When Max was six months old, I started researching all of the different formula brands. I was overwhelmed by the amount of choices on the market. Not only are there a million brands to choose from but, even within each brand, there are a ton of options to consider: iron-fortified, DHA & ARA, probiotics, prebiotics, sensitive, gentle, lactose-relief, etc., etc.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
However, there was one thing I knew for sure: I only wanted to buy organic formula. Since this would be Max’s main form of sustenance for the foreseeable future, I wanted to find the best available option (besides breastmilk, that is).
During my research, I came across this article, published by The Cornucopia Institute. The author gives an in-depth discussion regarding common formula ingredients and the potential side effects of each additive. She ends her review with the finding that Holle infant formula and HiPP may be better than American formula brands.
Intrigued, I looked into Holle and found almost universally positive reviews. Unlike most American manufactured formulas, Holle has no additives and does not contain any genetically modified or synthetically derived ingredients.
Sound great right? The only problem was: Holle isn’t approved by the FDA to be sold in America.
Not to be deterred, I told Mr. C about my dilemma. It just so happened that he knew someone who was traveling to Germany, where Holle is manufactured, so he asked his friend to pick up a few boxes.
If you choose Holle and go with a cow-based formula, the choices are simple. There are four different stages based on the age of your baby. The recommendation for each stage is as follows:
Stage 1 – from birth;
Stage 2 – as of the 6th month;
Stage 3 – as of the 10th month; and
Stage 4 – as of the 12th month.
At that point, Max was over 6 months old so I ordered Holle Stage 2.
Preparing Holle is also pretty straightforward. The box comes with a scoop and the ratio is one flat scoop per ounce of water. Every 3 1/2 scoops and 3 1/2 ounces of water results in an extra half ounce of formula. For example, in order to make 8 ounces of formula, I use 7 scoops of powder with 7 ounces of water.
Prior to using up the boxes I received from Mr. C’s friend, I looked for alternate sources where I could purchase the formula. I found an online retailer based in Germany, that sells Holle. Shipping is quite expensive, but may be worthwhile if you buy in bulk.
Of course, there are several things to consider when ordering formula from overseas:
1. Delivery Time: Delivery times may be somewhat unreliable. The package took about 3 1/2 weeks to arrive to NY.
2. Customs: There is a possibility that customs may open a box or two to ensure that the contents actually contain infant formula. Luckily, I did not have that issue.
3. Irradiation: Obviously, infant formula should not be irradiated. The box was shipped with the label shown below:
You can see the stamp “X-Ray Checked SPX” which shows that the package was x-rayed for security purposes. However, I checked and irradiation to control for food borne pathogens requires marking with a radura symbol.
According to the FDA, regarding cabinet x-ray systems (the type typically used for airport screening):
There are no known adverse effects from eating food, drinking beverages, using medicine, or applying cosmetics that have been irradiated by a cabinet x-ray system used for security screening. The radiation dose typically received by a cabinet x-ray system is 1 millirad or less. The average dose rate from background radiation is 360 millirad per year. The minimum dose used in food irradiation for food preservation or destruction of parasites or pathogens is 30,000 rad.
In sum, I wouldn’t worry too much about radiation from a cabinet x-ray system.
In my opinion, the only downside to Holle is that it contains palm oil. Palm oil is considered a controversial ingredient in formula. It has the potential to cause intestinal discomfort for babies as it may turn into a soapy substance in the small intestines leading to hard stools and reduced bone mass.
However, Max did not seem to react poorly to the palm oil and his poops continued to look and smell like breast milk poop.
Conclusion: After having used Holle formula for the past four months, I cannot recommend this brand highly enough!
The formula itself is somewhat rich, creamy and slightly sweet. I have heard that many formulas do not taste/smell appealing and I can say that Holle’s infant formula really does taste good.
More importantly, though, is that Max loves drinking it and is thriving on it. Nothing beats breastmilk but I feel assured knowing that Holle is one of the next best alternatives.
UPDATE 03/31/2016: 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.
UPDATE 08/08/2016: I have since written a comprehensive Best European Organic Baby Formula Guide that you should read before making any decisions on what brand to buy!
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