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Best Formula for Breastfed Babies or Toddlers: Plant-Based

When parents consider the best formula for breastfed babies, especially if they’re looking for options that align with dietary restrictions or ethical choices, it’s crucial to understand the health impact of plant-based formulas.

Ensuring these alternatives are nutritionally sound for your baby or toddler is key to making an informed decision.

This article offers a straightforward look at the benefits, potential concerns, and quality of plant-based formula, equipping you with the necessary insights to make an informed decision for your child’s well-being.

Understanding Plant-Based Baby Formula

pea formula, soy formula, formula ingredients

Formulas made from non-animal sources, such as soy, rice, or pea protein, are known as plant-based formulas. But not only these! Buckwheat is also a fascinating choice!

Unlike conventional formulas based on cow’s milk, vegan-friendly baby and toddler formulas utilize plant-based ingredients, often including blends of vegetable oils for fat, as well as plant-derived DHA and EPA. These formulas may also be referred to as  vegan-friendly, vegetarian, or vegan formulas.

A variety of reasons, including dietary preferences like veganism, health concerns such as lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy, and environmental considerations, might lead parents to choose plant-based formulas.

Benefits of Plant-Based Formulas

There are numerous benefits to using plant-based baby formulas. These dairy-free formulas are a suitable alternative for infants with cow milk protein allergies or lactose intolerance, as they are not based on cow’s milk.

Soy-based toddler or baby formulas, for instance, can be a suitable choice for those with lactose intolerance.

They offer easier digestion for some small stomachs, except for babies with soy or cow’s milk allergies.

Common Ingredients in Plant-Based Formulas

A variety of ingredients can be found in plant-based formulas, including:

  • Hydrolyzed rice protein
  • Organic pea protein
  • Soy-protein isolate
  • Gluten-free carbohydrate sources
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Buckwheat Flour
  • etc.

Manufacturers use these ingredients as alternatives to animal-based proteins and to provide essential fatty acids crucial for brain development.

To minimize pesticide exposure and promote environmental sustainability, vegan formulas frequently highlight non-GMO certifications and organic ingredients.

Different Types of Best Plant-Based Formula For Breastfed BabiesComparison of soy-based, rice-based, and pea protein-based infant formulas

For instance, manufacturers often use soy protein as the primary source in plant-based formulas in the United States, marketing them as ‘plant-based’ despite their traditional recognition as soy formulas.

Besides soy, manufacturers also use other plant proteins such as rice protein and pea protein in certain plant-based formulas, especially those tailored for toddlers instead of serving as the primary nutrition source for infants.

Soy-based infant formulas, also known as soy formula:

  • Enriched with essential amino acids like carnitine, taurine, and methionine to support normal growth
  • Not suitable for infants with a cow’s milk allergy due to potential cross-reactivity with cow’s milk proteins
  • Primary ingredient is soy protein isolate, offering a high-quality protein that is comparable to animal proteins.

Brands like Earth’s Best Organic and Enfamil ProSobee Soy Sensitive offer soy-based formulas with a range of characteristics like being non-GMO, lactose-free, and budget-friendly.

Rice-Based Formulas

These formulas offer several advantages:

  • Rice proteins in hydrolyzed rice-based formulas have higher biological value and digestibility than those of other grains.
  • These formulas are lactose-free.
  • They contain carbohydrates primarily in the form of dextrin-maltose and corn starch.

Rice-based formulas have not yet received approval for US infants, but they are widely available in other countries. They benefit infants with digestive issues such as cow’s milk protein allergy, promoting normal growth patterns and satisfactory body weight.

Pea Protein-Based Formulas

Pea protein-based infant formulas provide alternatives for infants with sensitivities. They are:

  • Hypoallergenic and avoid common allergens like dairy and soy
  • Sustainable and environmentally friendly protein source
  • Contain essential amino acids
  • Boast a high digestibility suited for infant nutrition

However, parents should ensure that the formula is free from animal-derived ingredients like vitamin D3 or DHA from fish oil or sheep wool.

Buckwheat-Based Formulas

Buckwheat, contrary to its name, is not related to wheat but is a fruit seed, making it an excellent alternative for infants with sensitivities to traditional grains. These formulas capitalize on the unique nutritional profile of buckwheat, which includes:

  • A complete amino acid profile, providing all the essential amino acids necessary for growth and development, similar to those found in soy-based formulas but without the allergen concerns.
  • Naturally gluten-free, offering a safe option for infants with a predisposition to gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
  • Rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, and zinc, crucial for infant development and comparable to the fortified content in rice-based formulas.
  • Contains antioxidants and bioflavonoids, contributing to immune system support and overall health.

