If you want your next generation to have a sustainable, more animal-friendly lifestyle, you gotta start ‘em young.
Thankfully, with vegan baby formulas, it’s much easier now to raise kids the vegan way than it was for our parents.
Knowing many new parents are choosing to raise their babies vegan from the very beginning, I had to do a post on the best vegan baby formulas. But before we get down to discussing my top picks, let’s quickly talk about what exactly a vegan baby formula is and how to choose one.
What is a Vegan Baby Formula?
In case you’ve heard about it the first time, vegan baby formula is exactly what its name implies; a dietary formula for infants without milk and other animal products and byproducts.
Meant to serve as an alternative to breast milk, baby formulas are typically made from cow or goat milk.
However, considering that some kids have trouble digesting dairy-based formulas and many parents deliberately avoid them to raise their children vegan, many companies are now making plant-based baby formulas.
And as the name tells, they are made without any animal ingredients.
What to Look for In a Vegan Baby Formula?
If there’s anything you should put the most effort into picking the best options, it has to be food for babies.
While different people highlight a different set of factors that should be considered when choosing a vegan baby formula, it all comes down to two key things for me:
Since the formula is the main (only, for many) source of food for babies, it’s essential to make sure that the one you’re choosing fulfills the nutritional needs of your little one. Healthcare experts recommend checking for the following nutrients in vegan baby formula:
II. Harmful/Animal Ingredients
It’s not uncommon even for baby formulas to have some potentially harmful ingredients. Therefore, it’s best to look for them and avoid products that contain any of those.
The baby formula ingredients to avoid include:
- BPA, BPF, and BPS
- Heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. It may come as a surprise to many, but the FDA hasn’t set limits for heavy metals in baby food, except for arsenic. It feels even worse when you know that there are FDA limits for them for other foods.
If anything, they should be setting limits (ideally, banning) for these toxins in baby food, but it’s surprising how the FDA has ignored just that.
The following ingredients, though not really harmful like the ones mentioned above, should be better avoided in baby formulas (vegan or not) because they aren’t healthy:
- Added Sugar
- Corn Syrup
Like other foods, some non-milk baby formulas may also contain sneaky animal ingredients that vegans should look out for and avoid. These include:
Vitamin D in Infant Formula – Essential for Babies, But Problematic for Vegans
Vitamin D is where things get tricky for parents who want to raise their kids vegan from the very beginning.
It’s essential for developing healthy bones, teeth, and the immune system and also contributes to brain development.
Infants, i.e., babies 0 to 12 months, need about 400 IU of vitamin D every day (apart from what their body is making on its own,) and toddlers, i.e., kids between the ages of one and three years, need 600 IU of vitamin D daily. However, it’s mostly not vegan.
Most baby formulas, including many labeled as vegan, contain vitamin D3 sourced from sheep or fish, making things difficult for those looking for a 100% vegan baby formula.
Having said that, vegan vitamin D3 does exist. It’s taken from mushrooms or lichens. Very few baby formulas use vegan vitamin D3 because it tends to cost them more than the readily available animal sources.
This leaves parents in a conundrum, having to choose between their child’s health and ideological commitment. Needless to say, most end up choosing the former.
Best Vegan Baby Formulas
Unfortunately, there isn’t any truly vegan baby formula made in the US for babies under 12 months. However, if you’re willing to make some compromises or looking for dairy-free baby formula because your child is intolerant or allergic to it, there are several options available on the market. Some of the best ones include:
1. Else Plant-Based Complete Nutrition Drink for Toddlers (LINK)
Else is the only brand that makes certified vegan baby formula in the US. But it’s for toddlers and not suited for children under 12 months.
However, if your baby is already a year old and you’re thinking of getting them started with the vegan diet, Else’s plant-based baby formula makes an excellent option.
Not only is it completely free of animal ingredients, but it’s also organic, soy-free, and gluten-free. It also has no added sugar or corn syrup.
In terms of nutrition, it contains everything a toddler’s body needs to stay healthy and grow well. As per the ingredients list, Else Plant-Based Nutrition Drink has almond butter and buckwheat flour base and contains 20 essential vitamins and minerals, including vegan Vitamin D3 from lichen.
