Decoded: Organic Formula

Breaking down the what, why and which ones of the organic formula marketplace.

Decoded: Organic Formula

If you’re taking the formula route, there are more options for you and your little one than ever before. And as the formula market evolves and expands, many of those options now include organic products to meet the growing demand for quality and sustainable ingredients. But, with all of the available options, a quick trip down the formula aisle can easily turn into a long, overwhelming whirlwind.

The FDA sets very rigid regulations and holds strict nutritional requirements for all infant formula. So, feel confident that any formula you choose will provide your baby with all of his or her nutritional needs for calories, protein, fat and the essential vitamins and minerals. That is why the nutritional breakdowns, ie the nutrition facts, are pretty comparable amongst all formulas.


What: What really differentiates organic from conventional formulas are the sources and quality of the ingredients. In addition to being more environmentally sustainable, organic formulas are made with non-GMO plant-derived ingredients, free of pesticide and herbicide residue, and with milk ingredients from cows, free of antibiotics or growth hormones. Unfortunately, organic formulas are more expensive, and are not as easily available (hello Amazon Prime). And, organic options don’t exist for more specialized, allergy friendly formulas.

Why: All formulas, organic and conventional alike are very processed, so it is not entirely clear if the organic seal comes with significant health advantage. It is always a challenge to find studies conducted on infants, and hard data isn't always available. The few studies done have not found detectible levels of pesticide residue in infant formulas, nor have they found any health risks associated with milk from cows treated with hormones or antibiotics. But, what we do know is from adult studies, which have shown as much as a 33% reduction in pesticides found in organic products. While the organic and non-GMO landscape is constantly changing and in question, at the moment it is the best seal we have. So if your budget permits, it’s worthwhile to go organic to protect the environment and to reduce your baby's potential exposure to pesticide, hormone and antibiotic residue.

Who: The main players in the organic formula market are Nature’s One Baby’s Only*, Earth’s Best and Honest Co., whose formula lines are exclusively organic; Bright Beginnings and Parent’s Choice both of which have organic and conventional formulas; and Similac, which is the only major mainstream formula company offering a single organic formula: Similac Advance Organic. These formulas differ in what sources of protein and carbohydrates are used, and if essential fatty acids are added.

Organic formulas can be divided into two main categories: standard cow’s milk and specialty soy or lactose-free formulas. Let’s take a closer look at what’s inside.

Standard Cow’s Milk Based Organic Formula

Fat: All standard organic formulas contain a blend of easy to digest vegetable oils that include sunflower, safflower, coconut and soybean oils. All of these oils, including the soybean, are highly refined so there is little risk of any allergic reactions.

Protein: Standard organic formulas use a blend of the milk proteins whey and casein. Formulas should be designed to closely mimic breast milk, which has a much higher ratio of whey than casein. Earth’s Best and Honest Co. add additional concentrated whey to more closely replicate the protein breakdown of breast milk, whereas other organic formulas do not resulting in higher amounts of casein.

Carbohydrate: The carbohydrate, or sugar, in breast milk is lactose, however all of the organic formula companies replace some or all the lactose with less expensive sugars. Earth’s Best and Honest Co actually maintain some lactose but use glucose syrup solids as an additional carb source. Baby’s Only use no lactose, and use organic brown rice syrup as the sole carbohydrate source, but rest assured that the syrup is vigorously filtered and tested to ensure undetectable levels of arsenic. Bright Beginnings, Parent’s Choice and Similac Organic replace all of the lactose with glucose solids, maltodextrin (corn sugar), and/or sugar. The health effect of different sugar sources in infant formulas has not been well studied. What has been studied are the benefits of lactose, and the blood sugar spiking effects of highly processed sugars like maltodextrin, so if applied to infant formulas, it would be convincing to choose lactose based formulas when possible.

DHA & ARA: The fatty acids found naturally in breast milk have known respiratory, and cognitive benefits, yet are one of the few essential nutrients not required in baby formulas. There has been some question about the integrity of the form of DHA & ARA approved for use in formulas, but because there is little evidence substantiating the claims most brands add DHA & ARA. To give parents the choice, Nature’s One has both a formula with and one without DHA & ARA, and Honest Co does not add the essential fatty acid to its formula. If you choose a formula without the DHA & ARA it is recommended to supplement.

Specialty Reduced Lactose & Soy Based Organic Formula

Earth’s Best and Nature’s One are the only two brands mentioned with a line of organic reduced lactose and soy based formulas. Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity and Baby’s Only Lactorelief formulas are great alternatives for fussier babies needing gentler, easier to tolerate formula. Soy formulas should be avoided unless specifically advised by your pediatrician for a medical reason.

*There is some confusion as to whether Nature’s One Baby’s Only formula is suitable for infants. It is marketed and labeled as a toddler formula as an attempt to promote breastfeeding until 1 year of age, however it is designed and suitable for infants.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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