It happened in 2004. I was living in Oregon at the time, attending my first year of college. I was surrounded by people who cared not only about what they ate but what it could do for their bodies and their well-being as well as where their food was coming from. While I was fortunate to grow up in a household where wholesome food was always served, that was more of an accident than anything. This was simply how we ate and frankly, I thought that was how everyone else ate, too. However, being immersed in this food-centric paradise where what was being consumed was given as much critical thought as anything being taught in the classrooms, there, my Freshman year, I had my food awakening.
I started eating a plant based diet and then became almost a full time vegetarian out of sheer laziness. I mean, did I really want to pan fry a piece of chicken when I could eat some local hummus and veggies? As my diet started to improve from above average to excellent in quality, I lost weight and had more energy, better skin and all the perks that come with a properly nourished body. My inquisitive spirit and investigative mind went into overdrive, researching and reading as much as I could on healthy eating, food ecology and the like. Soon, I fancied myself a bit of a health food nut and food nerd. Since then, I have managed to attain a strong understanding of Ayurvedic principles and walk the tightrope over the minefield that is our food system in America.
When my son was born last year, my investigative urges went into overdrive again. I began reading and researching about baby food, baby formula and baby products that were not only unhealthy, but many, downright dangerous. I would like to say I was shocked but I knew enough about our society’s food realities to not be. When I struggled with milk supply issues for months on end and my son lost weight, it became obvious that we had no choice but to supplement with formula. This was a heart-wrenching decision for me. I never had thought for a second that I wouldn’t be able to sustain my son naturally and despite visits to Lactation Consultants, supplements and even prescription medication, I was simply unable to produce enough milk to keep my son fully fed.
As those of you with children may know, formula is insanely expensive. Not only is it expensive, it’s by and large chemical-laden and cheaply manufactured. One of the main ingredients in standard American formula is GMO High Fructose Corn syrup. The milk used is from cows that may have been treated with RBST or fed GMO Grain and if your baby happens to be lactose intolerant (many babies are) you are given the option of adding Monsanto’s Soy to the list. Yet, the manufacturers, who are major corporations, price gouge parents knowing full well they haven’t any real alternatives to feeding their babies.
There are several brands of formula marketed as “organic.” However, for most parents, they are price prohibitive. Another issue with some so-called “organic” formulas is that -- well, they aren’t organic at all. Currently, Jessica Alba’s Honest Company is being sued by the Organic Consumer’s Association for its inclusion of 11 synthetic substances in its Organic Formula and Earth’s Best Organic Baby Formula is coming under attack for its use of taurine. Another issue with most commercial formula is that the added DHA/AHA compounds which are essential for brain growth go through a chemical process that typically involves bleach. Yes, bleach. In fact, it took me hours upon hours, sifting through blogs, nutrition labels, calling manufacturers and more just to figure out which formula was safe for my son.
I decided on two brands: Baby’s Only Organic Formula and Hölle. Baby’s Only is an American brand and uses the non-hexane method for producing the DHA/AHA supplement added into its product. Hölle is an organic German brand that I feel is the best out of the two for all around purity. However, getting Hölle in America is not easy. There are a few trusted but little known sites that you can sign up on to order Hölle from people who have gotten their hands on the import rights, or you can risk it and try ebay. I don’t personally endorse buying it on ebay as there is no guarantee on authenticity or product safety. Hölle is also expensive when purchased here in the U.S. Luckily, my in-laws are European and when they visit they bring a huge duffel of Hölle bags. However, Baby’s Only is much more readily available. I always purchase mine on Amazon. The other great thing about Baby’s only is that, for its high level of quality and purity, it’s relatively affordable. If you are looking for a good resource on baby formula, I highly recommend a visit to GimmeTheGoodStuff.org. The information on that page is what clinched my decision.
There are safe, pure formula options. However, in the larger view of things I would like to point out how much time, effort and research was required by me in order to ensure I was giving my baby chemical-free, organic nourishment. The hunt for formula for my son was a major expansion of my initial food awakening. It confirmed that babies are not exempt from the profit-seeking behavior that results in toxic food products being readily sold and marketed as nutritious. With our children especially, we must be vigilant in making sure that the things we are feeding them, applying on their skin, and clothing them in are safe and pure. Sometimes that means taking the time to dig deeply and play Sherlock.