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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

6 Reasons Parents are Obsessed with European Baby Formulas

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If you don’t know about HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert, you’re missing out on the best baby formulas on the market. 

hipp, holle and lebenswert european baby formulas stacked against a blue background

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard people (including me!) raving about European baby formulas like HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert. But is this just because European formulas are trendy at the moment, or is it because they are genuinely better than American formulas? 

The truth is that not all baby formulas are created equal. Even though you might expect all formulas to be made with healthy, high-quality ingredients, this, unfortunately, just isn’t the case. HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert really are head and shoulders above their American counterparts. More and more parents are discovering this for themselves and enthusiastically sharing this information with their friends, family, and neighbors. If you’ve come across my blog before, you know that this is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about, since my own need for formula led me to research all the formulas (European and US) in detail and led me to buy HiPP for both of my kids!

There are many reasons why European baby formulas have become so popular in recent years, but here are a few of the most important. When you discover why European formulas have gained such a cult-like following, you’ll want to make the switch. And once your baby is happily enjoying the better taste and health benefits of a top European formula, for many parents, there really is no going back.

Here are the 6 Reasons Why Parents Love European Baby Formulas

1. European Formulas Are More Like Breast Milk

America, why would you ever put corn syrup in baby formula?

This seems like a no-brainer. Baby formulas are intended to be a substitute or a supplement for breast milk, so you would think that they would be designed to approximate the real thing as much as possible. 

lactose organic molecule picture

However, many U.S. formulas have little in common with breast milk, particularly when it comes to sugar. Lactose is the main carbohydrate source in breast milk, but U.S. formulas often use processed sweeteners such as corn syrup, maltodextrin, or even sucrose (table sugar) because they are less expensive. 

If breast milk contains lactose, shouldn’t formula? After all, babies are born with lactase enzymes to help them break down lactose (with the exception of babies who are allergic to lactose or milk proteins), which is vital for promoting calcium absorption and a healthy digestive system. The leading European formulas feature lactose as the main carbohydrate, typically from organic, non-fat cow’s milk. 

In addition to carbohydrates, the other main components of breast milk are proteins and fats. 

  • Many European formulas contain added whey, which helps make the cow’s milk base more similar to the protein composition of breast milk.
  • In terms of fats, European formulas typically contain a combination of organic rapeseed/canola, palm, sunflower, and/or coconut oils, which mimic the complex blend of fatty acids in breast milk.
    • Unfortunately, nearly all U.S. and European formulas contain some palm oil, which is not ideal due to its environmental impact and the fact that it can cause minor digestive issues like gas. However, European formulas typically contain less palm oil than American formulas do, and when combined with the other plant-based oils, this small amount of palm oil is very unlikely to cause issues. 
  • Quite a few European formulas also contain prebiotics and/or probiotics, which are found in breast milk and contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. 
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like DHA and ARA are additional components of breastmilk that are included in many European formulas to promote eye and brain health. 

2. European Formulas Are Held to Higher Standards for Organic Ingredients

No sucrose, no pesticides, no G.M.O. ingredients. 

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration only sets out some very basic guidance about the nutrients that should be included in baby formula. As long as the ingredients are broadly “safe” and contamination-free, there are no specific guidelines about which carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can be included, leading to frequent use of inexpensive, processed sweeteners such as corn syrup and glucose syrup. 

photo of the european commission flag

In contrast, the European Commission has far stricter standards for the acceptable ingredients in infant formula. 

  • Perhaps most significantly, European baby formulas with intact milk proteins are not allowed to contain any sucrose.
  • Furthermore, their carbohydrate content must consist of at least 30% lactose. 
  • Other ingredients and preservatives that are prohibited in European formula include pectins, fructans, and carrageenan.

Relying on corn syrup as the main carbohydrate is not just unhealthy, but it also means that U.S. formulas may contain genetically-modified ingredients, as much of the corn supply has undergone some form of genetic alteration. 

The best European formulas, such as HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert, are made with milk from biodynamic farms, which means that not only are the formulas organic, but they are also completely free of pesticides and genetically-modified ingredients, and the milk comes from grass-fed cows on sustainably-operated farms

3. European Formulas Are Less Likely to Lead to Childhood Obesity and Diabetes

Keep your baby and your baby’s blood sugar levels happy.

graph of high glycemic vs low glycemic foods and what they do to your blood sugar

Because lactose is the main carbohydrate in breast milk, babies are naturally able to break it down, without causing the pancreas to work overtime. On the other hand, corn syrup and other processed sweeteners are sweeter than lactose and have a higher glycemic index, making it more difficult to regulate blood sugar levels

Babies enjoy sweet tastes, but lactose (which is, after all, milk sugar) is certainly sweet enough. Introducing babies to processed sweeteners so early on is likely to cause them to develop a sweet tooth, ultimately leading them to seek out sugary foods in childhood and adulthood. 

