Is European Baby Formula Better? Everything You Need to Know
Finding a breastfeeding alternative that meets your baby’s developmental and digestive needs can be daunting.
Add short and long-range baby formula deficits, and parents can now have an extreme challenge. To provide infants with healthy nutrition, the FDA announced that they would relax some restrictions on importing baby formula from Europe.
This is terrific news all around, as families are pleased to find that each container of European powdered milk is made of higher-quality ingredients than its US counterparts.
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Is European Baby Formula Really Better?
With a small amount of research, many key points stand out to families regarding the superiority of European baby formulas.
European Commission vs. FDA
The European Commission regulates the requirements and exclusions of European baby formula, and the FDA oversees US baby formula.
These agencies operate similarly, but their ideas of what is considered proper nutrition for an infant differ. From minor ingredient amounts to significant differences in nutritional content and adherence, the EU and FDA each have different ideals of what should be included and what should be excluded in your baby's nutrition.
Organic Baby Formula
European baby formulas are produced using organic farming practices that have your infants' growth and development at the forefront, unlike the FDA, which has other interests when approving potentially worrisome nutrition.
European Organic Baby Formula
Strict regulations and standards ensure using only clean, pure ingredients manufactured and produced to guarantee that the animals, land, and community are taken care of.
EU guidelines require that all European organic baby formulas be free from pesticide residue, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic chemicals, and preservatives.
Careful checks and balances are put into place before an organic stamp is allowed to be placed on European baby formula, ensuring that each container leaves out heavy metals and other toxic ingredients that should be strictly avoided.
These lofty standards follow every step of the baby formula-making process, from the farm to the final product.
American Organic Baby Formula
American baby formulas labeled "Organic" do not always mean that every single ingredient is organic.
The US has a divided look at organic nutrition for infants. They do have certified organic baby formulas and grass-fed formulas. American parents who want an overall balanced formula must look to European baby formula companies where farming practices are 95% organic and sustainable, and animals graze in organically grown pastures.
Organic Biodynamic Baby Formula
Organic baby formula and the responsibility to produce healthy infant nutrition starts at the farm.
European formulas again rise to the top as many farms are verified biodynamic (holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming) and carbon neutral. Many companies go out of their way to acquire healthy fats from sustainable sources.
We have yet to find the equivalent to this level of organic certification in the US’s big brand baby formula companies.
Baby Formula Ingredients
The European Commission and the FDA set requirements and exclusions for baby formula. Everything from minor differences in ingredient amounts to regulation adherence is covered by these two agencies.
Although they operate similarly, the allowance of what is considered acceptable in your infant nutrition could be the same.
Iron Content in Baby Formula
The US and the EU baby formula governing bodies have different opinions on how much iron should go in baby formula.
The FDA has an exceptionally enormous range with this ingredient, and in many cases (especially 0-6 months) is well above the maximum allowable concentrations. US infant formulas have between 0.15 – 3.30 mg/100kcal iron. There is no specific industry standard, just general guidelines.
Completely opposite is the EUs required iron amounts recommended by stages. European infant formulas (babies 0 – 6 months) must have between 0.3 – 1.3 mg/100kcal iron, and European Follow-On formula (babies 6 – 12 months) must have between 0.6 – 1.7 mg/100kcal iron.
Sugar in Baby Formula
Clearly defined by strict regulations, European infant baby formula does not use inexpensive carbohydrate substitutes as the prime energy component. The perfect energy source for baby formula is lactose because each baby is born biologically and physiologically designed to digest it.
American formulas, on the other often contain inexpensive, unnecessary, and health-concerning sugars, and shocking is found in amounts more than a can of soda.
DHA and ARA in Baby Formula
Mimicking breast milk, all infant formula sold in the European Union after February 2022
must contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at ~0.33%-1.14% of total fat with no minimum requirement for arachidonic acid (ARA). This is great news for developing a healthy immune system, bone formation, blood flow, and blood vessel function.
American regulations do not require DHA to be added, and when US formulas have this ingredient, there are no actual guidelines for amounts or sourcing.
Baby Formula Additives
When parents look for nutrition to support growth and development, the gold stand is breastmilk. Staying as close to nature as possible allows the baby formula to get as close as possible. Ingredients such as guar gum, pectins, fructans (like insulin), and carrageenan are fillers and do not have any nutritional value, yet these extras are found in American baby formulas.
European baby formula regulations do not allow for these additives and fillers. The strict oversight for infant nutrition limits unnecessary ingredients that are often toxic themselves or processed with poisonous solvents.
