With the plethora of baby products available today, it’s not always easy to figure out what is best for your child, including what to feed him or her. Strolling the baby aisle, you’ll see many foods and formulas labeled as organic. But is buying organic necessary, and does it make a significant difference in the health of your baby?
According to Meghana Sathe, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Children’s Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, the more important question to ask when keeping your child healthy is if they are receiving the right nutrients, organic or not.
“Nutritionally, there really is no significant difference between organic food and other foods,” explains Dr. Sathe. “We don’t tell parents not to buy organic, but it is more a matter of parent preference.”
Research shows that organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals and nutrients as their non-organic counterparts. While they do have lower levels of pesticides, which may be important for growing children, there is currently no evidence that an organic diet will lead to better health in the long-term.
Should I buy organic formula for my baby?
Before age 1, most of your child’s calories will come from either breastmilk or formula. You can find many different organic formulas on the market. Some are based on organic cow protein, others from organic soy. You can purchase ready-made formula (the most expensive), liquid concentrate formula or powdered formula (the least expensive).
It’s important to note that all formulas – organic or non-organic, brand name or generic – must meet standards set by the Food and Drug Administration to provide proper nutrition for your baby.
“There are so many formulas a parent can choose,” Dr. Sathe says. “But the more specialized the formula, the more expensive it will be, and the majority of babies do great on standard cow’s milk protein formula.”
Dr. Sathe notes that some babies can have intolerance to milk protein or soy protein formulas, leading to blood in the stool. If your baby has this symptom, she recommends you talk to your child’s pediatrician to find a formula your baby can tolerate.
Other healthy baby food options
After 6 months of age, you can begin feeding your child more solid foods. Some parents make their own baby food for their children, which Dr. Sathe says is a great idea if you have the time. Parents can blend up vegetables, fruits and protein, which can provide the nutrition a child needs. If parents are concerned about baby food safety, it may be a good option to ease worry.
“If you don’t have time to make your own baby food, there’s plenty of healthy baby food brands in stores as well,” Dr. Sathe says.
Since baby foods are low in calories, Dr. Sathe notes it is important for infants below 1 year of age to still get the calories they need from breastmilk or formula, in addition to their new menu of solid foods.
Organic vs non-organic for your baby
If you cannot afford organic formula or baby food, don’t stress. There is currently no evidence that children who drink organic milk or formula are healthier than children who drink regular milk or formula. Either way, your child will receive healthy nutrition.
“We’re not as concerned about whether the apple is organic or not,” Dr. Sathe says. “Instead, we encourage parents to teach their child that eating an apple and other fruits is healthy.”
Dr. Sathe says instead of focusing on feeding your child organic foods, work to ensure that your child is getting the right nutrition at every age and stage of development.
Children’s Health gastroenterologists help children learn about the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Learn more about how we manage children's digestive health.