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By Jennifer Fernandez January 31, 2023 14 min read
Reviewed by Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS
As a new parent, you’re faced with seemingly never-ending decisions – big and small – for your newborn, from what pediatrician to choose to what pacifier is best. How and what to feed your infant should be straightforward, but many times it’s not.
While the benefits of breast milk have been well established by science, for those of us who choose to turn to formula as a breast milk alternative, combing through the choices can be overwhelming.
To aid you in the process of choosing the best formula for your baby, we’ve compiled our top picks along with the pros and cons of each, and a summary of the different types of European infant formulas and their ingredients to guide you in your decision-making.
Table of contents
Below you will find a few of our favourite organic European infant formulas including specialty formulas for babies with unique needs.
Enriched with prebiotics and probiotics and cultivated from real breast milk!
Contains essential fatty acids DHA (Omega-3) and ALA (Omega-6)
NO artificial sweeteners, flavors, GMOs, or preservatives
Contains palm oil and fish oil
HiPP infant formula tops our list. This wholesome and gentle baby formula carries the EU Organic logo, meaning we can be confident it is made of nothing but rigorously tested, pure high-quality ingredients – and this is why we love it.
The milk is produced by synthetic chemical pesticide-free, biodynamic farming practices that maintain animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and HiPP is home to the world’s first carbon-neutral formula factory!
Utilizing over 50 years of nutritional research, HiPP enriches its organic formula with nutrients including essential fatty acids (DHA and ARA), minerals, and vitamins A, D, and C, all essential for your growing baby.
Most notably, it contains Metafolin, a natural form of folate, as well as prebiotics (galactooligosaccharides /GOS) and probiotic cultures cultivated from real human milk, making it closer in composition to breast milk!
HiPP also offers a ready-to-feed formula for when you're on the go. It’s free from common allergens like wheat, eggs, and peanuts. And with no added sugar, HiPP gets our stamp of approval.
Our customers are raving about the benefits of HiPP baby formulas. Check out this video submitted by a couple from the United States who report a significant improvement in their baby’s colic symptoms after using HiPP Dutch Stage 1 Infant Formula!
Made with EU-certified organic goat milk
Palm oil and soy free
Enriched with prebiotics (GOS)
Enriched with DHA from fish oil (Omega-3) and AA (Omega-6)
NO artificial sweeteners, flavors, GMOs, or preservatives
Contains fish oil
The number 1 ingredient of Jovie’s Stage 1 Organic Goat Milk Formula is full cream organic goat milk. This means Jovie skips the palm oil and maltodextrin, opting for simple organic milk fat to make their formulas rich and nourishing.
Gentle goat milk is chock-full of unique proteins that can improve babies’ digestive comfort, making it a great choice for babies with sensitive tummies or cow’s milk sensitivities (though it's not suitable for babies with a diagnosed/suspected cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance). As well as aiding in fat and calcium absorption, this goat milk formula’s carefully selected ingredients support babies’ bone development and bowel movements.
Our customers agree that Jovie Stage 1 Organic Goat Milk Formula keeps their babies soothed and satiated. Take a look at the comments from happy North American parents below!
Disclaimer: If your little one has a suspected or confirmed cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA), then HiPP HA may not be suitable for them. HiPP HA is partially hydrolyzed, meaning the cow’s milk proteins present in it are broken down by approximately 86-87%, closer to the size of breastmilk proteins.
In contrast, extensively hydrolyzed formulas (intended for milk protein allergies) are broken down by over 90%. For this reason, although many babies with cow’s milk protein allergies (CMPA) thrive on this formula, it is not suitable for every baby with this allergy. Please consult your pediatrician to see if HiPP HA is a good match for your baby.
Hydrolyzed milk proteins promote faster digestion and can reduce the risk of allergies
No artificial sweeteners or GMOs
Enriched with prebiotics and probiotics
Contains ARA (Omega-6) and DHA (Omega-3)
Contains fish oil
Contains palm oil
Made with partially hydrolyzed milk proteins that are 86-87% broken down (why it may not be suitable for every baby with CMPA and we recommend you consult with your pediatrician)
HiPP is Germany’s number 1 brand for a reason. Their baby formulas are created with thoughtfulness, and that’s why you’ll find a variety of specialized formulas for your unique baby. HiPP HA is a hypoallergenic formula that comes in two infant varieties: PRE and Stage 1. Both are suitable for infants from birth to 6 months and onwards.