Although the long-term health impacts of consuming sucrose and/or corn syrup in infancy have yet to be fully understood, various studies have suggested that there could be a link with obesity, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes.  

Sources:

4. Health and Nutrition Experts Have Discovered European Formulas and their benefits

See what the top health and nutrition bloggers have to say about why European formula is better.

Even if you haven’t heard much about European formulas from other parents, a quick Google search will show you just how frequently they are being discussed online. You’ll find numerous parenting and nutrition blogs that are wholeheartedly endorsing HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert formulas, with detailed reviews, ingredient discussions, and recommendations about specific formulas that can help with issues such as constipation, tummy upset, and allergies. There are also amazing tools like this one from BestBabyFormula.org to help you find the perfect formula for your baby.

best european baby formula prepared in a bottle, against a white background

5. European Formulas Can Now Be Purchased Online, With Fast Shipping and Guaranteed Freshness

Your baby’s new favorite formula is only a click away!

Sourcing high-quality European baby formula may have once seemed expensive and complicated (it was in 2014 when I was buying it for my daughter!), but in 2019, it’s anything but. There are now quite a few online retailers of baby products that consistently stock a wide range of the best European formulas at competitive prices. 

Of course, it’s always important to purchase baby formula from a reputable source. There are several retailers that are particularly known for importing European baby formula that always meets the highest standards for quality and freshness. I have personally vetted a handful of these retailers (such as Huggable — which was founded by a mom looking to find baby formula for her infant!) and can vouch for the fact that they are reputable and trustworthy.

[Click here to see my post on where to buy]

It’s also crucial that parents are always able to have their favorite formula on hand, and since you can’t dash to the supermarket to pick up these products if you suddenly run out, retailers need to be able to guarantee fast shipping times. Luckily, there are several retailers that offer both standard and overnight shipping options. 

For example, Huggable stocks the most popular HiPP, Holle, and Lebenswert formulas in a climate-controlled warehouse, and guarantees that all shipments are received with at least six months to go before the formula’s expiration date, in perfectly intact packaging. The company’s “Baby Satisfaction Guarantee” takes all the stress out of trying a new formula; if your baby has a negative reaction to the first formula you purchase, Huggable will replace it with a different one, for free

photo of huggable's website - the best place to buy european baby formulas in the us

6. There Is a Large Community of Parents Sharing Their Experiences with European Formulas    

Got a question about European formula? There are 11,000+ moms and dads ready to help!

Choosing the right baby formula is a very important decision, yet it can also be fraught with stress and uncertainty. So it’s only natural for parents to want to share their personal experiences with different European formulas in blogs, forums, and on social media, in order to help each other make the most informed decisions.

One of the most active online platforms for parents to discuss European formulas is the HiPP & Holle Formulas Parent Support Community on Facebook. With over 11,000 members, this Facebook group is a great resource for parents who are interested in learning about European formulas from those who have firsthand experience. It’s a welcoming and nonjudgmental community in which no question is too strange and no concern is too small. Many of the group’s admins have backgrounds in health-related fields, while the members have a huge wealth of experience about every aspect of infancy, and particularly baby formula. 

photo of the hipp and holle facebook community, a place to discuss the best european baby formulas

My journey with breastfeeding and formula feeding led me to these European formulas, primarily because I didn’t want to feel guilty about giving my kids formula and wanted to find the closest-to-breastmilk, organic options available to me. When it comes to feeding your baby, whether you choose breastfeeding, formula feeding, or both; the most important thing is that your baby gets the nutrition they need, and that both parents + baby are happy and healthy. And if you choose to go the formula route, I just want to help you find the formula that’s best for your little one!

[For more information on the best baby formulas, including my recommendations on where to buy, click here] And if you have any questions about European baby formulas, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or send me an email, I respond to every single message I get!

12 responses to “6 Reasons Parents are Obsessed with European Baby Formulas”

  1. Is it true that cows in Europe graze mostly on grass whereas cows in the US eat corn? Are there nutritional benefits to eating grass and what are they?

    • Milk protein has two parts: Whey and Casein. Breastmilk has a 60-40 whey casein ratio (so 60% whey, 40% casein). Since whey is the dominant protein in breastmilk, formulas that have a similar whey-casein ratio (more whey, less casein) tend to be easier for babies to digest since it mimics breastmilk more easily in the body. Hope that helps!

    • Hi Mona! A lot of it has to do with whether your baby has a sensitivity to cow’s milk, or whether you are looking for a gentler option for your baby. You can see more differences between the two here!

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