Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide [Updated 2017]

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Considering how many posts I’ve written about European organic baby formula, it’s probably long overdue for me to write a comprehensive European formula guide comparing the best brands. Well, here it is – better late than never!

There are several major European brand formulas that are sold in the US. Interestingly enough, most of them originate from Germany. I don’t know why but Germans seem to produce the gold standard for baby formula worldwide.

I am focusing solely on European formulas because the quality of the milk and the organic farming methods used in Europe are far superior to American brand formulas. Nonetheless, even the European brand formulas discussed will have their downsides. There is no such thing as the perfect infant formula. The best formula is the one that works for your baby and family.

List of Best European Formulas Discussed:

Overview

Holle

Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide - Holle

Holle was founded in 1933 and uses milk from cows raised on biodynamic Demeter farms. These farms must strictly adhere to EU organic regulations and, moreover, to the even more stringent international Demeter regulations. Demeter farms allow their cows to graze on pastures – free of pesticides or chemical fertilizers – and is the reason for the superior quality of the milk produced. Demeter farmers also avoid the painful dehorning of cows.

Holle is the formula brand I chose for my children. You can read my review for it here.

UPDATE 03/17/2017: Holle has recently introduced Stage Pre which uses lactose as its sweetener. In addition, part of the fat source comes from high-quality Demeter milk fat, as opposed to plant sources, thereby reducing the proportion of processed vegetable oils.

Holle Lebenswert

Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide - Lebenswert

Lebenswert was introduced by Holle in 2009. The milk of Lebenswert comes exclusively from organic farmers who follow the strict guidelines of Bioland farming. In this method of farming, man, animal and land are valued and respected. Organic Bioland farmers stand for species-appropriate stock breeding, plant protection and soil fertilization without chemical or synthetic agents and careful management of soil’s fertility. Produce made under these requirements are sustainable and preserve nature.

Notably, Lebenswert Stage 1 uses lactose as its sweetener.

HiPP

Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide - HiPP

HiPP was founded in 1932 and began selling organic baby formula in 1956. The milk is sourced from farms using sustainable farming methods. HiPP has a network of more than 8,000 selected farmers and is the world’s largest processor of organic raw materials.

HiPP formulas contain prebiotics and use lactose as its sweetener. Stage Pre contains DHA & ARA oils and uses soy lecithin as an emulsifier.

Töpfer

Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide - Topfer

Töpfer was founded in 1911 and is one of the oldest and most respected German formula companies. There is a limited availability for Töpfer as the company emphasizes quality over quantity. The milk is sourced from the Braunvieh cows of Allgäu, in the Alpine region of Southern Germany, famous for producing Germany’s highest quality dairy and cheeses.

Töpfer formulas contain probiotics and DHA & ARA oils. Stage Pre does not have any added sweetener.

Braunvieh cows

Braunvieh cows

Ingredients List

*I have listed the ingredients for Stage Pre (birth onwards) and Stage 1 (6+ months – or its equivalent) of each formula brand. Noteworthy ingredients are highlighted in red and will be discussed in further detail below.

Holle

Holle Organic Infant Formula Stage Pre (Birth Onwards)
Skimmed milk* , whey product* (partly demineralized whey powder), vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), lactose*, cream powder 10%**, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron lactate, zinc sulfate, niacin, calcium D-pantothenate, copper sulfate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulfate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
* from organic farming
** from biodynamic farming

Holle Organic Infant Formula Stage 1 (Birth Onwards)
Skimmed milk** (Germany), whey powder* partly demineralised, vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), maltodextrin*, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, vitamin C, vitamin E, ferrous lactate, zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
* from organic farming
** from biodynamic farming
[source]

Holle Organic Infant Follow-on Formula Stage 2 (6+ months)
Skimmed milk** (Germany), vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), whey powder* (partly demineralised), maltodextrin*, skimmed milk powder**, starch*, calcium carbonate, sodium citrate, potassium chloride, vitamin C, calcium phosphate, ferrous lactate, vitamin E, sodium chloride, zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
* from organic farming
** from biodynamic farming
[source]

Lebenswert Bio

Lebenswert Bio Organic Infant Formula Stage 1 (Birth Onwards)
Skimmed milk*, whey powder (partly demineralised)*, vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), lactose*, potassium chloride, calcium, vitamin C, sodium chloride, ferrous gluconate, vitamin E, zinc sulfate, niacin, calcium pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin A, manganese sulfate, folic acid, potassium iodate, vitamin K1, sodium selenate, vitamin D
*from organic farming

Lebenswert Bio Organic Infant Follow-on Formula Stage 2 (6+ months)
Skimmed milk*, whey powder (partly demineralised)*, vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil *), maltodextrin*, calcium, vitamin C, iron pyrophosphate, copper sulfate, vitamin E, zinc sulfate, niacin, calcium, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin A, folic acid, potassium iodate, manganese sulfate, vitamin K1, sodium selenate, vitamin D
*from organic farming