This hypoallergenic formula is our pick for babies who are sensitive to milk proteins. HiPP HA provides babies with a milk protein diet that is easier to digest due to the formula’s smaller whey protein molecules which have been proven by studies to help prevent allergic reactions.
It also contains natural probiotic lactic acid cultures that further support your baby’s immune system. While a low-allergen diet can’t provide complete protection, it reduces the risk of hypersensitivity in infants and your pediatrician will be able to tell you if HiPP HA is a good choice for your baby.
Parents who switched to HiPP HA for their sensitive babies agree that they are seeing the benefits: less fussy babies who also enjoy the HiPP formula taste over leading U.S. brands. Check out our customer Annas’s great take on HiPP HA!
Reduced lactose content helps with colic and digestive issues
Hydrolyzed milk protein promotes faster digestion, and reduces the risk of allergies
Enriched with prebiotics and probiotics
Contains ARA (Omega-6) and DHA (Omega-3)
Contains fish oil
Contains palm oil
We sympathize with the many parents and their little ones who suffer from tummy discomfort, and this is where HiPP Comfort comes in. It’s a formula from a leading European brand that specializes in the dietary management of infant colic and constipation.
Like HiPP HA, this formula contains milk proteins that have been broken down into smaller and simpler whey protein molecules, which studies show aid digestion and help to reduce the development of allergies in sensitive infants. This is achieved through the special process of hydrolyzation which also makes the composition of HiPP specialtyformulas more closely resemble real breastmilk.
HiPP Comfort is enriched with healthy fats, prebiotics, and probiotics while remaining free of GMOs and artificial sweeteners. We rest assured in HiPP Comfort infant formula.
Our customers agree, HiPP Comfort soothes small tummies and keeps their infants regular. Check out the video below to see what parents who switched to HiPP are saying!
Gluten, soy, and palm oil-free
Made with whole goat milk
No artificial sweeteners, flavors, GMOs, or preservatives
Contains ALA (Omega-3) and DHA (Omega-3)
Contains maltodextrin (Only Stage 1)
Why do we love Holle Organic Goat Formula? For one, it holds the Demeter Organic label from Germany, one of the strictest certifications in the world. For a deeper dive into EU Organic certifications, see our article: Understanding Organic Certifications in Europe.
This formula is made from full cream goat’s milk, which is naturally closer to breastmilk and gentle on your baby’s sensitive stomach. It contains 89% less casein protein than cow’s milk, which is a leading cause of milk indigestion.
We also love that the essential fat DHA comes from algae, making this formula a top contender when it comes to environmental sustainability. That and the use of chemical-free agricultural practices make for happy goats and happy babies.
Organic Holle Goat Stage PRE and Stage 1 are easily digestible formulas for infants from 0 to 6 months that suffer from constipation. See for yourself what parents have to say about Holle Goat Formula...
Now that we’ve shared our top picks, you may still be wondering how to decipher the labelling of European baby formulas to ensure you choose the best organic baby formula for the age of your baby.
In Europe, there are different stages of baby formulas that fall into one of two categories: infant formula (Stage 1) for 0-6 months and follow-on formula (Stage 2 +) for 6-12 months. These formulas are designed to cater to the dynamic nutritional needs of your baby as it grows.
The main difference between the two categories of formulas lies in the balance of milk proteins as well as increases in the amount of calcium, phosphorous, and iron that babies need after 6 months. Keep reading to find a summary of the two types of formulas and how they differ below.
From Birth to 6 Months
Infant formula should always be the first formula you give to your baby. Depending on the brand, you may find this formula labeled as PRE or Stage 1 or first milk. All of these formulas are suitable for babies from birth to 6 months, however, there is a distinction. The main source of carbohydrates in PRE milk is lactose, just like what is found in breast milk.
Stage 1 formula, on the other hand, contains complementary carbohydrates in the form of either starch, maltodextrin, or both, depending on the brand. These carbohydrates are found in foods like potatoes, rice, and corn, and can help keep babies satiated for longer.
While safe for consumption, some babies may at first struggle to digest these complex carbs, causing colic, constipation, bloating, and gas, but they gradually start to tolerate them as they get used to feeding, while other babies can digest them right from birth.
