The Best Baby Formula Options and what we fed our daughter

What to feed our babies is a controversial topic… there’s the whole breast is best versus fed is best debate, and within each of those topics there’s debate over which bottles to use, diet for mom when breastfeeding, and of course which formula is best. I’m just here to talk about that last one: what is the best baby formula?

Disclaimers

Before we get started I have a few disclaimers…

  1. Yes, I know you can induce lactation which can allow you to breastfeed even as an adoptive mother. But for lots of reasons we came to the conclusion this would not be best for our situation.
  2. I’m not a doctor or a registered dietitian. I’m a mom (and an NTP) who cares a whole lot about what goes into my baby’s body and I’m sharing what has worked for us in her first year of life. Always do your own research and talk with your doctor before making any changes.
  3. I’m not here to shame anyone if they have made different choices for their child because of budgetary reasons, accessibility, or they didn’t know better or don’t agree. We’re all just doing our best for our kids.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff…

Things I wanted to avoid…

  • non organic ingredients
  • soy
  • corn
  • artificial thickeners and sweeteners
  • synthetic long chain polyunsaturated fats (DHA and ARA) extracted with hexane

Things I looked for…

  • organic and grass fed 
  • as close to breast milk as possible (duh )
  • the right amount of protein (not too much)

HiPP Organic Formula met these standards most closely, and so that’s the predominant infant formula Parker has received in her first year of life.

Unlike other formulas I looked at, HiPP contains the long-chain polyunsaturated fats that breast milk would naturally contain. It has all of the B vitamins, more minerals, including three different forms of calcium, which is good because they’re absorbed in different parts of the digestive tract. It has added tryptophan and tyrosine to more closely match the amino acid profile of breast milk. And there are added probiotics. They also use biodynamic farming practices and test for 1000 different toxins. Some formulas also have extra protein which can lead to metabolic problems later in life (like obesity ), but HiPP has the appropriate amount for growing babies. 

The ingredients differ slightly based on which version (UK, Dutch or German) and which stage. For example, the German Stage 1 contains starch and the UK Stage 1 doesn’t. Also, Stage 2 and up no longer contain the added DHA and ARA, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re formula shopping.

My Top Baby Formula Picks

We’ve tried a few different options in addition to HiPP for several reasons, but to sum it up here are my favorites….

Favorites (cow’s milk)

  1. HiPP Organic Formula
  2. Lebenswert (missing some added nutrients to make it more similar to breast milk)

Favorites (goat milk)

  1. Nannycare
  2. Holle (contains corn)

Favorites (US company – found at Target, Amazon, etc.)

  1. Happy Baby Organic (not grass fed and contains soybean oil and soy lecithin and smells gross IMHO)

Our formula feeding experience

Because Parker was born 9 weeks early, she spent her first month of life in the NICU. She was initially given donor milk which we are so grateful for, but before she could be discharged, they switched her to formula, Similac Neosure to be specific. This formula is extra concentrated for preemie babies to get extra calories and nutrients into their tiny tummies. It also does not meet the standards I listed in my previous post, so as soon as we could we switched her over to HiPP. 

We started with the “Pre” version that doesn’t contain added starch (starch helps keep baby full longer, but with Parker being born premature we wanted her full of nutrients, not starch, since she ate so little at the beginning). Then we moved to Stage 1 when she was closer to 5-6 months and Stage 2 around 9-10 months. 

At one point Parker was spitting up a lot and I thought maybe she was reacting to the cows milk so we tried HiPP’s hypoallergenic version which made her spit up more, and we tried a goat milk formula called Nannycare because goat milk tends to be more easily digested compared to cow. She did great on the Nannycare but it was pricier so we switched her back to HiPP after a month or so and she no longer had the issues with spitting up.

We also tried Lebenswert at one point when I couldn’t find the stage of HiPP formula I wanted in stock. This formula also has very clean, grass fed and organic ingredients but it’s missing some of the added nutrients that make HiPP closer to breast milk. However, some of these would be found in the milk that it is made from itself. And back in September, Parker and I were traveling and our trip was extended and I didn’t have enough formula to last for the extra days, so I ran to Target and picked up the best (IMHO) American option, Happy Baby Organic. It is organic, but the milk it is made from is not grass fed and it contains soy. It also has that icky formula smell, unlike the European formulas we have tried which just smell like milk.

Now that she is older but not quite ready to transition off formula, we are going to try Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula and see how she does with that. While this one is produced in Europe as well, it is an American company and is therefore easier to get here than the European formulas. I’ve had to purchase her formula from 4-5 different online companies due to companies being out of stock or shut down by the FDA. So I’m hoping this will be a convenient, and still very nutritious, option for her in addition to the nutrient dense real foods we feed her.

Adoptive parents, hopeful adoptive parents, or parents who need an alternative to breastfeeding for any reason, I hope this post helps you navigate the many different options there are out there for feeding our babies.

In vibrant health,

This post is not sponsored by any of these companies, nor did I receive any of these products for free. This is just a compilation of the research I’ve done and our experience with formula feeding.