In the landscape of new parent struggles, one of the most stressful and often contentious is the breastfeeding versus formula debate. Now, natural product company The Honest Company is getting in the game with a new feeding line that aims to serve all feeding plans–nursing, bottle feeding, or any combination of the two.
The line includes not only breastfeeding aids and bottles, but an organic infant feeding formula, “carefully modeled after breast milk, nutritionally complete, easy to digest, and meticulously blended using ingredients sourced from trusted organic farms; ‘Honestly Free’ of gluten, GMOs, hexane-extracted DHA, and steroids.”
This is a significant move by an eco-conscious company like Honest, especially given current widespread advocacy for breastfeeding and the stigma some women face for using or supplementing with formula. But there are a million factors that influence individual parents’ feeding plans, from physical issues to cost to challenges facing working mothers, so more options are welcome to many. While most infant formulas claim to be closely modeled after breast milk, a product from a company with Honest’s natural cred is likely to be popular among formula feeders who still have qualms about manufactured milk. The company, cofounded by Jessica Alba, is known for stylish diapers and household products that are free of harsh chemicals and low on artificial materials.
“It’s our philosophy that new parents need friends, guardians, and ambassadors to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and they tend to outsource some of that to brands and products,” says Christopher Gavigan, Honest’s cofounder and chief product officer. “In my experience in this area, the brands I would normally have trusted let me down.” Gavigan says that addressing this meant including everything that’s needed in a formula that is many babies’ sole source of nutrition, but leaving out things that could potentially be harmful. “Moms need a formula that’s gentle and complete and has to hit 100% of all the RDIs (recommended daily intake). But we were really focused on not just what’s inside, but also what’s not inside, eliminating those risky ingredients. No GMOs, antibiotics, wheat, gluten, nuts, artificial colors, or flavors–they can be risky additives and inclusions in infant formula.”
Honest’s new feeding line also includes a liquid-based fish oil baby DHA, which the company is marketing separately instead of adding to the formula because the synthetic DHA available to the powdered formula market didn’t meet the company’s purity standards. “The FDA is very rigorous, but in this one key category, DHA, I felt there wasn’t the choice that I needed,” says Gavigan. “So we are offering a pure version as an extra add-on.” For breastfeeding parents, the product line includes a lactation supplement for moms to stimulate breast milk production, as well as aids like a nursing pillow and coverup.
Gavigan says he knows the company will face some blowback for the decision to market infant formula, but they’re prepared for it.
“It’s not for us to judge parents for how they feed their baby,” says Gavigan. “Parents are trying to do their best, and Honest Company is here as an agnostic platform to help in their decisions. We acknowledge that breast milk is the most nutritious food on the planet, but for parents who can’t choose breast milk–adoptive parents, gay parents, anyone else–we want to give them the best options. We will hear criticism, but if you don’t get criticized you’re not moving the world forward, consumers forward, and the regulatory environment forward. Once you have that dialog and start that conversation, you realize there are similarities among all parents trying to do their best.”