The cows' milk in formula contains 2 types of proteins: whey and casein. Whey and casein are present in cow’s and goat’s milk in different proportions to those found in breast milk. The typical ratio of whey to casein is 20:80 in cow’s milk.
Infant formula on the other hand generally has an altered whey-to-casein ratio (60:40) to bring it closer to that found in breastmilk which is whey-dominant. Experts also believe that whey protein is easier for infants to digest.
From 6 Months Onwards
The important distinction between the two categories of formulas is that follow-on formulas are only suitable for babies 6 months and older. They are designed to be consumed alongside complementary feeding, when you have started to introduce solid foods to your baby, for example. Depending on the brand, you might find these formulas labeled Stage 2, or 3; second milk, or growing-up milk.
A key nutritional difference between follow-on milk compared with infant milk is that they contain significantly more iron. For example, HiPP Organic Follow-On formula contains twice as much iron as HiPP Infant Formula.
Iron is important for neurological development and motor skills. During pregnancy, your baby slowly builds up an iron supply, but after about six months this supply runs low and iron from food sources such as breastmilk or formula, taken in combination with iron from solid foods becomes increasingly important.
When it comes to choosing the best formula for your baby, it’s all in the ingredients!
The first commercial baby formula was developed by German chemist Justus von Leibig in 1860. Since then, the nutritional profile of formulas has evolved to include things like iron fortification, along with special formulas that are now available for babies sensitive to lactose or allergens.
Modern EU formulas have taken great care in their formulations to reflect the latest findings from infant nutrition research. The following is a list of ingredients to look for in the best organic baby formula brands from Europe:
Whey and casein are the two major proteins of human milk with whey being the dominant protein in early-stage breast milk. At later stages of lactation, the proportions of these proteins become approximately equal which is one reason EU formulas are staged as we mentioned above.
These are also the main proteins found in cow and goat’s milk, however in different proportions than breastmilk. Reading the labels carefully to determine the stage of the formula will help you to choose the right formula for the age of your baby.
Choline is part of the B family of vitamins necessary for cells during rapid periods of growth and infant development and is critically essential during breastfeeding. While the body has the capability of synthesizing this nutrient on its own, it’s necessary to obtain choline from the diet.
It is particularly important for the brain during early infancy, as a lack of it can cause long-term effects on memory. A recent analysis found that approximately 90% of Americans including breastfeeding women are choline deficient. And since lactation has been shown to deplete a woman’s choline reserves, supplementation during this time is even more important.
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate derived from plants. It is a non-toxic and organic ingredient used to sweeten and thicken some formulas. There is however, some controversy surrounding the use of maltodextrin in formulas due to the risk of causing tummy upset in some babies, therefore some parents may wish to avoid it.
Lactose is the main sugar found in breast milk. Unlike the breast milk proteins whey and casein, the amount of lactose your baby gets when they first start to breastfeed is typically the same amount they receive at the end of lactation. Lactose plays an important role in insulin regulation and the promotion of healthy gut bacteria.
Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that must be provided by foods because they cannot be synthesized by the body but are necessary for health. Omega-3 (DHA) and Omega-6 (ARA) fatty acids, particularly DHA, are known to play an essential role in the development of the brain and eyes. This is why for European formulas it is required by law to have DHA added to them!
Prebiotics are a safe form of dietary fiber that brings infant formula one step closer to breast milk. Prebiotics act as food for your baby’s good gut flora and there is growing evidence that the addition of prebiotics in infant formula alters the gastrointestinal tract microbiota to resemble that of breastfed babies.
Some infant formulas contain probiotics or live bacteria, that contribute to a healthy balance of baby’s gut microflora and help to counter the growth of unwanted bacteria that contribute to infections. Probiotics have been found to be specifically helpful in treating common conditions like diarrhea and eczema in infants.
Taurine is the most abundant free amino acid found in breast milk and has an important role to play in an infant’s auditory and visual development. It has been found that in pre-term and term infants, taurine insufficiency can impair retinal function, however, this can be reversed by supplementing taurine in the diet.
It is important that both babies and moms receive sufficient amounts of Vitamin D for bone and muscle development. In addition, it has been shown to support the immune system. Because we tend to lack adequate amounts of Vitamin D due to lifestyles where we spend increasing amounts of time indoors and out of the sun, supplementation is essential.