Else vegan baby formula is also kosher and has won the Clean Label Project Purity Award.
For the uninitiated, products are evaluated for more than 400 chemicals, including heavy metals, plasticizers, and pesticide residues, for the Clean Label award.
The only complaint I could find about Else’s vegan toddler formula online is that it’s hard to mix. Not everyone says this, though; only some customers have put forward this complaint.
2. Bebe M (LINK)
Bebe M is a European (French, to be specific) brand, and the formula is hard to find in the US. But if you can track it down or have it delivered from Europe (the brand does offer delivery), it’s the best vegan baby formulayou could ever find.
Made with hydrolyzed rice protein (known for its higher bioavailability), cold-pressed organic oils of almond, sunflower, and coconut, buckwheat, millet, vegan vitamin D, and a range of other essential vitamins and minerals (all plant-based), Bebe M vegan baby formula comes in three different varieties for babies of different age groups:
- Stage 1 – 0 to 6 Months
- Stage 2 – 6 Months+
- Stage 3 – 10 Months to 3 Years
All the formulas are 100% plant-based, with vitamin D from lichen, EPA/DHA from seaweed, and no dairy, soy, palm oil, gluten, chemical-based colors or flavors, and synthetic preservatives.
Not using palm oil gives Bebe M vegan baby formulas an unappealing grey color and a wet-sand-like texture, but I haven’t seen any complaints about its taste. However, some do say that it’s a little difficult to dissolve (using warm water will help with it).
Apart from its 100% vegan and highly nutritious formula, what makes Bebe M a cult favorite among parents is that the company works with three independent laboratories to test its baby formulas for allergens, contaminants, and nutrition.
Bebe M products also have the French Federation of Pediatrics’ seal of approval. It’s also certified organic by AB France.
Besides its limited availability in the US, the only downside of Bebe M vegan baby formula is its higher price. But for those who can afford, it’s an investment worth making.
These are the only two 100% vegan baby formulas you can find in the US [the second one, not so easily]. The ones mentioned below are dairy-free but not vegan in the true sense of the word; they contain vitamin D from animal sources.
3. Earth’s Best Non-GMO Soy Infant Formula (LINK)
Unlike the previous two baby formulas, this one is made from soy protein for babies 0 to 12 months.
Though Earth’s Best doesn’t specify its vitamin D3 source, considering that most brands use the animal-derived variety, it’s safe to presume it contains that only. If you can overlook this, Earth’s Best Infant Formula is a good dairy-free option.
It’s non-GMO and also readily available in the US, both online and in stores.
One thing worth mentioning here is that although the company says that Earth’s Best is a certified organic brand, several online sources assert that its soy baby formula isn’t strictly organic. Though most ingredients it contains are organic, the main ingredient, i.e., soy protein, is non-organic.
Upon digging a little deeper into this, I figured out that Earth’s Best has shifted to using non-organic soy protein only recently due to supply problems. They may likely go back to using organic protein once the issues are resolved.
In good things, Earth’s Best dairy-free baby formula contains carbs in easily digestible forms, a rich blend of vitamins and minerals, and generous amounts of Omega 3 and 6, which makes its nutrient content much like breast milk.
The baby formula is supplemented with iron to further enhance its nutritional value. It’s also free of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors and is kosher.
4. Baby’s Only Plant-Based Pea Protein Toddler Formula (LINK)
If you prefer buying certified organic brands or your child doesn’t tolerate soy protein well, you can choose Baby’s Onlyplant-based baby formula. It’s not suitable for children under 12 months, though.
According to the information available online, the brand uses only clean, organic ingredients to make this baby product, so you can trust it for quality.
It’s also very pocket-friendly, kosher, and free of gluten, GMO, palm oil, and corn syrup. The company also pledges that its baby formula has no processing chemicals, pesticides, or insecticides. It also carries the Clean Label Project’s seal of approval and offers its products in 100% recyclable packaging.
