger amounts of DHA from the foods that they eat there are also several things to keep in mind when sourcing DHA naturally. Fish have extremely high levels of chemical toxins in addition to their increased levels of DHA. Toxins present in some fish include arsenic, mercury, PCBs, DDT, dioxins, and lead in their flesh and fat.

The polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and chlorinated pesticides. are particularly dangerous in farm raised fish. Antibiotics used in farm-raised fish are also very dangerous. When purchasing salmon and tuna from farms, Chile is considered some of the safest and best by experts, while European salmon farms are the worst.

While we always think that wild caught fish is THE BEST option, it is important to be cognizant of the highly levels of mercury present in wild fish, as it is usually higher than farm-raised counterparts.

As mentioned above, DHA is present in fish, fish oil, and this weird algae stuff called Crypthecodinium cohnii algae

American formulas that have added DHA/ARA are almost entirely sourced from this Crypthecodinium cohnii algae. Although initially it seems like a natural source, this algae is artificially sourced, grown in labs, synthetically fed, and then the DHA is extracted using the hexane extraction method.

In the US, the only formulas that do not include hexane extracts DHA/ARA are the honest company formulas and the Baby’s Only formulas. All the other formulas source these fatty acids from hexane extraction from algae. The extraction process uses hexane; there are contamination levels in the formula from the hexane. Honest company does not use hexane extraction, but there is also no added DHA/ARA in their formula. Baby’s Only HAS added DHA/ARA and it is sourced in a unique technique from eggs — very cool.

Toddler VS. Baby Formulas

*Note: toddler formulas are not FDA regulated – it is important to ensure all toddler formulas have the 29 nutrients within a specific range that the infant formulas have. DHA and Lutein are not required in toddler formulas. Receive a “generally recognized as safe” stamp by the FDA.

With infant formulas, manufacturing plants are batch tested randomly and inspected upon opening.

If you look at using a toddler formula, you have to look into whether the ingredients are sourced responsibly, the manufacturing plant is safe, and the ingredients necessary are in there.

Baby’s Only Toddler Formula – has fully intact protein, nutrients are appropriate for newborns according to Dr. Young, it is manufactured in a plant where infant formula is also produced: because they are all in the same plant the FDA also has to ensure that they are meeting the safety guidelines. FORMULA BREAKDOWN To see my detailed chart of all of the formulas I reviewed and researched after reading published trials and contacting companies for nutritional information, click here to download the excel breakdown from my freebies page.

Infant Formula Excel Sheet Breakdown

To see my detailed chart of all of the formulas I reviewed and researched after reading published trials and contacting companies for nutritional information, click here.


So this brings us to what I am doing?

I am currently breastfeeding my son and supplementing due to growth and production issues. I have been aiding my production with Basil and Fennel Essential Oils, but I hated the formula I was using for our son.

After weighing all of the options, I am using Loulouka Stage 1 Formula with the addition of NORDIC NATURALS DHA and GUTPRO INFANT PROBIOTIC POWDER. I am planning to switch to the Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Brand once Drew is a little bit older.

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