Buckwheat-based formulas present a compelling alternative for parents seeking vegan-friendly, vegetarian, or vegan formulas without compromising on nutritional adequacy.

While not as common as soy, rice, or pea protein-based formulas, buckwheat formulas stand out for their hypoallergenic potential and dense nutrient profile.

As the market for plant-based infant nutrition expands, buckwheat-based formulas offer an innovative solution for parents prioritizing both dietary restrictions and a desire for wholesome, plant-derived nutrition for their babies.

Types of Plant-Based Toddler FormulasNutrient-rich plant-based toddler formula with essential vitamins and minerals

Similar to infant formulas, various types of plant-based formulas are available for toddlers. Many of these formulas use alternative plant proteins and are designed with the nutritional needs of toddlers in mind.

Meeting Nutritional Requirements

Plant-based infant formulas often include a variety of added nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and B12, along with essential minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc, to provide comprehensive nutrition and meet FDA requirements for infant nutrition without the need for additional vitamins or minerals.

Soy-based types, for example, require the addition of amino acids like methionine, carnitine, and taurine, as soy protein isolate is an incomplete protein and these supplements are crucial for infants’ growth and development.

Potential Nutrient Deficiencies

While aiming for nutritional completeness, plant-based formula for breastfed babies and toddlers, might lack certain nutrients. For example, rice-based formulas often need added lysine, as rice flour alone doesn’t provide enough.

Similarly, pea protein-based formulas, rich in essential amino acids and iron, might still require extra methionine and cysteine to meet the comprehensive nutritional needs of infants and toddlers.

For complete nutrition, parents should confirm the plant-based formula is fortified with iron and consider supplementing nutrients that aren’t fortified, like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and potentially other missing elements, with guidance from a nutritionist.

Safety and Regulations for Plant-Based Formulas

FDA Approval

Before marketing them, manufacturers must ensure plant-based infant formulas comply with specific FDA regulations, which include notifying the FDA and adhering to federal nutrient requirements. If the FDA finds a plant-based infant formula non-compliant with the established nutrient requirements, they declare it adulterated and may take compliance action against the product.

European Regulations

In Europe, plant-based infant formulas must comply with the European Union’s regulatory framework, which includes stringent safety and nutritional requirements.

The EU has set maximum levels for inorganic arsenic in rice, ensuring high safety and quality standards for plant-based formulas.

European laws require operators to notify national competent authorities about the marketing of infant and follow-on formulae, and forbid the use of nutrition and health claims on infant formula to protect breastfeeding.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provides scientific advice that informs the EU’s regulatory framework, ensuring that plant-based formulas meet infants’ nutritional needs and comply with regulations that are often stricter than those in the U.S.

Best Formula for Breastfed Babies and Toddlers: Australia Regulation

In Australia, plant-based infant formulas must meet Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulations before hitting the market. FSANZ’s Standard 2.9.1 outlines strict nutritional and safety standards similar to FDA and European guidelines but tailored to Australian requirements.

Imported formulas also undergo rigorous assessment to ensure compliance.

Continuous post-market surveillance by FSANZ ensures these products remain safe and nutritious for Australian infants, paralleling the thorough approaches of international counterparts.

Top Plant-Based Formula Brands and ProductsSelection of top plant-based formula brands including Bebe Mandorle, Sprout Organic, Premiriz, and Else Nutrition

Try brands below, which are available globally, and find the best formula for breastfed babies and toddlers:

  • Bebe Mandorle
  • Sprout Organic
  • Premiriz
  • Else Nutrition

These brands offer products that are made with certified organic ingredients that align with stringent European standards for both nutrition and safety.

Below are some key products offered by these brands.

Bebe M Organic Rice-Based Infant Formula

Bebe M Organic Rice-Based Infant Formula is:

  • A 100% plant-based product
  • Suitable for infants from birth
  • Does not contain milk, gluten, soy, or palm oil
  • Fits into a vegan diet from 0-3 years old.

The organic vegan formula uses certified organic ingredients that meet stringent European standards for both nutrition and safety.

Sprout Organic Vegan Baby Formula

Sprout Organic Vegan Baby Formula:

  • Certified organic and vegan
  • Designed for infants from birth to 12 months
  • Contains essential nutrients like plant-based DHA and ARA, along with vitamin D2

This formula ensures high standards of quality and ethical sourcing.

Manufacturers make it with organic rice protein and pea proteins, ensuring it is soy-free, lactose-free, and gentle on young digestive systems.

Else Nutrition Follow-on-Formula and Toddler Formula

  • Clean Label Certified
  • Meets the local Australian standards
  • Primary protein sources are almonds and buckwheat, which provide all essential amino acids necessary for a baby and toddler’s growth.