HiPP

HiPP Combiotic First Infant Milk (Birth Onwards – U.K. Version)
Organic skimmed milk, organic demineralised whey powder, organic vegetable oils (palm oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil), prebiotic fibres (galacto-oligosaccharides from milk), organic lactose, calcium carbonate, LCP oils (vegetable, fish), potassium chloride, emulsifier (soya lecithin), vitamin mix (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid, vitamin K, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12), L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, L-tryptophan, magnesium carbonate, zinc sulphate, iron sulphate, stabiliser (L-lactic acid), copper-lysine complex, potassium iodate, manganese sulphate, sodium selenate
[source]

HiPP Combiotic Follow-on Milk (6+ months – U.K. Version)
Organic skimmed milk, organic vegetable oils (palm oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil), organic lactose, organic partially demineralised whey powder, prebiotic fibres (galacto-oligosaccharides from milk), calcium carbonate, vitamin mix (vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid, vitamin K, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12), potassium chloride, L-tryptophan, iron lactate, zinc oxide, copper sulphate, potassium iodate, manganese sulphate, sodium selenate
[source]

Töpfer Lacatana Bio

Töpfer Lacatana Bio Organic Infant Formula Stage Pre (Birth Onwards)
Skimmed milk*1, whey powder* partly demineralized, vegetable oils* (Palm oil*2, Rapeseed oil*, Sunflower oil*), Mortierella alpina oil, fish oil, calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, vitamin C, potassium chloride, vitamin E, bifidobacteria cultures (B.breve, B.bifidum, B.infantis, B.longum), iron lactate, zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
*from organic origin
1 organic milk from Allgäu
2 organic palm oil from sustainable cultivation
[source]

Töpfer Lacatana Bio Organic Infant Formula Stage 1 (Birth Onwards)
Skimmed milk*1, whey powder* partly demineralized, vegetable oils* (Palm oil*2, Rapeseed oil*, Sunflower oil*), maltodextrin*, Skimmed milk powder*1 , Mortierella alpina oil, fish oil, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, vitamin C, sodium chloride, vitamin E, bifidobacteria cultures (B.breve, B.bifidum, B.infantis, B.longum), iron lactate, zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
*from organic origin
1 organic milk from Allgäu
2 organic palm oil from sustainable cultivation
[source]

Töpfer Organic Infant Follow-on Formula Lacatana Bio Stage 2 (6+ Months)
Skimmed milk*1, whey powder* partly demineralized, vegetable oils* (Palm oil*2 , Rapeseed oil*, Sunflower oil*), maltodextrin*, skimmed milk powder*1, starch*, LCP-fat blend** (egg oil, rapeseed oil, fish oil), calcium carbonate, sodium citrate, potassium chloride, vitamin C, calcium phosphate, iron lactate, vitamin E, bifidobacteria cultures (B.breve, B.bifidum, B.infantis, B.longum), zinc sulphate, niacin, calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulfate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D
*from organic origin
** longchain, polyunsaturated fatty acids
1 organic milk from Allgäu
2 organic palm oil from sustainable cultivation
[source]

Ingredient Breakdown

Sugars:

1. Lactose
Lactose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose. It is the main carbohydrate found in breastmilk. Cow milk has a much lower amount of lactose. In order to approximate breastmilk, the sweetener of choice for baby formulas is lactose.

2. Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin is a plant-based (typically derived from corn) sweetener comprised of short-to-medium starch molecules. Maltodextrin ranges from not sweet to mildly sweet. The primary characteristics of maltodextrin is its high solubility, easy and rapid digestibility (high glycemic index), and low sweetness.

The prevalence of maltodextrin in baby formula is two-fold: 1) It is less expensive than lactose and 2) Its primary characteristics work well in baby formula. High solubility means that the powdered formula will dissolve quickly and smoothly which makes the formula easier for a baby to drink. Easy and rapid digestion make it less taxing on a baby’s intestines than regular starches and gives baby quick energy. The low sweetness factor also helps the formula taste more like breast milk.

While lactose is the preferred sweetener, I believe that maltodextrin is the lesser of other evils, e.g., glucose syrup solids, brown rice syrup (arsenic concerns), and plain ol’ sugar.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is a fat that is high in palmitic acid as well as a source of oleic acid. It is used to mimic the fat profile of human milk, of which the primary fat is also palmitic acid. There is some controversy over the use of this ingredient as several studies have shown that some babies are unable to properly absorb the palmitic acid. The unabsorbed palmitic acid remaining in the baby’s gut reacts with calcium and causes the formation of “soaps” in the baby’s intestines. This can result in lower fat absorption and lower bone mineral density.

However, several other studies note that these differences are still within normal range for normal term infants and that these differences likely do not persist once infants start solids and/or become toddlers.

