It seems we’re feeding our babies dirty formula. At least this is what the recent surge in organic infant formula would suggest. Just this month the manufacturers of Similac released Similac Organic, the first infant formula from a major manufacturer to be certified organic. But despite the press releases, organic baby formula isn’t new. Earth’s Best has been in the game for some time. And if their blossoming end cap displays at Babies R Us are any sign of success, the organic baby business is looking healthy.
But should we see the non-breastfeeding world as made up of dirty and pure options? There’s insufficient evidence to support the idea that traditional infant formulas contain pesticide residue at any appreciable level. And it’s inconceivable to believe that the casein (one of the milk proteins used in infant formulas) found in organic formula is somehow different from the casein in that of a traditional infant formula. The nutritional content is, of course, not an issue when comparing the two.
The rise of clean formula may be more about the 3.1 billion dollar baby food market than it is about changing the health outcomes of the next generation. Perhaps it's all about the yoga mommies, the latest hot market segment in baby food. Beyond yoga mommies, the organic option is fueled by parents who will go to no end for their children and see this as the pure choice. The market never lies and we’ll have to see how this one plays out.
So what's a parent to do? As a pediatrician I recognize that the impurities of traditional formula don’t represent a real threat to babies who can't breast feed. But as a dad, I think I’ll buy organic.