Lebenswert Baby Formula Reviews and Analysis

lebenswert baby formula review analysis

Lebenswert organic formulas were introduced in 2009 by the biggest and most popular European baby formula company, Holle. While they produce most of their infant formulas in Germany, Lebenswert is made in Austria using high quality, Bioland-certified organic ingredients.

In our review of Lebenswert infant formulas, we consulted with a developmental nutritionist, tested the formula ourselves and on four infants, analyzed the ingredients and nutritional contents relative to United States (USDA) recommendations, and reached some conclusions regarding the use of Lebenswert Bio formulas. Remember to always ask your child's pediatrician before changing their formula. 

Spoiler alert, we are moderately happy with the results of our testing, and think they will likely improve over the next few months given new EU nutritional regulations. We're keeping them on our list of the best organic baby formulas, and will keep our eye on their product changes through 2020-2021.

Lebenswert Formulas: Take-home Message

Most people don't want to read this entire article to see what we found. So here is the summary of what we loved, and what we didn't.

✔️  High quality organic formulation.
✔️  Bioland-certified organic milk.
✔️  Nutrition near USDA guidelines.
✔️  First ingredient is skim milk.
✔️  Nothing artificial.
✔️  No Maltodextrine in Stage 1.
✔️  No sucrose or corn syrups.
✔️  Gluten & soy free.
✔️  High infant acceptance, good taste.
✔️  No gas, indigestion, or constipation.
❌  No Omega-3 in Stages 1-2.
❌  No Omega-6 in any Stages.
❌  Maltodextrine in Stages 2-3.
❌  Starch in Stage 3.
❌  Palm Oil as a fat source.
❌  Low fat content vs USDA criteria.

lebenswert baby formula organicstart

Lebenswert Formulas: Some Translations

Since the Lebenswert packaging is in German, here are a few important translations. First, just for fun, Lebenswert means "worth living" or "livable."

Bio: This means Organic in German, and the EU and Germany take Organic standards very seriously. More on that later.

Anfangsmilch: This means Starting Milk in German, meaning that it is intended to be used from birth onward (usually up to 6 months).

Folgemilch: This means Follow-On Milk in German, meaning that it is intended to be used from 6 months onward (nach dem 6 monat).

Lebenswert Formulas: Best Practices?

Lebenswert is made by Holle, but does not conform to the same esoteric standards of Demeter-certified biodynamic farming as Holle formulas. Instead, Lebenswert uses organic milk sourced from dairy farms in Germany and Austria that conform to Bioland organic farming regulations.

This leads to some misleading marketing on websites selling European formulas, who will claim that Lebenswert baby formula is made in Germany and Bioland certified. Lebenswert is actually made in Austria, and Bioland certification of a product requires that 100% of ingredients are certified organic.

lebenswert bioland organic logos

Lebenswert formulas are not 100% organic (they meet the EU 98% requirement), and we do not believe they are Bioland certified themselves. That said, they do source milk products (skim milk, whey, and lactose) from Bioland-certified farms.

What are the EU's organic regulations? 

The European Union (EU) has a strict system of organic controls that are enforced through an annual inspection process. These inspections result in an annual certificate being issued for conforming products. 

While Lebenswert is made in Austria and their parent company (Holle) is based in Switzerland, they conform to EU organic standards. Here are the specific organic regulatory criteria:

  • No protecting plants by using synthetic chemicals such as herbicides or pesticides.
  • No use of soluble mineral fertilizers.
  • No application of chemical growth regulators.
  • Feeding animals with farm-grown feed, not purchased feed, when possible.
  • No use of antibiotics other than to treat infection.

Overall, to use the EU certified organic label, products must meet a stringent 98% organic content (by weight). By comparison, the United States USDA organic certification process has a 95% minimum.

What is a Bioland farm? 

Bioland farming involves very strict organic practices that exceed EU requirements, and are routinely inspected and enforced.

These include the farm needing to be 100% organic, only producing organic foods. It also includes requirements for minimum amount of space for livestock grazing, restrictions on fertilizers and pesticides, and no genetically-modified seeds allowed.

For a product to be Bioland certified, it must have 100% of its ingredients sourced from a Bioland farm. 

