Best Vegan Baby Formula (Vegan Dietitian Guide 2023)

vegan formula for newborns

Many parents, at some point, use formula even though it is not their first choice. There are many reasons mothers may not choose or not be able to breastfeed, ranging from a low milk supply, specific medical situations, and mental or socioeconomic issues. Rest assured that your baby can grow healthy and strong on a vegan formula for newborns!


There are many vegan formulas for babies you can find on the market, but it can be hard to know what to look for. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know to choose the best vegan baby formula.

What is a vegan baby formula?

Vegan baby formula does not contain ingredients from animal sources and is made without using animal products or by-products. There are several plant-based and vegan formulas you can use depending on your baby’s needs!


Is vegan baby formula bad for my infant?

No, not at all! When it comes to raising your infant vegan, it will take a lot of diligence to ensure your baby is receiving all the nutrients they need due to their rapid growth rate. As long as you follow guidance from your pediatrician and/or pediatric vegan dietitian, feeding your baby plant-based infant formula and keeping them on a plant-based diet is a perfectly safe option.


Vegan vs. plant-based vs. dairy-free formula

  • Dairy-free formulas do not limit all animal products but only milk or milk products.


  • Plant-based formulas are infant formulas made with (whole) plant proteins instead of cow’s milk. It is important to remember that plant-based formulas are not 100% vegan, as they can include trace amounts of animal-derived products.
  • The term vegan takes it a step further by encompassing lifestyle alongside diet. Veganism refers to avoiding animal products in all aspects of life, from diet to clothing, skin care products and more.


Vitamin D in the formula – is it vegan?

The short answer is no.


Food is commonly labeled as vegan if it is free from all animal products to the extent it is possible. A formula with the smallest amount of an animal ingredient causes it to not be vegan to some people. 


All the plant-based or soy-based formulas in the market contain vitamin D3, (listed as cholecalciferol) derived from lanolin, a wax secreted by sheep wool. Most vitamin D in supplements and fortified foods are derived this way. 


Vitamin D2 is the vegan version of the nutrient but it is less effective at raising blood levels of active vitamin D. Also, there are vegan versions of D3 available, such as lichen or mushrooms but there tend to be more expensive and harder to source. 


Hence, formula companies tend to stick with the cheaper, more accessible options, which means most formulas are not absolutely 100% vegan.

best plant based infant formula

Soy protein formula: the best plant-based vegan formula

Soy formulas or commonly referred to as “plant-based formulas” are the most commonly available choice for vegan families.  They are made of soy protein isolate supplemented with amino acids and fatty acid transporter carnitine

These compounds tend to be lower in soy than in cow’s milk, and infants cannot produce their own. Plants do not contain lactose, so soy formulas use corn syrup, corn maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, or sugar to provide essential carbohydrates. 


Do soy-based formulas provide fewer nutrients than cow’s milk?

By law in the US and Canada, soy-based formulas must contain the same amount of calories and the same essential nutrients as any other approved baby formula, including cow’s milk formulas. Therefore, you do not have to worry about meeting your baby’s growth and developmental needs.


Is soy in infant formula safe for babies?

Yes, soy in infant formula is safe for most babies. Millions of infants have grown and thrived on soy-based formulas. However, there is still concern over the safety of soy for infants. 


The main concern with soy is due to phytoestrogens in soy formulas. Soy products contain a natural plant compound called isoflavones – a plant compound with a structure similar to the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for the sexual development of females. 


Babies fed soy formula receive more soy isoflavones than babies on other formulas. Additionally, because formula is an exclusive source of nutrition for the first six months of life, these babies typically consume more soy isoflavones than most adults eating soy on occasion. 


The fear of soy formula having estrogen-like effects at the time of development is fueled by older animal studies reporting various abnormalities in animals exposed to soy isoflavones. 


However, estrogen is much more potent than soy isoflavones, and animals metabolize soy isoflavones differently than humans. Human studies haven’t concluded any significant long-term effect in soy formula babies, including no side effects in sexual development in the brain, thyroid, or immune function. 

When to not use soy-based formulas? 

Soy formulas tend to have higher levels of aluminum and phytates than other infant formula types. This can only be a concern for babies with congenital hypothyroidism, as phosphates in soy can interfere with the absorption of medication used to treat this condition.


It is best to speak to your pediatrician before introducing vegan formula for your newborn in this case. 


Soy formula is additionally not recommended for preterm infants. Studies have shown that preterm infants have a greater risk of osteopenia. This may be due to preterm infants’ kidneys being underdeveloped, and they are unable to excrete aluminum properly. Aluminum competes with calcium for absorption and is found in higher amounts in soy formula than in breast or cow’s milk.


Lastly, soy is also an allergen like dairy and should be watched out for. In many cases, soy allergy starts with a reaction to soy-based infant formula. Although most infants outgrow a soy allergy, it can persist into adulthood. Signs and symptoms of soy allergy are mild but here are some things to look out for:


  • Hives and Itching in the mouth
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea
  • Scaly skin (eczema)
  • Redness of the skin (flushing)
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat or other parts of the body  
  • Wheezing, runny nose or trouble breathing
  • In rare cases, anaphylaxis could occur

If you think your baby might have a soy allergy, their doctor may refer you to an allergist to get the proper diagnosis. 

vegan formula for newborns

Do vegan babies need supplements?

