Saturday, May 30, 2009

What's In Your Baby's Bottle?

There are lots of good reasons why you might be buying formula for your baby. Some babies need extra calories added to breast milk, some babies have swallowing difficulties and need thicker food, others may be drinking more than you are able to produce. Maybe you’ve gone back to work or maybe pumping just wasn’t working out too well. No matter the reason, choosing a formula can be confusing.

Beyond deciding between the brands there are the questions... soy or dairy? Organic or conventional? Iron or DHA fortified or neither? And let’s not forget that formula is expensive, so the choice must be something we can afford.

No, I am not going to compare and rate baby formulas. In fact this post is going to be completely biased but when I am done, I hope you’ll understand why.

Five years ago when it was time to go back to work after my first baby, it was my turn to wander the baby food aisles of my local markets in search of the best formula I could find. Back then (seems like the dark ages) there was not one organic style of formula on the shelf. So I chose the brand they had given me samples of in the hospital. My son never ended up getting any of it because after taste testing it, I threw it out (in a fit of tears, which I am sure was a combo of hormones and going-back -to-work blues.)

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Google the internet. Online I found an organic baby formula fortified with iron called Baby’s Only and developed by Nature’s One. I researched their nutritional information and found it to be comparable to the brands I had seen in the grocery store. It looked good but I still had questions... It said right on the can that it was a toddler formula and my son was just a 5 month old infant. And, what if after I spent the money on a can and shipping, I found out that it tasted as bad as the others? What if it caused the constipation I had been warned about?

I contacted the company and spoke with their nutritionist. She explained that the formula is labeled “toddler formula” because the company promotes breastfeeding for the first year of life. She told me it was perfectly safe to use the formula for my infant but to take the nutritional information to my pediatrician for his blessing. I asked for a sample and within days, a can of dairy-based powered formula appeared on my doorstep. I mixed some up and took a swig. Dare I say it was yummy? It was pretty good, with no metallic aftertaste. Our pediatrician approved it and so, I used Baby’s Only with my first two children.

Then along came baby #3 complete with Down syndrome and a broken heart. From birth she was fluid restricted to ease the work load on her heart. Within weeks the neonatologists were talking about fortifying her milk to add calories. I took it hard. I was obsessed with giving her only the best. I explained that I was concerned about using conventional formula, so they offered me Similac Organic.

But I was unsure. I knew that a lot of the food giants had jumped on the organic train in the past few years but that didn’t guarantee their product was as good as Baby’s Only. I brought an unopened can into the NICU and pled my case to the hospital’s nutritionist. She lifted it skeptically from my hands and agreed to research it. She said she would let me know within a few days whether or not their highly-respected children’s teaching hospital would approve this formula.

Slight digression here... You may be wondering what was happening in the meantime with my daughter’s need for more calories. I had found a tip in a breastfeeding book for naturally adding calories to your bottled breast milk. It said to pump hind milk and let it cool in the refrigerator. The cream will rise to the top. Scoop (or syringe) the creamy upper layers and mix it into 2 ounces of regular breast milk. The nurses jokingly called it “high-test’. I wasn’t allowed to do this as a longterm solution because there was no way to know how many calories I was actually adding and in the NICU things have to be exact.

Guess what? The nutritionist approved the formula and we started adding it to my baby’s milk. As with my other children, there was no constipation, no refluxing, no refusals to drink it. Now when she doesn’t nurse, she gets straight Baby’s Only dairy formula. (I always start my babies on a half breast milk, half formula bottle and then over a few days move to just formula.)

So it’s a great organic formula, so what... ? It is a great company, too, because they believe children with Down syndrome should have the best in life. To this end, they have a Medical Hardship program that provides you with a 30% discount on their products for children with Down syndrome (or any other medical hardship diagnosis). All you do to enroll in the discount program is fill out the form and have your baby’s doctor sign it, and send it in to them. You can order your formula from their online store.

The discount price of around 6.95 per can for the dairy formula (with free shipping on case orders) puts the cost at about .09 cents per prepared ounce. Similac Sensitive is about .13, Similac Organic is about .14, Earth’s Best Organic is about .14, and Enfamil Lipil is about .145 cents per prepared ounce. All I can say is “Wow, thanks Nature’s One!”

Um, ok, I can also say they give out free samples and they ship product super fast (ahem, for those of us who forget we’re on the last can.) Go get your sample and see what your baby thinks.


  1. Interesting formula comparison chart. I have not seen Baby's Only at Walmart or Target. Good to know there are other good options available. When Matthew was younger, we had tried Similac, Good Start and Enfamil to supplement. Similac caused constipation while GS and Enfamil were just fine. I'm sure it's different for every kiddo though. We're on Enfamil Next Step and working great for us. I'll keep this other option in mind for future reference... if we have another baby. :-)

    Ria from Bill and Ria

  2. Hi, Sandra. I was concerned about the same thing with Gabriella because I had to supplement with her for a while. I tried Similac Organic, but I was not completely sold on the idea. However, I found something that I love and it gives her everything she needs. I make her formula from a recipe in a book called Nourishing Traditions. The book is very reputable - google it if you'd like. I also make the formula with pasturized milk only so as to keep some of the vitamins. Ultra Pasturized Milk is void of any nutrients. Anyway, if you want to know more about this incredible homemade formula, let me know. Gaby has thrived on it.

  3. Nourishing Traditions is a radical for some because she believes in raw milk and other such things. I use to use raw milk from Organic Pastures in CA, but the shipping costs was too much. So I went for the Organic Valley only pasturized form of milk which is the next best thing. Check out to find out more about the essentials of raw milk. Hence the title of the book - Nourishing Traditions. Going back to the old way of doing things. I hope this helps. Sorry comment is so lengthy. I just loved how much it helped my Gaby. God bless you again. Jas

  4. Jasmine, no comment full of good info is too long :-) A friend gave me that book a couple babies ago. Thanks for the reminder! Guess I better go read through it again to see what else interesting is in there. We can't buy raw milk in NY... have to hop the border to get it. I admit I was afraid of giving my young babies cow's milk straight from the cow (rather than reconstitued from the dairy formula can.)

    Ria, I'm hoping so.

  5. very interesting post. I wish I had known about this formula when we had to supplement Marissa. I am going to have to look into this for her daycare twice a week. I am pumping right now, but sometimes I'd like a break from pumping. :-)

  6. wow I'm feeling out of the loop. Nate gets good old fashioned whole milk.

  7. And the finest raspberries I've ever seen! Nope you're not out of the loop, just out of the teeny weeny infant stage. 1yr + can have whole milk, so the books say (though organic whole milk is probably still more expensive per ounce than Baby's Only.) I look forward to the day we can switch over... no more mixing!

  8. whew what a relief. :)
    I did nurse for 8 months though!
    so at least there's that....and yes, when you get to stop mixing, it's a beautiful thing!

  9. I appreciate the post -- I am doing my own comparison shopping now and had run acrossed this same brand wondering, hmm. It isn't the stores, so is it a best kept secret?


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