The History of Baby Formula

Today, new moms looking to formula feed their children are undoubtedly overwhelmed by all the options available to them. Just taking a stroll down the formula isle for the first time could make any parent’s eyes glaze over. Having multiple options to choose from is great but can be overwhelming. As science continues to improve, formula manufacturers persistently work to improve their formulations in an effort to get closer and closer to replicating breast milk while also offering formula options for children with special health needs, allergies, intolerances etc.

We didn’t always have so many options available to us. How did we get here? A little history for you…

Many years ago, baby formula wasn’t available, yet new mothers still encountered the same issues that mothers today often experience. Many of them were unable to breastfeed, had to work or unfortunately died during childbirth. Often, livestock was used to feed children, also known as dry nursing. To ensure children were being fed and getting the proper nutrients for adequate growth, wet nursing was then introduced. Wet nursing is when a woman breastfeeds another woman's child.

The Introduction of Baby Formula

It wasn’t until 1841 that the first nursing bottle was introduced. Initially these bottles were made of glass. Shortly after, the first rubber nipple was patented. Baby formula wasn’t introduced until 1865 when Justus Von Liebig’s Soup for Infants was introduced to market. Liebig’s formula was made of cow’s milk, wheat, malt flour and potassium bicarbonate.

In 1883 evaporated milk was developed. The use of evaporated milk allowed food to be transported and stored without spoiling. It was a huge breakthrough for food sterilization and allowed several baby formula brands to emerge.

Formula Regulations

Regulation of the formula industry began in 1929 with the formation of the Committee on Foods (formed by AMA, The American Medical Association). The committee on Foods’ role was to approve the safety and quality of formula composition. Various new Formula brands emerged before the Infant Formula Act passed in 1980. This set minimum and maximum standards for many nutrients in formulas and mandated testing and manufacturing standards.

Baby Formula and Marketing Messaging

With all the new baby formula brands emerging, the popularity of baby formula grew rapidly. It became so popular that, in the 1970’s, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and nongovernmental organizations started a movement to promote and protect breastfeeding. The messaging “Breast is Best” soon transitioned to “Fed is Best” as the mom shaming issue grew. The goal of “Fed is Best” according to their website is to help new mothers nourish their newborns the best way they can. More specifically, the foundation works to identify critical gaps in current breastfeeding protocols, guidelines and education programs. Families and health professionals are provided with the most up-to-date scientific research, education and resources to practice safe infant feeding with breast milk, formula or a combination of both.

Introduction of Organic Formulas

For quite some time, parents were left without an organic baby formula option. In fact, it wasn’t until 1999 when Nature’s One introduced the first organic baby formula in the United States, Baby’s Only Organic®, that parents were able to choose a more pure, safe and natural formula to feed their growing children.

Today, Nature’s One is lucky enough to be the only independent formula manufacturer not owned by big Pharma or the company that makes store brand formulas. That means Nature’s One conducts their own research, has 100% control over what goes into their products, and they own their scientific research and formulas. That allows Nature’s One to be more transparent, move more nimbly and insist on the finest ingredients.


To sum it up:


2000 BC – Wet nursing began

1841 – First glass nursing bottle was introduced

1845 – First rubber nipple was patented by Elijah Pratt

1865 – Earliest known patented formula was introduced in Germany (Justus Von Liebig’s Soup for Infants. Liebig's formula—consisting of cow's milk, wheat and malt flour, and potassium bicarbonate—was considered the perfect infant food)

1883 - A method of producing unsweetened evaporated milk was developed by John B. Myenber

1920 – Alfred Bosworth released Similac (Marketed by Moores and Ross Milk Company, now Abbott Laboratories). Mead Johnson introduced first soy-based formula, Sobee

1929 - The American Medical Association (AMA) formed the Committee on Foods to approve the safety and quality of formula composition, forcing many infant food companies to seek AMA approval or the organization's “Seal of Acceptance.” The first nonmilk formula was based on soy flour and became available to the public

1933 – Holle was founded and soon afterwards introduced the first organic baby food in Europe

1959 – Enfamil (Mead Johnson) was introduced

1970’s – Movement to promote breast feeding began

1980 The Infant Formula Act passed. This set maximum and minimum standards for many nutrients in formulas and mandated testing and manufacturing standards

1985 – Earth’s Best was founded

1989 – Gerber introduced its own brand of infant formula

1999 - Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy was introduced – the first organic formula in the U.S.

2000 - Baby’s Only Organic® Soy was introduced

2007 – Plum Organics was introduced

2008 - Baby’s Only Organic® LactoRelief® was introduced

2011 - Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy with DHA & ARA (free of hexane processed ingredients) was introduced. Nature’s One introduces the first organic compliant DHA – free of hexane processing.

2011 – The Honest Company launched a line of organic feeding products

2015 - Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy with Whey was introduced

2015 - Baby’s Only Organic® LactoRelief® with DHA & ARA (free of hexane processed ingredients) was introduced

2016Fed is Best Messaging is launched by emergency room physician Christie del Castillo-Hegyi

2017 - Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy Whey with DHA & ARA (free of hexane processed ingredients) was introduced

2018 – Nature’s One introduces the first and only Certified Organic DHA/ARA on the market. Click here to learn more!

2019 – Nature’s One introduces the world's first Pea Protein baby formula, Baby’s Only Organic® Pea Protein Formula