Is Commercial Infant Formula Harming Babies with MTHFR? |

Is Commercial Infant Formula Harming Babies with MTHFR?

admin July 17, 2017

When it comes to feeding babies, everyone’s so hopped up over the Breast is Best VS Fed is Best campaigns that no one’s discussing most of the real issues that exist.  We don’t have truly optimal ways to feed babies right now…and by fighting constantly, we’re not helping anyone.

Obviously, diving in and taking a closer look at infant formula is a touchy area for many.  Some moms can’t or don’t want to breastfeed; so what then?  There has to be another choice.  But what if that choice is possibly harming some babies…and we don’t even realize it?  Babies who can’t have breastmilk need choices that are safe and healthy for them.  That’s why, uncomfortable as it may be, we have to talk about it.

But first…a little background on this issue — one I have yet to see anyone else raise.

What is MTHFR and Why Do I Care?

MTHFR is a gene mutation, and it has only started to get attention in the last few years.  There is very little research into it right now.

What we do know is that it’s more common than most people realize, and that it affects the body’s methylation cycle.  That’s super complicated (better explanation of it HERE), but the short version is, while most people can make a conversion from folic acid and other B vitamins from the synthetic form to the active form, people with this mutation can’t.

That means that if someone is getting only synthetic vitamins — or mostly — that they can easily become deficient because their bodies can’t use that.  What’s more, for people with some types of the mutation, these synthetic vitamins can actually become toxic, and cause all kinds of problems.

Other vitamins are impacted, depending on the exact type of mutation that you (or baby) have.  B2 is commonly an issue.  B-12 may also be.

In general, people with this mutation have to be very, very careful about avoiding synthetic forms of B vitamins, particularly (but not only) folic acid.

MTHFR mutations have been associated with:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Impaired detox pathways
  • ADHD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Migraines
  • Spina bifida and other neural tube defects
  • Diabetes
  • IBS
  • …and a lot more

This is not something to play around with.  It’s also not something you can ever “cure,” as it is a genetic mutation.  But you can learn to manage it…by avoiding key foods and taking certain supplements.  (There are multiple versions of this mutation — there are two different genes, C677T and A1298C, and your exact risk factors will depend on if you have one copy of one, two copies of one, or one copy of each.  The more mutated copies you have…the worse it is.)

External signs that you may have this mutation include:

  • Tongue/lip tie
  • Blue vein across bridge of nose
  • Sacral dimple (lower part of spine, small ‘hole’)
  • Cleft palate
  • Scoliosis

(Read more about signs/symptoms)

There’s a lot we don’t know about this…but we can safely assume that the more we ignore it, the worse it will be!  There are families who have done genetic testing to confirm their mutations, and who have taken steps to eliminate sources of both “toxins” (pesticides, food dyes, etc.) and synthetic vitamins and who have seen sharp health and behavior improvements.

Unfortunately, since the vast majority of people don’t realize that they have this mutation…or understand the implications of it, most people do not realize that certain health issues they are experiencing may be connected — and that their health could possibly improve if they were able to take steps to change their diet or supplements.  (It isn’t rare.)

But what does this have to do with babies?

Is Commercial Infant Formula Harming Babies with MTHFR?

Here’s the problem.  Up to 75% of people have some form of this mutation. (Source)   Approximately 21% of babies are never breastfed, country-wide.  Over half are on formula, at least part-time, by 6 months of age.  73% are on formula by one year of age.  (Source)

A majority of infants are receiving commercial infant formula at some point during their first year of life — most on a regular basis.  We can assume that up to 75% of those babies have the MTHFR mutation in some form and don’t know it.  And their primary food contains synthetic vitamins!

Check out the ingredients in Enfamil’s formula (emphasis mine):


Note that this formula contains synthetic folic acid (not natural folate).  The label doesn’t specify, but it’s likely that the B-12 is in the form of cyanocobalamin (most common in fortified food and supplements), which is not the safest or most easily absorbed form.

These synthetic vitamins are exactly what families with the MTHFR mutation are trying to avoid…and yet, they’re in something that’s making up the bulk of an infant’s food for months!

(By the way, folic acid also passes through breast milk, so this isn’t an issue with only formula.  Moms who are taking a supplement that contains folic acid, or eating foods that are fortified with it are also passing it to their babies.)

What Is The Risk in This?