On the flip side, vitamin D3 that the Baby’s Only Pea Protein baby formula contains comes from sheep lanolin and hence, is not vegan-friendly. It also contains some added sugar in the form of brown rice syrup.
5. Similac Soy Isomil Infant Formula (LINK)
Designed for babies 0 to 12 months, Similac’s soy-based baby formula comes in powder and ready-to-feed liquid varieties, giving unparalleled convenience to parents who are almost always on the go.
The formula is dairy-free and mainly intended for babies with sensitive stomachs, lactose intolerance, and/or gas issues.
However, in line with the FDA regulations, it contains vitamin D3, which is likely non-vegan (the brand doesn’t reveal its source, though). Similac’s plant-based baby formula also not organic and contains added sugar in the form of corn syrup solids.
6. Gerber Good Start Gentle Soy Formula (LINK)
Gerber Good goes a step ahead of Similac and offers non-dairy baby formulas in powdered, concentrated liquid, and ready-to-feed varieties. The brand also offers this milk alternative for infants and toddlers.
It uses vitamin D3, the source of which it doesn’t reveal. But considering the regular practice, we can say it’s animal-derived. It’s gluten-free but contains added sugar and GMO ingredients.
Gerber Good’s plant-based baby formula is highly acclaimed by parents of picky and very fussy kids, so we can presume that it tastes good and is easy on babies’ stomachs.
Another possible reason why many kids seem to like it is that the formula contains 2-FL HMO probiotic, which is similar to the probiotic found in breast milk.
The formula is also fortified with B. lactis probiotic, which supports digestive health, calcium, and iron.
7. Enfamil ProSobee Simply Plant-Based Infant Formula (LINK)
A dairy-free formula option for 0 to 12 months old babies, particularly targeted to those with sensitive stomachs, this soy-based alternative to dairy-based baby formulascomes in powder, concentrate, and liquid varieties.
Enfamil is a brand that pediatricians widely recommend, so you can trust it for quality. It also seems to work well for colic babies.
Unlike many other plant-based baby formula varieties, Enfamil’s is acclaimed for how well and quickly it dissolves in water, forming a smooth, clump-free mixture, saving parents both time and energy.
However, it’s not organic and contains added sugar (quite a lot of it). Like most other options on our list, it doesn’t seem to have a vegan-friendly vitamin D variety.
Can Babies Drink Plant-Based Milk Instead of Formula?
Considering it can be challenging to find 100% vegan baby formulas in the US, it’s not unusual for parents to think about using the same plant-based milk for babies that they use for themselves.
If you’re thinking the same, stop right there!
Regular plant-based milk (or even dairy milk) shouldn’t be given to babies, especially those below 12 months. Even for toddlers, you should consult a pediatrician before making the switch.
The reason? They do not have the right mix of nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development.
Is it Safe to Use Homemade Vegan Baby Formulas?
Many vegan platforms share recipes for homemade vegan baby formulas, arguing why to spend so much money on store-bought varieties when you can make your own at home, arguably using better quality ingredients. Don’t believe them!
Homemade vegan baby formulas cannot be an alternative to professionally-made varieties. They may not even be safe.
Commercially-manufactured baby formulas undergo rigorous testing and quality checks for safety and nutrition.
You can’t do all of that at home. Also, you can’t get the ratio of nutrients right at home, and this might put your child at risk of nutrient overdose or (more likely) deficiency.
So, limit your experiments to your vegan food only and choose a professionally-made vegan formula for your little one.
Conclusion – Which is the Best Vegan Baby Formula?
If the article didn’t clarify enough, let me reassert that Else and Bebe M are the two best options for vegan baby formulas.
However, considering that both these brands have their limitations – Else is for toddlers, and Bebe M is difficult to find in the US and can be heavy on the pocket when imported.
I would like to say that it’s okay to give your little one formula containing animal-derived vitamin D until they can safely transition to regular plant-based milk.
If you don’t want to do that, stick to breast milk only because nothing is more important than your child’s health and safety.
Check out the following video for more information on raising a vegan child…
Have older kids and looking for vegan cereals for them? Check out my article Best Vegan Cereal Brands to know where to look for them.