Organic Baby Formula: 5 Scary Facts Moms Need to Know Now

You've chosen an organic formula because you're assuming it's the healthiest choice, right? Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it might not be after all. Some organic formulas contain ingredients no mom would want to feed her little one.

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"Just because a formula says it has organic ingredients doesn't mean it's the best choice," cautions Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, author of First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, and nutrition expert. "There's a lot more to it than that."

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Here, things to watch out for when you're going the organic formula route:

1. It may contain corn syrup.

Some organic brands have been accused of replacing their lead ingredient of lactose with corn syrup or corn syrup solids. "[Manufacturers want] to increase volume so the formula company gets more bang for their buck and [to achieve] a texture that pours like milk," explains Stephen Cowan, MD, a board-certified holistic physician who practices in New York City. But giving babies that unnecessary ingredient can do more harm than good. "The risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease all begin at birth," Cowan says. "Sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup sets up a cascade of metabolic changes in every cell in the body."

2. Some brands have a chemical found in ... rocket fuel.

The Centers for Disease Control has found small amounts of perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, in powdered infant formula. None were organic, but considering only 15 brands were tested, who's to say percholorate isn't also residing in some organic formulas?  In small doses, perchlorate may be safe. But since it's also found in drinking water, infants fed with powdered formula could be getting a double dose. And at high levels, perchlorate can block the thyroid from doing its job.

3. It may contain a carcinogen.

Another icky offender that could be lurking in organic formula: carrageenan, an additive derived from seaweed. Back in the '80s, sufficient evidence was found to consider it a carcinogenic, yet it's still widely used today to thicken and stabilize many processed foods. Studies show that too much carrageenan can cause inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal tumors.

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4. It could harm your baby's tummy.

You've probably heard about DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that's been shown to be beneficial to the brain, eyes, and heart. DHA occurs naturally in breast milk. But some baby formula manufacturers -- even organic ones -- are using artificial omega oils, "which are extracted from soil fungus and algae, using Hexane, a neurotoxic agent," says Cowan. Many babies can't tolerate these oils and experience diarrhea, constipation, or vomiting.

5. Drinking it could be bad for your baby's bones.

Palm and palm olein oils are used in some infant formulas, including organic, to blend fatty acids. But they've been proven to lower calcium and fat absorption and can actually decrease bone density in infants who drink it.

So what's a mom to do?

Cowan's top choice for formula is Earth's Best Organic Formula, which has natural DHA omega-3 and no corn oil and palm oil additives. Kerry Bajaj, a certified health coach at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, suggests Holle Organic Baby Milk Formula, which is made in Switzerland. Or, with some careful planning, you can simply make your own formula.

What brand of formula do you give your baby?


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