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Ask NatureMom – Infant Formula & Toxic Cloth Diapers?

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Reader QuestionsThis is a new feature I have added to organize reader questions. Some days I spend quite a bit of time writing out answers to questions that readers send only to have someone ask the same question 2-3 months later and I can’t find what I previously wrote. Well, it was about time I smarten up here…I will be answering them on the blog so I can just send a link…easy peasy.

Q: I think you may be past the point of needing infant formula, but do you have any strong feelings towards any of them?  I need to supplement my 6mth old b/c I’m just not producing enough to keep her tummy from growling =(.  We started Nestle- but then I read on various websites criticism towards the company for undermining breastfeeders.  Now with contamination in formula from China and BPA in cans – I’m not sure what to use. I find it difficult to trust these companies.

A: Well, I am past the point of formula feeding but I DID use formula in the not to distant past as I had to stop breastfeeding my youngest at 6 months when I was diagnosed with cancer. It was an agonizing thing for me because I know breast is best but I know personally that there is sometimes a need for baby formula and the BPA in the linings and now the Melamine in formula from China is pretty scary.

First off I would stay away from soy. There are numerous reasons why processed soy is not a good idea…especially for infants. The BPA issue is present with all forms of baby formula. The Environmental Working Group found that “Every manufacturer except Nestlé said it uses a BPA-based lining on the metal portions of their powdered formula cans. Nestlé failed to provide EWG with reliable documentation of their alternative packaging, and thus is not a clear improvement over other types.” Also “Powdered formulas are a better choice. Our calculations indicate that babies fed reconstituted powdered formula likely receive 8 to 20 times less BPA than those fed liquid formula from a metal can.” So if you have to choose between powdered or liquid…go with powdered.

I personally used Nature’s One Organic Baby Formula for my son. They state that their formula cans are BPA free but that there MAY be trace amounts of BPA on the metal pull-back lid. They are also USDA certified organic, which I like. And this is a USA made product…no ingredients are sourced from China.

There is also the issue of how additives like DHA and ARA (omega fatty acids) are added. Most companies use chemicals like hexane, acid and bleach to extract these components. The only one I have found thus far that claims they do not use this process is Nature’s One. But other companies say that any other method is not FDA approved so who do you believe….sometimes it sucks to be a consumer.

My suggestion for anyone though would be to call the maufacturing company and ask them directly about any of your concerns. Another to look into would be Earth’s Best Organic Formula. And if it is in any way possible to breastfeed…do it…then you don’t have to worry about any of this.

Other links: Make Your Own Baby Formula & Use Donor Breastmilk


Q: I’ve read that you cloth diapered and I recently started.  I have been a bit disappointed just because I have had a hard time finding what I want to use.  I have gone with fitteds with a wool cover because I wanted to avoid all plastic.  Unfortunately my favorite diaper is bumgenius 3.0 because it is so much easier and less bulky.  But it irritates me that it’s my fave because of the pul outer.  I am very skeptical of using polyurethane laminate on a baby.  What do you think of PUL?   I’ve had a very hard time coming up with any real evidance on this.  My problem is everyone criticizes disposables for the plastic, organic bedding companies rant against polyurethane foam, and polyethelane is supposed to be the safer of plastics… so why is everyone using PUL?

A: GREAT question! Cloth diapers have two major options…a cloth diaper that needs a waterproof cover or a diaper that already has a waterproof layer (AIOs, pockets, one-size). MOST cloth diapers will use some sort of plastic in the cover or waterproof layer….it could be a vinyl material, nylon, or it could be a polyurethane laminate (PUL) which is basically laminated polyester. Well, obviously we see the inherent danger in using vinyl (I hope), but what about PUL? Well, polyester is not a natural material, it is synthetic and the laminate is plastic. Furthermore, “polyester slowly emits phytoestrogens, which are endocrine disruptors, or compounds similar to estrogen, which can promote certain types of cancer.” * Being a long time member of the cloth diapering mom community I have also heard my fair share of stories about PUL causing bad rashes and skin reactions.

So if you want truly natural materials you may not want to use these diaper types and they are the most popular ones…the BumGenius 3.0, Fuzzi Bunz, etc. I have used many of these in my diapering lifetime but eventually opted to use cotton fitted diapers and wool covers and longies. Wool is naturally waterproof so if you are concerned I say go the cotton/wool route. When in doubt…go with natural fibers.

