should you choose organic formula for your baby?
a guide to helping you make an informed decision
By Dr. Smita Malhotra As a pediatrician, I know breast milk is the ideal first food. But, I also know it is not always an option for new mothers. I learned this first hand when I stopped producing milk with my first daughter, and formula became her primary source of nutrition. At the time, we chose a traditional formula that wasn’t organic because that’s what the hospital gave us, and the good news was that my daughter tolerated it well. A few years later, when I gave birth to my second daughter, I was more prepared both mentally and emotionally to face the fact that I may not be able to exclusively breastfeed. That’s why, when I experienced the same milk production challenges as before, I decided to dig deeper into the question of organic versus non-organic formulas. From my pediatric training, I know that the FDA has strict nutritional requirements for all infant formulas. So, rest assured, any commercial formula that you choose will meet your baby’s basic nutritional needs by providing carbohydrates, proteins, fats and essential vitamins and minerals. And while I used to think that meant all formulas were essentially the same, the question remained in my mind - what makes organic formula different? Here’s some things to keep in mind if you’re considering organic formula: What makes a formula organic? For some growing and developing babies, formula is their main source of food, and therefore it’s helpful to consider the benefits of organic formula. That’s because in addition to meeting the FDA nutritional requirements mentioned above, organic formulas are also subjected to even more regulatory oversight. Not only must certified organic formula manufacturers face yearly USDA inspector reviews for compliance, but they must also be fully transparent about the production methods used with their ingredients. Furthermore, they cannot use antibiotics or growth hormones in their products. Is Non-GMO the same thing as organic? A common misconception is that non-GMO is the same thing as organic. While all organic foods, including formula, must be non-GMO by definition, not all non-GMO foods (even those with the non-GMO seal) are organic. Therefore, a non-GMO label simply indicates that there are no genetically modified ingredients in the formula. What does this mean for a growing baby? If you are using formula, the decision of whether or not to choose organic is a deeply personal one for each family. As a trained pediatrician, I know there isn’t compelling scientific evidence showing organic formula is better than non-organic formula. So, when parents ask me about organic formula, I present them with all the information from my own research so that they can make the decision that works best for their child. And it’s always a good idea to discuss formula questions with your own pediatrician to find the one that your baby can tolerate well. Like all decisions in parenting, when we are guided with a mind full of good intentions and a heart full of love, we make the right one for our family. About Smita Malhotra, MD: Dr. Smita Malhotra is a mother, pediatrician, writer and speaker. After completion of her pediatric residency and chief residency in New York City, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband. Together, they founded Mindful Pediatric Gastroenterology, a practice that helps to heal the whole child and family by combining traditional medicine with alternative therapies such as mindfulness, meditation, acupuncture and yoga. She is an advocate for providing children with the tools to cope through the peaks and valleys of their lives and empowering them to take charge of their own health and nutrition. She believes in the power of writing and social media to spread that message and contributes to The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and other publications.