What is the difference between organic and regular formulas?

With so many different brands of formula available, it is hard to pick the right formula for your little one; it is a huge stress on parents because it is one of the biggest decisions you will have to make. Nowadays, there are many different ways of feeding your baby: you have breastfeeding, formula feeding, and breastfeeding alongside formula as a supplement. But where can you start to find the right one for your baby when there are so many stages, types, and ingredients contained in them?


We understand that most parents prefer organic formulas containing natural ingredients because they are the best and healthiest for your little one. Unfortunately, so many formulas are calling themselves “organic” when they still contain refined sugars and synthetic preservatives. In this blog, we’re going to explore what organic means and what the difference is between organic and regular formulas to help you make your decision on baby formula.


What is an organic formula and what does it mean?

While the word gets thrown around a lot to boast to customers that those items are healthy, saying the formula is “organic” means that it is free from pesticide residue, growth hormones, synthetic chemicals and preservatives, toxic substances, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). For a formula to be organic and certified, 95% or more of the ingredients must be organic - this standard is upheld by both the EU organic requirements and the USDA requirements. In the US the products should have the USDA organic seal; if they state that they are “made with organic ingredients,” it doesn’t state what percent of ingredients are organic.


What to look for in an organic formula

As discussed previously, just because it is made with ingredients considered to be organic, does not mean that the formula is healthy for your baby and contains the best quality ingredients. In US formulas, some contain organic products but also contain soy oil, which has terrible effects on children later on in their life. Furthermore, there’s nothing stopping manufacturers from using a cheaper sweetener such as corn syrup rather than the preferable ingredient lactose, the main carbohydrate found in breastmilk.


Besides comparing the labels, here’s what to look out for when choosing organic formula:


  • The main carbohydrate is lactose, which is a base of cow or organic goat’s milk.

  • Added whey, which helps make sure the composition of the milk protein is close to a replica of breast milk as possible.

  • Contains organic vegetable oils. This creates a similar fatty acid profile to breast milk.

  • If they contain prebiotics and probiotics because they are a fantastic addition that helps to build the microbiome.

  • A range of vitamins and minerals that are essential for your baby’s development.

  • Naturally derived omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. ARA and DHA) promote the brain, nervous system, and early eye development.

  • No synthetic preservatives.

  • No high processed sweeteners, such as glucose syrup, brown rice syrup, or corn syrup.


Differences in organic formulas in the US and EU

Breaking this down further, there are different standards and regulations in the EU and the US, and some key differences in formulas alongside it. Europe’s organic standards, as declared by the European Commission, are a lot stricter than the FDA’s standards for the US.


With European formulas, even if they aren’t organic, they must be free from pesticide residue, alongside a long list of prohibited items, such as pectins, fructans, guar gum, and carrageenan. There are more rules, with at least 30% of the carbohydrate source to come from lactose; this isn’t required in the US - even for formulas classing themselves as organic. While sucrose is contained in US formulas, it is banned from featuring in European formulas. There is an exception to the rule, where it is dosed in small quantities for babies that have feeding issues caused by either premature birth or cow’s milk protein allergy.


As well as this, many additional certifications go beyond the basic European Commission requirements. As an example, Holle Cow and Lebensert formulas have Demeter and Bioland certifications that assure customers the ingredients are sourced from biodynamic, non-GMO farms that have the best standards for ecosystem preservation, animal welfare, and sustainability. On the flip side, many US formulas are claiming they are from non-GMO farms, though there is no single definition for genetic modification that has been accepted yet, which means the manufacturers may not disclose whether their formulas do contain GMOs. Some of the best organic US formulas would be brands such as Happy Baby Organic and Earth’s Best; they contain lactose, whey, prebiotics, DHA, and ARA and none of the artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives you find in others.


Why OnlyFormula specializes in organic European formula

All of our formulas have the European Union’s organic seal, apart from our specialty formulas which contain hydrolyzed proteins unavailable in organic form. We have, and will always continue to, conduct extensive research into the world’s best organic formulas. This is how we’ve concluded that European formula ingredients are better, seeing as the nutritional composition of it is closer to breastmilk than the US formulas.


Here at OnlyFormula, we have placed all our confidence with brands such as Kendamill, HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert. We ensure that our formulas meet the highest standards for organic agriculture so you don’t have to worry about any hidden unhealthy ingredients.


If European formula is the one you’re considering, take a look at our formula recommendations for babies up to six months, and babies 6-12 months. As well as this you will find a guide on specialty formulas for sensitive eaters and babies with conditions such as milk protein intolerance, reflux, and constipation.


Our infant nutrition technicians would be happy to chat with you if you were still unsure about which formula is best for your baby. Every member of our OnlyFormula team has a certificate in infant nutrition so you can get great advice from experts in the field.