Check out these Swaddlebees Merino Wool Diaper Covers and these Ecobaby Absorb-it-all 100% Organic Cloth Diapers.

Keep the questions coming!

  • rachel

    I have six Bum-Ware AIOs and two Dream-Eze AIOs, but most of my stash is cotton fitteds and prefolds. I have to be honest that I didn’t really think about PUL. I have some PUL Thirsties covers that I’ll likely sell before long, now that I’ve switched to and LOVE my Kiwi Pie wool covers. The only things made of polyester that I won’t likely give up are the fleece liners and fleece-topped doublers. It’s really important to me to keep my son’s skin dry.

  • casual friday everyday

    Awesome feature, Tiffany.

  • Alana

    We use gDiapers and absolutely love them. They have flushable/compostable “disposable” inserts, but many, mnay people use them with cloth and love the versatility.

  • Nikki

    Thanks so much! I’m think we are going to give Nature’s one org. formula a try, although it has soy listed as an ingredient (most do). It sounds the best of everything I have seen so far. She seems to do better on formula w/ comfort proteins though so I hope she can handle it.
    I’m afaid I have gotten over my head with the cd though -I hate to say it. It has just been so expensive! I decided on cloth and wool like you suggested, but covers are high. Do most people have a heavy investment in this?
    (prefolds must be cheaper, I just haven’t gotten the hang of it!)
    This was very helpfull- I can finally lay my pul anxiety to rest! thankx a ton!!!!

    • maria

      nature one does not have soy if you buy the dairy ..kind not the soy kind….

  • I love this feature :) Thank YOU!!!

  • For your reader who asked about formula, one way to avoid the risks is to use a homemade formula with raw milk. There is a recipe on the Weston A Price website.

    Hope that helps.

  • Thanks Carrie for mentioning that…I meant to but somehow the homemade option got forgotten as I was writing.

    Nikki prefolds work too! In fact you could even make our own wool covers using old wool sweaters. I used to buy them at thrift stores for a dollar and make covers out them…there are many free patterns online.

  • kayla

    Just wanted to say thanks for all your information. Your site is well done.

  • What about working with a lactation consultant to increase milk supply? I know that some women still need to suppliment, but most of the time it’s possible to kick that supply-and-demand thing into motion if you get the right information.
    Also, do you know anything about donor milk, Tiffany? That might be an option for a mom who is absolutely opposed to infant formula but still needs to suppliment. (I don’t know much about it personally though I would try that route if I ever needed it.)

  • Excellent point Kaiya…donor milk is an option.

  • Greta

    I must admit, this article was pretty disheartening for me. We use all PUL covers with the exception of one”emergency” fleece cover and a handful of cotton pre-folds. I LOVE Bum Genius diapers, and hate to think that my major investment in cloth diapers (which I felt was the wise decision) may be causing my daughter harm. This is truly a BIG BUMMER!!!!

  • Greta,

    Cloth diapers (even PUL ones) are still better than disposables as far as safety and earth friendliness goes. They may not be the best option among cloth diapers but still give yourself credit for what you ARE doing. ;)

  • Lisa

    I looked into Earth’s Best organic formula. The ingredient list seems to be the same as in Parent’s Choice organic formula (sold at Walmart- for about $10 less per can). I have heard they are made by the same company. It’s nice to have a less expensive option, while not forsaking quality.

    • maria

      lol if its sold at walmart ..i would not soo sure about not forsaking quality…

  • Jupiter

    I present cloth diapering workshops in my area and I always assert that any cloth diaper is better than disposables.Even thought the PUL and any older waterproofing methods are non-biodegradable, it’s still a significantly lower contribution to waste that 2 tons worth of disposables that don’t ever go away.

    But I do always add that my preference is for a cotton cloth diaper with wool covers ;)

  • Brooke

    A good response to the first question would be don’t supplement! So many moms start supplementing with the misinterpretation that some how they are not producing enough milk naturally, therefore formula is the only option. This is not true. There are herbs that help with breastfeeding, but most of the time the child is just going through a growth spurt that demands more feeding time. Sometimes the breastfeeding mom is not eating or drinking enough, or is overly stressed. Also at 6 months a child can start to be supplemented with some juices and solid foods that can help with hunger, instead of relying on formula.