Lebenswert Formula Ingredients

The use of Bioland organic milk products will provide some relatively intangible benefits for the quality of Lebenswert infant formulas. These benefits do not appear on an ingredients label, and include minimal trace pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, or heavy metals.

Here are the ingredients in each of the Lebenswert baby formulas:

lebenswert stage 1 formula ingredients

Lebenswert Stage 1 Ingredients (translated): Organic Skimmed Milk, Organic Whey Powder (Partially Demineralized), Organic Vegetable Oils [Organic Palm Oil, Organic Rapeseed Oil, Organic Sunflower Oil], Organic Lactose, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin C, Sodium Chloride, Iron Gluconate, Vitamin E, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K1, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D.

lebenswert stage 2 formula ingredients

Lebenswert Stage 2 Ingredients (translated): Organic Skimmed Milk, Organic Whey Powder (Partially Demineralized), Organic Vegetable Oils [Organic Palm Oil, Organic Rapeseed Oil, Organic Sunflower Oil], Organic Maltodextrin, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin C, Iron Gluconate, Vitamin E, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K1, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D.

lebenswert stage 3 formula ingredients

Lebenswert Stage 3 Ingredients (translated): Organic Skim Milk, Organic Whey Powder (Partially Demineralized), Organic Vegetable Oils [Organic Palm Oil, Organic Rapeseed Oil, Organic Sunflower Oil], Organic Maltodextrin, Organic Starch, L-Tyrosine, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Carbonate, L-Tryptophan, Sodium Chloride, Iron Lactate, Vitamin C, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin E, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodate, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin K, Vitamin D, Biotin, Vitamin B12.

Here are some ingredients that are not in any of the stages of Lebenswert Bio: corn syrup, corn syrup solids, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, sucrose, soy, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), carrageenan, or high fructose corn syrup.

Some ingredients we didn't appreciate: Maltodextrine as a thickening carbohydrate is present in Stages 2 and 3, starch is added in Stage 3, and palm oil is included in the Pre and all stages. We also didn't like that none of the Stages had Omega-6 fatty acids, which are recommended by the USDA for use in all baby formulas. 

Lebenswert Stages: Ingredient Differences

1. Lebenswert Stage 1 versus Stage 2: There is one main difference between Lebenswert Stages 1 and 2. Stage 1 uses lactose as its primary carbohydrate source (like breastmilk), whereas Stage 2 uses only maltodextrine. Maltodextrine is not the ideal carbohydrate, and when it is used we prefer it to be used in conjunction with lactose (learn how this is done in our reviews of the Holle formulas). Stage 1 is intended for use from birth onward, and Stage 2 for 6+ months.

2. Lebenswert Stage 2 versus Stage 3: There are three main differences between Lebenswert Stages 2 and 3. First, Stage 3 adds in organic starch, which is a carbohydrate and thickening agent, along with maltodextrine. Second, Stage 3 adds in the new EU-mandated Omega-3 (DHA) content in the form of fish oil, bringing it up to par with US standards. Finally, Stage 3 adds two amino acids, L-tyrosine and L-tryptophan. Stage 2 is intended for 6+ months, and Stage 3 for 10+ months. 

Lebenswert Formula Nutritional Analysis

To gather insights into whether Lebenswert meets stringent US nutritional recommendations by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and American Academy of Pediatrics, we gathered insights from a dietician nutritionist with expertise in infant feeding. In addition to offering us guidance, he also directed us to the USDA's published recommendations (see References).

Note that the US FDA also publishes minimum infant formula nutritional requirements (see references), but all of the infant formulas we reviewed met these requirements, and they are only relevant for 0-6 months. Because the Lebenswert formulas met the FDA minimum requirements, we compared them to the more general USDA daily intake recommendations.

The USDA does not publish recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for infants between 0-6 months. Instead, they publish information about Adequate Intaks (AI), which are used when there is not enough evidence to make a formal RDA. The AI is set at a level assumed to provide nutritional adequacy.

Here are the USDA's AIs (per day) for infants aged 0-6 months, and 6-12 months. Units are grams (g), milligrams (mg), micrograms (μg).