Vitamin B12

The importance of providing enough vitamin B12 during the baby’s first six months cannot be stressed enough. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that vegan babies receive a vitamin B12 supplement from birth.

Soy formula provides vitamin B12 in specific amounts, but you should check this amount with your pediatrician to make sure it’s right for your baby.

Vitamin  D

All children younger than 12 months old should receive a vitamin D supplement of 10 mcg (400 IU) per day and children 12 to 24 months old need 600 IU of vitamin D each day as recommended by CDC.

Soy formula provides vitamin D in specific quantities, but you must check this with your pediatrician to ensure it is adequate for your baby. 


According to the Canadian Paediatric Society infants with a birth weight of 2.0 kg to 2..5 kg, should receive an iron supplement of 1-2 mg/kg/day for the first 6 months of age. However, Infants with a birth weight of less than 2.0 kg should receive an iron supplement of 2-3 mg/kg/day for the first year of age.

For infants who get all their food from formula (the formula chosen should include iron in that case), a supplement is not needed.

What should I look for in the best infant vegan formulas?

  • Ideally organic (or at least non-GMO). Organic baby formulas are considered to be the premium standards of food processing and therefore the healthiest options for your baby.

  • Iron-fortified. It is a great option to choose iron-fortified formulas as some babies do not have enough natural reserves of iron.
  • No added sugars. Manufacturers use various sweeteners to mimic both the caloric content and natural sweetness of the milk. These sweeteners include corn syrup, and brown rice syrup.

    The best plant-based formula contains maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate similar to lactose in energy value, easily digested and provides energy for infants.

    There are no adverse effects of maltodextrin on growth and development, and it even helps reduce osmotic load and gastrointestinal distress in infants who have trouble tolerating lactose.   

  • Docosahezaenoic acids (DHA). DHA, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, is naturally found in breast milk and is crucial for babies’ eye and brain development. The best vegan formulas contain synthetic forms of DHA. 
vegan formula for babies

Best vegan baby formulas: 

Nestlé Good Start alsoy baby formula 

This soy-based powdered formula is easy to digest and provides complete nutrition to support normal growth for babies 0-12 months. 


  • Readily available in stores and can be purchased on amazon 
  • Affordable 
  • Non-GMO
  • Iron-fortified 
  • Uses maltodextrin as the main source of sweetener 
  • Vegan-sourced DHA from algae 


  • None
Best baby vegan formula

Similac Isomil with DHA baby formula 

This powder soy-based formula is naturally lactose-free and nutritionally complete for babies 0+ months.


  • Readily available in stores and can be purchased on amazon
  • Affordable
  • Non-GMO
  • Iron-fortified 
  • Vegan-sourced DHA from algae 


  • Corn syrup is listed as the main carbohydrate ingredient
vegan formula for babies

Gerber Good Start Soy Protein Infant Formula

This is another powder soy-based formula that is appropriate for 0-12 months. 


  • Can purchase in stores or on amazon 
  • Affordable 
  • Non-GMO 
  • Uses maltodextrin as the main source of sweetener 
  • Vegan-sourced DHA from algae 


  • Due to the current national shortage of infant formula, this formula may be harder to find

EARTH’S BEST organic soy-based formula 

This is an organic soy milk-based formula that is marketed to be easy-to-digest with meeting all FDA requirements for infant nutrition. 


  • Available to order on amazon
  • Non-GMO 
  • Iron-fortified 
  • Kosher Certified 
  • Omega-3 DHA fortified from algae vegan source 


  • expensive 
  • Organic corn syrup is used as the main source of carbohydrate 

Sprout organic plant-based infant formula 

This formula is derived from organic rice starch and formulated to support babies from birth to 12 months. While this may raise concerns about heavy metal contamination from rice starch, Sprout Organic complies with Australian regulations on heavy metals, including arsenic. This is a good option if your baby cannot tolerate soy products and needs a vegan alternative. 


  • Organic 
  • non-GMO
  • Kosher
  • No sugars added 
  • DHA fortified from vegan-sourced algae 
  • Vegan-sourced vitamin D2
  • Iron-fortified 


  • Australia-based – only purchased online in US and Canada 
  • expensive

Disclaimer: I advise mothers who want to raise their babies vegan on a formula to speak to their pediatrician and dietitian as they help guide them on the best vegan baby formula to use and supplements to give their babies the best growth. 

vegan formula for babies

Final thoughts

I hope this guide helped you find the best vegan formula for your baby! Whether your baby has a milk allergy or your family has chosen to follow a vegan lifestyle, you are on the right track! 

More importantly, it can be difficult for all mothers to find a plant-based formula that works great for their babies. 

If you come across a point where you need to allow a few animal-derived ingredients for your baby’s first few months, just know that this is okay, and it is a priority for your baby to receive all the nutrients they need. As your baby grows, you can transition them to a fully vegan diet later if you wish to do so. 

Reach out to us if you think you would benefit from a consultation with a vegan dietitian and nutritionist.