  • I think Brooke makes a good point! Make sure there is really nothing else you can do before turning to formula. Because once you turn to formula your milk supply will most likely decrease more. And it will be so easy to just make a bottle instead of trying to increase supply. We couldn’t even keep formula in the house because during those really stressful breastfeeding moments it would have been really easy to go make a bottle. I know for me I took some herbs that increased my supply.

  • Brooke and Momma,

    While I agree with what you said, the question did not pertain to breastfeeding support it was about safer formula which is still an important topic because some women will for whatever reason…still use formula. I think they deserve answers about that instead of chiding from us that they shouldn’t use it.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for saying that, Tiffany. I didn’t feel like I needed to give an explanation when I posted earlier. We adopted three of our children as infants. Our newest baby is 3 months old. Safe formula is a relevant topic for me.

  • Tiffany–Not anywhere in my post did I chide someone for using formula or say they shouldn’t use it. The question also talked about having to supplement because of low milk supply. I don’t think the issue would have been brought up if it hadn’t been part of the question.

  • Momma,

    I understand that but often moms who use formula are VERY sensitive to even innocent comments that say not to suppliment or use formula or keep trying breastfeeding, etc. It may be good advice but very disouraging for moms who WANT to use formula or HAVE to use formula (like I did) and these helpful suggestions can make them feel badly. I kept that type of advice out of my post for that exact reason…I will presume to assume that the mom with the question has exhausted all other avenues. THIS post was about formula not breastfeeding.

  • Nikki

    Here’s another question for anyone interested-what is in disposable diapers? I’ve looked it up before and know it is a combo of things- the outer is polypropylene (or maybe the inner), wood chips, and absorbant polymers (and other things?).
    I know disposables are horrible for the envio., but what about saftey?
    When I asked earlier about the polyurethane I guess I was weighing the options of polypropylene with a mix of polymers and other goodies vs a polyurethane laminate on polyester. So, overall I’m assuming the second choice would still be better than a disposble?
    When I decided to cloth diaper

  • Bernadette

    I looked into Parent’s Choice Organic. I was excited to see that they have an organic brand, However, I read through some reviews stating that their cans are very full of BPA. Now, I don’t know how they know this, but they mention that the can didn’t have a “liner” like some others do. Any comments? :-)

  • Nikki,

    Here is an article I wrote about what is in disposables:

  • Kelly

    If you really want to be safe and green–go diaper free a la Elimination Communication (EC) or Infant Potty Training (IPT). I work, so we do it part-time, which cuts way down on laundry. FWIW we use prefolds in a gdiaper cover, sometimes prefolds just pinned on in the usual way without a cover, and whenever we can, we EC.

  • Nikki

    I appreciate all the help!!! I try to really know what I am doing with the kids- having as much info. as possible so I can keep my hubby on board with me!

  • Clueless

    I’m a first time Mom that is trying to provide the best for my son. I don’t know a great deal about all natural products. I’ve been using Johnson & Johnson wash and lotion on my son. I’ve noticed his skin is getting SO dry and rough. Then I heard how those products have chemicals that can cause cancer! I’m very concerned and need other options for skin care.. Please help!!! If you can also provide me with some websites/books that can educate me on eating and living healthier. Thank you!!

  • Catherine

    Thanks Tiffany,

    Unfortunately I had to supplement my breast milk as well with my children, but I did not use Nature’s One because it is a toddler formula and not suitable for a baby. My doctor recommended Vermont Organics Infant Formula and my son Fletcher did great with the formula. All formulas may have a little BPA in the pull-back lid, but it is not used to make the formula. All canned goods have BPA in the linings, so I wasn’t as concerned about using formula as I was about using baby bottles with BPA.

    At any rate, Vermont Organics worked for me and is available online, which saves me gas and the impact on the environment: Breast feed if you can – I did for as long as I could, but I would stay away from making your own formula and buy one that complies with FDA and USDA guidelines for infant, not toddler formula.

    • maria

      nature one has toddler formula on the …advertisement to promote nreast feeding …its a infant/baby formula …and my two kids where fed with it ……..sometimes i really wonder if folks can read

  • Michele McWilliams

    FYI…only the liquid formulas contain BPA in the lining. All of the powder formulas have been changed to remove BPA lining. It is a lining that helps the food last without causing even more major health issues. All cans with liquid in them require it today until another lining can be found.