There are certain American formula brands that do not use palm oil but it is found in all of the European formulas I’ve listed.

Prebiotics & Probiotics

Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) is a carbohydrate and is considered a prebiotic that helps to cultivate healthy bowel flora, particularly bifidobacteria.

Bifidobacteriam is a probiotic and was originally identified in the feces of a breastfed infant. These good bacteria are some of the first microbes to take up residence in the sterile gastro-intestinal (GI) tract of newborns and they dominate the intestines in breastfed babies.

Current research shows that probiotics or prebiotics added to infant formula have not been harmful to healthy infants. However, more research is needed to determine the benefits of its routine use in formulas.

Parents who care about probiotics can also supplement using a good probiotic such as the one found here.

DHA & ARA Oils

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid and ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid. DHA is a component of brain and eye tissue development. But the DHA and ARA added to most brands of infant formula is not identical in structure to the fatty acids found in breastmilk. Instead, it is typically extracted using hexane from factory-produced mortierella alpina – a strain of algae that has never been part of the human diet.

The addition of fish oil in infant formula as a source of DHA has also raised questions as to its benefits. Several published studies all conclude that adding DHA and ARA “had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition, or physical growth.” In 2011, The World Health Organization’s Director of Nutrition for Health and Development issued a letter stating that, “as to date, no solid evidence exists to be able to say that adding DHA to infant formula will have important clinical benefits.”

When asked to comment on DHA and ARA in infant formula, Dr. Frank Greer, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition, has said: “The truth of the matter is, they’re not essential. Humans can synthesize these. Fatty acids are naturally present in the diet. And the whole issue becomes, do you really make people smarter if you put DHA and ARA in everything? Or is this just all marketing hype? Personally, I lean toward the latter.”

Notably, the DHA & ARA ingredients that I’ve highlighted are not of organic origin which certainly raise concerns as to the extraction method used.

Starch

Starch is a type of complex carbohydrate and is a major source of energy for children and adults alike (e.g., rice, corn, cereal). Research has shown that it is safe to feed babies starchy foods. They are and should be a part of a varied, balanced diet for babies that are ready to begin eating solids.

Starch tends to fill a baby’s growing tummy up more which is why a few formula brands have the addition of starch at the 6+ months stage.

Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is a byproduct of soybean oil and most commonly used as a food emulsifier to keep water and fats from separating. It also helps extend product shelf life. When not organic, the extraction of soy lecithin typically uses toxic solvents like hexane and is bleached to transform the color from a dirty brownish hue to a light yellow.

At a minimum, for the first 6 month’s of a baby’s life, I would try to avoid soy whenever possible. Not only is soy considered a top allergen but it is also a source of phytoestrogens which may have the potential to disrupt baby’s hormonal system for life.

Vendors

The biggest concern when purchasing European brand formula is finding a trustworthy and reliable vendor. I have partnered with two excellent vendors that sell Holle, HiPP and Lebenswert formula to the US.

Organic Start (formerly known as Organic Munchkin) is based in NY and is, currently, the only seller of Töpfer in the US. If you need smaller quantities or your formula ASAP, please check out: Where to Buy Holle Formula in the USA.

Organicbabyfood24 is based in Germany. If you want to pay the lowest prices and buy in bulk (and you are good at planning about 2-3 weeks ahead), please check out: Where to Buy Holle Formula from Germany to read about my recommendations and vetting process.

What are your thoughts or personal experiences on the formula brands I listed? Let me know if I may have missed any other great European formulas!

If you liked what you read, please don’t forget to comment below, subscribe, and spread the love by sharing!

REFERENCES:
1. How To Find the Safest Organic Infant Formula (http://www.cornucopia.org/2013/12/find-safest-organic-infant-formula/)
2. The Scandal of Infant Formula (http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/the-scandal-of-infant-formula/)
3. There’s Nothing Sinister Lurking in That Baby Formula (http://www.skepticnorth.com/2014/07/theres-nothing-sinister-lurking-in-that-baby-formula/)
4. Questions and Answers About DHA/ARA and Infant Formula (http://cornucopia.org/DHA/DHA_QuestionsAnswers.pdf)
5. Clinical Report—Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2010/11/29/peds.2010-2548.full.pdf)
6. Bifidobacterium (A.K.A. Bifidobacteria)– The Shy Probiotic Lactic-Acid Bacteria Superstars (http://www.powerofprobiotics.com/Bifidobacterium.html)
7. Amylase in Infancy: Can Babies Digest Starch? (https://scienceofmom.com/2013/11/08/amylase-in-infancy-can-babies-digest-starch/)
8. Is Soy Lecithin Really So Unhealthy? (http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/soy-lecithin-healthy-or-unhealthy/)
9. Why Soy Formula (Even Organic) Is So Dangerous for Babies (http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/why-soy-formula-even-organic-is-so-dangerous-for-babies/)

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