Is Soy Safe in Baby Formula?
When looking for a formula to soothe, your sensitive baby’s American families may be tempted to use soy ingredients to solve this digestive and nutritional need.
Unfortunately, this ingredient has extreme short and long-term health concerns and
should only be used as a medical necessity due to phytoestrogens, phytic acid, and genistein. Toxic compounds in soy can flood infants with hormones, block essential nutrients, and create long-term implications, including developmental delays and changes.
It may be concerning to know that over 90% of American baby formulas contain soy, usually in soy oil. On the other hand, European baby formulas choose to regulate this ingredient and limit its use.
Goat Milk Baby Formula
European baby formulas have organic options for the most susceptible digestive systems and severe lactose allergies without overwhelming tiny systems with toxic contents.
Organic goat milk formulas are specifically designed for babies that do not tolerate cow’s milk-based formulas that can thrive due to smaller, more digestible curds containing nutrition closer to breast milk than other sensitive formulas available.
Each of the European goat milk formulas is balanced to meet the specific nutritional and digestive needs of little ones with food and environmental allergies while delivering anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties much needed for the first year of life.
The Stages Used in European Baby Formula
Over-the-counter baby formulas in the US tend to be one-size fits manufactured for infants from birth through twelve months and toddler formula for little ones over 12 months.
The European Union recognizes that each baby is unique, and the first year has many steps and changes. Stages in European organic baby formulas are designed to meet your child’s developmental and dietary needs monthly rather than yearly.
At the very basics, the nutritional needs of a newborn are much different than an infant that is a year old. Fats, proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates are best suited in amounts specific to each infant stage.
The first 100 days of life need the gentlest nutrition available. PRE stages have no starch, which helps make digestion easier. There is no specific end age for this stage, but the recommendations are around three to six months, and are often used as a breastmilk supplement.
This is the most common stage for infants from birth to six months of age. Stage one formula has the highest carbohydrate ratio, which helps to meet the caloric needs of a growing infant. At this stage, many starch-free options are available to be gentle on immature digestive systems. Families can use this stage for up to a year old as it is gentle enough to mimic breast milk and is perfect to complement breastfeeding or as balanced standalone nutrition.
This stage is created to meet the needs of infants older than six months. European Stage 2 baby formulas are similar to 0-6 month formulas. Some nutrition has additional starch for slower digestion and energy release. They are recommended until the 10th month.
Stage 3 European baby formulas are for older infants, those that have reached their tenth month and are adding solid food to their daily diet. Active bodies and curious minds need a more filling formula.
Starch, nutrients, and energy contents are higher than in the previous stages, which means that it is much more satiating and will help meet the calorie requirements that come with older babies.
After 12 months, most toddlers will gain most of their nutritional needs from solid food. Stage 4 Toddler Milk is intended to fill dietary gaps that new eaters and those that may be weaning will have.
Toddlers need balanced nutrients for healthy minds and strong bodies. Stage 4 toddler formulas are designed with organic ingredients to support children over twelve months old.
Closest to Breastmilk
Although no formula can replicate breastmilk’s innate goodness, it is possible to get as close as possible by choosing the most natural ingredients available.
It is comforting to know that European baby formulas start with natural fats in breast milk to provide your infant with the energy, carbohydrates, and protein they need for physical and cognitive development, followed by naturally sourced essential vitamins.
Breast milk contains much more whey protein than casein but the ratio of whey to casein changes throughout lactation. The introduction of stages in European baby formulas mimics this by changing as your little one grows and nutritional needs change.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
European baby formula goes out of its way to ensure proper gut health and nutrient absorption.
Prebiotics, such as galactooligosaccharides, are chosen by brands such as HiPP Organics is remarkably similar to human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). At the same time, probiotics like Lactobacillus are commonly found in breast milk, and other lactic acid bacteria are widely seen in European baby formulas.
As European formulas became popular American cow milk formulas are catching up, but the large majority of over-the-counter products do not contain probiotics or prebiotics.
The Best Baby Formula: US vs European
The priority in choosing a baby formula is to select a baby formula that eliminates pesticide residue, toxic processing agents, chemicals, and GMO ingredients.
European organic baby formulas found at The Milk Box go out of their way to avoid unhealthy and potentially harmful ingredients such as carrageenan and highly processed sweeteners like corn syrup, glucose syrup, and other non-lactose sugars.
Nutrition to support your little one’s present and future physical and cognitive growth means nutrition that you can count on.