For some babies (depending on if they have the mutation and which type they have), this long-term supplementation with synthetic vitamins could increase their risk of cancer later in life.

More immediately, it could lead to deficiencies in folate (since their bodies can’t process it or turn it to the active form).  Folate is necessary for:

  • Proper growth
  • Appetite
  • Mental clarity
  • DNA replication
  • Making red blood cells
  • …and more

(source, source)

In other words, it’s incredibly important that kids get enough, and could lead to a whole host of problems if they don’t!

What Do We Do About This?

Right now, there are no easy answers.

Breastfeeding is obviously optimal…if it’s possible (which isn’t always the case).  Breastfeeding moms should take care to avoid supplements that have synthetic folic acid in them, and try to avoid processed white flour or other foods with that are fortified with folic acid and other synthetic vitamins.  This includes any type of bread or crackers made from white flour, most breakfast cereals, and more.  Processed foods are largely out.

What is breastfeeding isn’t possible?

There really is no good option.

These are the ingredients from Holle organic baby formula:

Skimmed milk** (Germany), whey powder* partly demineralised, vegetable oils* (palm oil*, rapeseed oil*, sunflower oil*), maltodextrin*, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, vitamin C, vitamin E, ferrous lactate, zinc sulphate, niacin, Calcium-D-pantothenate, copper sulphate, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, manganese sulphate, potassium iodate, folic acid, vitamin K, sodium selenate, vitamin D

These are the ingredients from Baby’s Only Organic formula:

Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Nonfat Milk, Organic High Oleic Sunflower and/or Organic High Oleic Safflower Oil, Organic Soybean Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Ascorbate (Vit. C), Organic Soy Lecithin, Calcium Citrate, Choline Bitartrate, Organic Vanilla, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Inositol, d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vit. B1), Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin (Vit.B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6), Folic Acid, Phylloquinone (Vit. K1), Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12).

Both contain synthetic vitamins, namely folic acid.  (And Baby’s Only shows that they do use cyanocobalamin as their B12.)

It’s almost impossible to find any product on the market that is “supplemental” in nature and includes vitamins in a healthy, safe form.  Many parents will opt for using the best formula that they can afford.  (This appears to be Holle if you’re going organic, or Enfamil if you’re not.)

Another option — which is controversial, but which I would choose, if I were in the situation — is to create a homemade formula that’s based on whole, raw cow or goat milk.  Pasteurized, cultured milk can also be used, for people who don’t have access to raw or who don’t feel comfortable using it.

Yes, homemade formula is controversial, because a lot of parents are worried about having the “exact right balance of nutrients” in their formulas.  And sure, you do want to nourish your baby the best you can!  But let’s put this into perspective — most baby formulas are a blend of some kind of carbohydrate in the form of “syrup” (corn syrup, brown rice syrup) mixed with cow’s milk, a few oils, and synthetic vitamins.  There’s nothing all that special about that.

Plus, “formula” recipes for a long, long time were very crude, basically consisting of evaporated milk and corn syrup — they didn’t even add extra vitamins or oils or anything!  I would not recommend doing this, but these babies managed to survive.  The point isn’t “it doesn’t matter what we feed our babies,” the point is, we don’t need to be so overly worried about getting the exact nutrient ratio that we trust commercial products filled with junky ingredients over a homemade option.

We feed our kids whole foods in every other circumstance as much as possible.  Why would we abdicate infant nutrition to “experts?”  (Plus, just read those ingredients….)  Whole, natural foods remain the way to go.

It would also help to write to formula companies to demand that they create healthier products, with naturally occurring forms of vitamins instead of synthetic.  This would be more expensive for them and for consumers; but it would be a much better option for families who would be better off avoiding these synthetic nutrients.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of how we’re feeding our babies, we need to be concerned that they’re getting healthy, safe food.  That includes whole, unprocessed options without synthetic vitamins, because this could have a much greater effect on babies and the population’s health as a whole than we realize it is.

Are you concerned that commercial infant formula could be harming some babies?

This is the writings of:



  1. This was really a concern of mine when I had kids. I decided to breastfeed because I just didn’t know for sure about using commercial infant formula. It wasn’t easy because I worked, as a nurse so I had to pump and had other issues. This is valuable information for moms who are wondering about this as well.