As the field of infant nutrition research advances, it can be hard to keep up with the latest findings on what ingredients are best to support formula-fed babies and what additives are best to avoid.
Luckily, mothers can find reputable resources at their fingertips such as this guide that aims to present some of the commonly questioned infant formula ingredients. As always, we recommend that you consult with your pediatrician before trying any new baby formula and discuss your infant's unique needs.
Palm olein oil is a vegetable oil made from refined palm oil. Clinical studies have found that when used in infant formulas, palm oil may contribute to lower bone density as it causes some babies to more poorly absorb calcium. Additionally, because it is insoluble in the gut it may lead to constipation.
It is however an ingredient that is permitted and considered safe for consumption in both the U.S. and Europe. It is used in baby formulas to imitate the fatty acid profile of human milk to achieve similar levels of palmitic acid in particular. If you are concerned about the negative impacts of palm oil production on the environment, you can choose a European formula brand that uses RSPO-certified organic palm oil.
Corn Syrup and other added sugars are highly addictive and hard to avoid in many American baby formulas. In fact, some of these formulas have been found to contain as much sugar (50 grams) as sugary soft drinks!
These formulas have been found to increase the risk of obesity compared to formulas that contain lactose as the main sugar that you will find in European formulations. In addition to increasing the risks of developing heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes, studies indicate that added sugars increase food fussiness in infants and reduce their enjoyment of food over time.
There is growing controversy surrounding the safety of soy. While many parents turn to soy-based formulas when their infant is sensitive to milk-based protein, there may be some precautions to consider.
Although over-toxicity is not associated with the consumption of soy-based formula in healthy infants, a recent study reported the development of abnormal thyroid function in infants with congenital hypothyroidism who consumed soy-based formula. In the event that it is necessary for your baby to consume soy, make sure to do so under medical supervision.
Carrageenan is derived from seaweed and used as a thickener in many products. While it’s considered generally safe for consumption, some animal studies suggest it may cause intestinal inflammation and other forms of irritable bowel syndrome. Some experts, however, consider carrageenan to be a suspected carcinogen and because it has no nutritional value, it has been banned for use in formulas in Europe.
We are all familiar with preservatives being added to food to keep it from spoiling. Many preservatives are synthetic substances that have been found to be neurotoxic and may increase the likelihood of behavioural disorders.
They can also aggravate food allergies in infants. If you find preservatives like ascorbyl palmitate and beta carotene listed on baby formula packaging, you may wish to look elsewhere for a reputable brand with no synthetic preservatives.
Now that you’ve read through our guide on the important things to know about choosing the best baby formulas, you can see that not all formulas are created equal! And not all infant formulas are best for every baby.
We’ve seen that when choosing a baby formula there are some important things to consider:
The stage of formula matches the age of your baby
Does your baby have any sensitivities?
Key nutrients to look for and ingredients to avoid
Why it is important to choose an Organic brand
How important is protecting the environment for your baby and future generations?
Most importantly, when choosing a new formula, consulting with your pediatrician is a necessary step. This expert advice will help you to evaluate what formula is most appropriate for your infant along with things like how much to feed your baby and how to prepare it.
This is especially important for infants with sensitivities like colic or constipation and symptoms that might suggest a cow’s milk protein allergy. And while we know that breastfeeding is the most preferred food source for growing infants, formulas such as the ones listed, if necessary, can be a very nourishing alternative.
We've shared with you our top European organic infant formula picks along with important information on the types of European formulas available and ingredients to look out for when choosing a brand. We hope you'll find this brief guide useful in navigating the complex world of infant formula feeding. And we’re sure that no matter what European infant formula you choose, you will rest assured in the high standards of quality that come with E.U. Organic brands.
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies, it is in no way medical advice. Your baby's doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula, and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician prior to making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.
Agustina Fernandez is a medical doctor, who graduated from Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, in Argentina. She has experience working in an emergency room of a public hospital, where she helped many patients with urgent diseases. However, her true passion are children and she is planning on doing her specialization degree in Pediatrics soon. In the past year, she has become interested in researching about infant nutrition, including breastfeeding, infant formula and food in the first years of little ones' lives.
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Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University.
Dr. Hsu did research in MRI neuroimaging research of fetal brains at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hsu is currently a full-time medical writer and consultant.
Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel