(The one that Laura Dern is obsessed with!)
While many parents start breastfeeding their babies at birth (83%, according to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC), just one out of four are breastfeeding exclusively by the six-month point.
This means that a lot of parents are choosing formula for their babies, either using it exclusively or as a supplement to breastmilk. And many of those parents find themselves wondering how to choose a formula. After all, there are so many options and it can feel overwhelming.
If you've been searching for formula options, you have likely come across information about European baby formula—and if you're like us, you have a lot of questions about it. How does European formula differ from formula made in the United States? Is it safe? Is it better? And how can I get my hands on some?
Well, we've got some answers. There is a new formula brand in town that specializes in European-style formula. It's called Bobbie, and we got to ask the founders all of our questions.
And we were even more intrigued when we found out the Laura Dern (swoon) is in love with this brand—and has some advice for you. Because the truth is that feeding our babies is hard. Dern had some kind words for the mothers that are struggling with this journey.
"Every mother wants to get it exactly right and there's no 'perfect' in motherhood—that's why they call it a journey of learning. There are so many other mothers like you with the same questions looking for the same answers. Be gentle with yourself, help is coming."
Sigh, thanks Laura Dern.
Before we dive into this new brand, it's important to address the controversy around European formula. The New York Times reported that "in some respects, food safety standards for products sold in the European Union are stricter than those imposed by the FDA. But there's no scientific evidence that imported European formulas are better for babies, pediatricians have said." European formula is not approved by the FDA though many parents go to great lengths to buy it.
Bobbie is made in the United States and is labeled as "European-style." The brand reports that "Bobbie's infant formula is inspired by the EU and meets the U.S. FDA's nutritional requirements."
Remember, your child's pediatrician should be your ally in deciding how to feed your baby and which formulas are best for them. Always ask any questions you have of them!
We asked Bobbie co-founders, Laura Modi and Sarah Hardy, our big questions about European-style formula and Bobbie. Here's what they had to say!
Let's talk about the difficult part first. When Bobbie first launched, it was recalled by the FDA. Can you share more about that?
Modi: The recall in 2019 was in regards to a labeling issue with our toddler formula that was made in Europe. The FDA felt that the label blurred the lines between infant and toddler formula, and we respect their priority to keep babies safe—so we pulled it. What's crazy is [that] without that hurdle, we would not be where we are today.
Because we handled it quickly, responsibly and with humility, we were able to land a trusted manufacturing group, Perrigo, in Vermont and [get] more funding to make our US-made, European-style infant formula a reality. It's almost like our C-section scar; it got us to our baby today and we wear it proudly!
How does European infant formula differ from American formula?
Hardy: There's a reason why so many parents are buying European formula off of what we describe as the most blatant black market of our generation, and it comes down to quality and sourcing. There are stark differences in some of the standards set by the EU and the US when it comes to formula.
Modi: And to add to some of the specific differences—a major one is around DHA. There is no required limit for DHA in infant formula in the US even though there is proven research on how it impacts brain development in babies. However, in the EU, it's at least 20mg/100kcal. Bobbie will proudly meet this requirement.
In addition, the EU also puts a cap on the use of some sugars, like corn syrup, whereas the US does not. But Bobbie is corn syrup-free.
The last call-out is that unlike EU formulas, Bobbie left out the palm oil and maltodextrin—so in a way, we like to think of ourselves as the best of regions.
Why are parents so eager to use European formula instead of American formula?
Hardy: European formula has taken off within the past few years with third-party distributors setting up digital marketplaces left and right. Beyond all of the nutritional reasons above, there is hype around European Formulas as "better" in the parenting community. Recent Pediatric research out of New York shows that almost 20% of NYC parents are importing European formula. That's a HUGE number of parents! It just goes to show that American parents are seeking an option that they can't find on the shelves here in the US and are willing to go to an unregulated source to find it.
Modi: The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services advised against using formulas that are 'improperly and illegally imported into the United States without mandated FDA review' in the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines. We are trying to give parents in the U.S. a safe alternative to EU formulas, that they can feel good about without having to turn to a black market, long shipping times or not know if their formulas have had safety issues.
Tell us about Bobbie, and what sets it apart!
Hardy: Bobbie is the only mom-founded and led infant formula company in the U.S. This is personal for me and our team. As a mother of three, including a pandemic baby, I have personally felt the pressure to breastfeed longer than I could or wanted to, and I am proud that Bobbie will support parents and nourish babies—including my own—with a European style recipe formula option that meets FDA requirements. Beyond a purposefully sourced infant formula, we want to evolve the conversation on how we feed our babies to be inclusive of all feeding journeys. It's time to make feeding a baby about confidence, not comparison. There should be no stigma or shame associated with how a parent chooses to feed their baby. Period.
If you are interested in ordering Bobbie to check it out for yourself, you can so here!
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