  2. Sammy’s Milk seems to be the healthiest option for littles with MTHFR.


  3. […] If you need to supplement, look into donor milk or homemade formulas instead of store-bought formula, especially if you have MTHFR (store-bought formula may harm babies with this mutation). […]


  4. This is an issue that has had me very concerned since having my daughter almost 3 months ago!! I’m breastfeeding but as a breast cancer survivor I am only able to nurse on one side, so supplementing is in our near future. I’ve found a couple formulas with “folacin” instead of folic acid…is this truly another term for folate or have these companies used the term incorrectly and in fact actually mean folic acid??? Another question: as the article points out, folic acid is excreted in breast milk. Does this mean that by taking a L-methylfolate supplement (Metanx, Deplin etc) this bioavailable form of folate is also excreted in the breast milk?? I’m hoping so, for my baby’s sake! Any idea how early infants can be given a bioavailable folate supplement & what the appropriate dose would be, as well as any recommendations for an infant friendly folate supplement (perhaps in a liquid form?)? How about bioavailable forms of other B vitamins difficult for those of us with MTHFR Mutations to break down effectively? I’d greatly appreciate any info & recommendations! I have been studying the homemade infant formula recipe on the Weston Price Foundation website and am considering trying it! Thank you!


  5. […] You can find out more about these issues and other markers here. If you notice that your baby has some of the above symptoms you might want to read about how formula feeding can impact their health. […]


  6. […] Note that the formula uses folic acid, and most likely cyanocobalamin, two B vitamins that can harm babies with the MTHFR mutation.  There are no commercial formulas available, not even organic, that do not use these currently.  (Read more about MTHFR and formula) […]


  7. My baby is homozygous for c677t and he has horrendous reflux. He was born tongue tied and I sadly ended my breastfeeding journey at 5 week:/.. I desperately need help finding a homemade formula recipe suitable for babies with mthfr… I am so concerned about my baby as he is in pain all the time, it breaks my heart.


    • Hi! So this is the recipe we are using.
      4 cups filtered water (I use non florided nursery water, 2 cups in blender, two cups heating on stove)

      4 heaping TBS goats milk powder
      2 capsules goat colostrum
      4 TBS coconut sugar

      1 1/2 tsp organic unsulphered blackstrap molasses

      2 tsp organic coconut oil

      1 1-2 tsp organic olive oil


      1 T collagen

      1/4 cup whey from farmers market

      The brand mt Capra seems to be the best for the goat milk and colostrum. It’s pure (nothing added like folic acid! I searched and searched!) And the Mega X is a plant based omega from Plexus. (They also have a methylated multivitamin with folate.)
      Best of luck!


    • Did you know it’s possible to relactate if you are wanting to return baby to the breast post tie release? Or just pumping any supply. I’m doing this now after not feeding for 5 months with the help of an IBCLC.

      Google relactation success stories for inspiration.


  8. If breastfeeding I’d problematic at all, Do Sammy’s Milk formulafrom Sammy!!!The best!!!! If ur at all concerned about health natural vitamins no synthetics in this, truly amazing sweetened with molasses which naturally gives it iron!! Both those she mentioned have skim n non fat milk no those two are Not Healthy!!


  9. At what age is Sammy’s milk ok to give? My son has a sacral dimple, s faint blue line and I just discovered his lip tie. I think it’s safe to say he has some form of the genetic mutation and I am supplementing.


  10. Did you see fda advises against sammys milk so how do we know its safe


  11. I am MTHFR DOUBLE C677T my grandson will be coming home to me. I have everything folic acid free at home because it makes me so sick. 29 surgeries and multiple organ failures. I want to give him a healthy chance! I take colostrum everyday and take bio available plant based liquid vitamins and probiotics. I have extensively research MTHFR and without a doubt in my mind it is leading to mental health, autism and reproductive issues. What are your thoughts on colostrum as part of a homemade formula?


  12. Thank you for this article from a mom trying to navigate MTHFR and doing the best for my baby. We need more research like this so we can push back on folic acid supplementation and hopefully convince the FDA to remove it.


  13. HIPP formula now uses metafolin, which is a methylated form of folic acid in some of their products.

    Jovie is working on getting it approved for their infant formulas. Just wanted to toss that out there since this article was published before HIPP changed to their folate they use.


  14. HIPP formula uses metafolin (folate) but some of their other ingredients made me nervous such as fluoride visible in their nutrition label. I found Serenity Kids Formula (sold at whole foods and online). They do not use folic acid and use folate instead. I just purchased due to this and due to their purity award. Will let y’all know how my baby likes it.


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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