It is certified USDA Organic and excludes gluten, soy, corn syrup, and GMOs from its ingredients, catering to a range of dietary restrictions.

Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, MD, Board-Cetified Pediatrician, author and mom of 3 states, “So many toddlers are picky eaters, and add in that many have restrictive diets like milk allergies, milk intolerance, celiac disease ect.

I want to tell you about a real alternative to highly-processed toddler formulas. Else is complete nutrition, and its filled with healthy fats, and the nutrients your child needs. Else is made with 3 main plant ingredients.

There now is really a healthy option that I feel recommending, that’s plant-based, non-dairy and a complete nutrition drink.”

Plant-Based Follow-On-Formula
Plant-Based Toddler Drink

How to Choose the Best Formula for Your Breastfed Babies and Toddlers

Selecting the best formula for breastfed babies and toddlers calls for consulting a pediatrician, especially for plant-based options. This ensures it meets your child’s nutritional needs.

Seek formulas enriched with essential vitamins and minerals, and prioritize those with certified organic and non-GMO ingredients for superior quality and value.

For babies with sensitivities or allergies, avoid formulas with common allergens and opt for products approved by regulatory authorities to ensure they provide comprehensive nutrition without risking deficiencies.

Transitioning from Breast Milk to Plant-Based Formula

A gradual transition from breast milk to plant-based formula over several weeks allows your baby’s digestive system to adjust to the new nutrients and flavors. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin by replacing one breast milk feeding with a plant-based formula bottle daily.
  2. Allow the baby and your body to adjust to the new feeding routine.
  3. Slowly increase the number of formula feedings and decrease the number of breast milk feedings over time.

This gradual transition will help ensure a smooth and comfortable switch for your baby.

As the amount of breast milk is reduced, a gradual weaning process should ensue, where natural decrease in milk production will occur.

Tips for Feeding Your Baby with Plant-Based Formula

Feeding your baby with a plant-based formula involves key steps. You should ensure the proper water-to-powder ratio and follow hygienic practices when preparing the formula, adhering closely to the preparation instructions.

Prepare and store the formula in a workspace that you have cleaned and sanitized, using bottles and feeding supplies you have properly cleaned and sanitized.

Use the prepared formula within 2 hours, refrigerate bottles if not using them immediately, and use them within 24 hours; discard any leftover formula to prevent bacterial growth.

Store unopened containers of formula in a cool, dry place and use within one month of opening, while also checking the ‘Use By’ date.


Finding the best plant-based formula for breastfed babies and toddlers may seem hard. Yet, with the right guidance and information, you can choose the ideal one for your child’s needs.

Plant-based options, when carefully chosen, serve as a nutritionally complete alternative to traditional dairy formulas.

It’s essential to consult with a pediatrician, be aware of potential allergens, and ensure the formula complies with regulatory standards. Each baby’s needs are distinct, and a formula that benefits one child may not suit another.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is plant-based formula OK for babies?

Yes, plant-based formula suits babies, especially for those with specific dietary needs or family preferences. Carefully choose from options designed to fulfill infants’ nutritional requirements.

These formulas are often fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to ensure they provide a balanced diet. Consulting with a pediatrician is essential to choose a plant-based formula that’s appropriately formulated and meets regulatory standards for infant nutrition.

Is Enfamil plant based formula good for babies?

Yes, Enfamil plant-based formula is a good option for babies with lactose intolerance or for families with special dietary needs such as vegetarian or kosher diets, offering a dairy-free alternative and helping with fussiness and gas sometimes caused by milk-based formulas.

Why was plant-based formula recalled?

The plant-based infant formula was recalled due to a potential cross-contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii, a bacteria that can cause rare but life-threatening infections in newborns. Tests conducted on all distributed products came back negative for the bacteria.

How to make plant-based baby formula?

You can make a plant-based baby formula by blending ingredients like hemp seeds, Irish sea moss powder, Moringa leaf powder, pitted dates, water, and coconut water (or regular water). Adjust the taste and consistency to suit your baby’s preferences.

Can plant-based formulas provide adequate nutrition for my baby?

Yes, plant-based formulas can offer adequate nutrition for breastfed babies and toddlers, provided they are specifically designed and regulated to meet the nutritional standards set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

These formulas are often fortified with essential nutrients to ensure they cater to your baby’s developmental needs. Choose formulas for breastfed babies and toddlers certified to meet Australian guidelines for a balanced diet like breast milk.

Consulting with a healthcare professional can help you find a plant-based formula that supports your child’s growth and health effectively.



The content and advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment, advice for specific medical conditions. Always consult a pediatrician to understand the individual needs of your child. The article expresses solely the views of the article editor.

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