What Is The Difference Between Organic And Regular Baby Formula?
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Childhood Nutrition

What Is The Difference Between Organic And Regular Baby Formula?

When it comes to choosing infant formula, parents often struggle to choose between organic and regular options. While both options adhere to strict quality and nutritional standards, they differ significantly in their production processes and ingredient sourcing. Understanding these differences can help parents make informed choices that align with their values and needs.

Organic baby formula

Organic infant formulas are made from certified organic ingredients, ensuring they have been grown or produced without synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and artificial fertilisers. They are also free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are not exposed to irradiation. In Australia, the production of organic baby formula not only involves strict farming practices but also adheres to standards that prioritise animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

For example, the milk used in organic infant formula comes from cows that graze freely and are not confined in feedlots. These animals are not treated with synthetic hormones, growth regulators, or routine antibiotics. The organic standards ensure that all farming practices foster ecological balance, conserve biodiversity, and reduce environmental impact by using natural resources responsibly.

Transitioning a farm to organic status is a rigorous process that typically takes three years of following organic practices before certification can be granted. This period ensures that the land and farming practices fully comply with organic standards.

Organic formulas also include additional nutritional ingredients to make them nutritionally complete. These added vitamins, minerals, or nutrients are also required to be certified organic if available. They include a specific blend of oils to replicate the fatty acid profile, supplemented prebiotics and nutrients like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA).

Regular baby formula

Regular baby formula, on the other hand, is made from ingredients using conventional farming methods. These ingredients may be grown using modern agricultural techniques, which can include artificial pesticides and fertilisers. The cows may be treated with antibiotics and growth hormones under regulated conditions to ensure safety and health.

Like organic formulas, regular formulas must meet Australian standards for essential nutrients such as fats, vitamins and minerals. This ensures they provide complete nutrition suitable for infant growth and development if exclusive breastfeeding is not possible.


Organic infant formulas are generally more expensive than regular formulas due to the higher costs associated with organic farming practices and the required extensive certification. However, these costs are also influenced by the typically smaller scale of production, which is more labour- intensive and yields less than conventional methods. Despite the high price, the demand for organic products is growing in Australia, reflecting a broader consumer preference for products that are environmentally more sustainable and promote animal welfare.

Environmental and ethical considerations

The production of organic infant formula is often viewed as more environmentally sustainable than that of regular formula. Organic farming minimises environmental damage by diversifying crops, using physical weed control, and avoiding the excessive use of chemicals, which can lead to soil degradation and increased salinity in waterways.

Moreover, organic farming values the ethical treatment of animals and promotes a human approach by allowing for natural behaviours in dairy management. This aligns with the ethical considerations important to many parents today, who prefer organic products to support industries that prioritise animal welfare.

Making an informed choice

Ultimately, both organic and regular baby formulas offer nutritionally complete options for infants when exclusive breastfeeding is not possible. The choice between them often depends on personal preferences, including considerations about environmental impact and production methods. Parents should consult with their baby’s GP or maternal health nurse to determine the best feeding option, particularly if there are specific health considerations or dietary needs. The decision on which type of formula to use should align with what parents feel is best for their children’s health and their family’s values, ensuring their little one receives nutrition for growth and development.


Australian Certified Organic. (2023). Australian Certified Organic Standard. Australian Certified Organic Standard (austorganic.com).

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. (2022). National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce. National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce - DAFF (agriculture.gov.au).

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2017). The State of Food and Agriculture 2017. Leveraging Food Systems for Inclusive Rural Transformation. The State of Food and Agriculture 2017 (fao.org).