USDA Nutritional Recommendations:

Carbohydrates 0-6mo: 60g 6-12mo: 95g
Proteins 0-6mo: 9.1g 6-12mo: 11g
Fats 0-6mo: 31g 6-12mo: 30g
Omega-3 0-6mo: 0.5g 6-12mo: 0.5g
Omega-6 0-6mo: 4.4g 6-12mo: 4.6g
Vitamin A 0-6mo: 400μg 6-12mo: 500μg
Vitamin B1 0-6mo: 0.2mg 6-12mo: 0.3mg
Vitamin B2 0-6mo: 0.3mg 6-12mo: 0.4mg
Vitamin B6 0-6mo: 0.1mg 6-12mo: 0.3mg
Vitamin B12 0-6mo: 0.4μg 6-12mo: 0.5μg
Vitamin C 0-6mo: 40mg 6-12mo: 50mg
Vitamin D 0-6mo: 5μg 6-12mo: 5μg
Vitamin E 0-6mo: 4mg 6-12mo: 5mg
Vitamin K 0-6mo: 2μg 6-12mo: 2.5μg
Folate 0-6mo: 65μg 6-12mo: 80μg
Niacin 0-6mo: 2mg 6-12mo: 4mg
Calcium 0-6mo: 210mg 6-12mo: 270mg
Iron 0-6mo: 0.27mg 6-12mo: 11mg

Given that the Stage 1 Lebenswert formula is intended for use from birth to 6 months, we evaluated its nutritional content against the USDA 0-6 month recommendations. For the Stage 2 and 3 versions, we evaluated against the USDA 6-12 month recommendations.

Because the USDA recommendations are for daily intake, we considered the daily intake recommended by Lebenswert in their "Meal Tables." Stage 1 suggests an average of about 100 grams of formula per day for the first 6 months; of course, this is lower (about 80 grams) for the first month, then increases with age to over 100g/day.

To derive an estimate of how much nutrient a baby would receive each day when using Lebenswert, we used the average recommended serving for the first 6 months (about 100 grams of formula per day). This will overestimate nutrients for early months, and underestimate for later months. As you will see from our analysis, this isn't cause for much concern.

Does Lebenswert Stage 1 Meet USDA Nutritional Recommendations?

In general, yes, very similarly to US-made baby formulas. Here is a table comparing the USDA recommendation for 0-6 months to what the Lebenswert Stage 1 provides (in 100g of formula):

Carbohydrates USDA: 60g Stage 1: 59.7g
Proteins USDA: 9.1g Stage 1: 11.3g
Fats USDA: 31g Stage 1: 23.7g
Omega-3 USDA: 0.5g Stage 1: 0g
Omega-6 USDA: 4.4g Stage 1: 0g
Vitamin A USDA: 400μg Stage 1: 400μg
Vitamin B1 USDA: 0.2mg Stage 1: 0.67mg
Vitamin B2 USDA: 0.3mg Stage 1: 1.9mg
Vitamin B6 USDA: 0.1mg Stage 1: 0.57mg
Vitamin B12 USDA: 0.4μg Stage 1: 1.6μg
Vitamin C USDA: 40mg Stage 1: 115mg
Vitamin D USDA: 5μg Stage 1: 7.5μg
Vitamin E USDA: 4mg Stage 1: 15mg
Vitamin K USDA: 2μg Stage 1: 62μg
Folate USDA: 65μg Stage 1: 154μg
Niacin USDA: 2mg Stage 1: 5.0mg
Calcium USDA: 210mg Stage 1: 475mg
Iron USDA: 0.27mg Stage 1: 5.2mg

Notice how close all of those numbers are to each other. The fat is a bit low relative to USDA guidance, which is likely due to the use of skim milk without compensating with additional oils. USDA guidance for fat is 31g per day, which precisely matches how much fat is in breastmilk (about 4.2g per 100mL, or 30.8g per 100g).

While the fat is a bit low, the protein is a bit higher than both USDA guidance and what is found in breastmilk. 

We compared the Lebenswert Stage 1 nutritional profile with the most popular Similac and Enfamil formulas. Those come a bit closer to the USDA recommendation of 31g fat per day (Similac and Enfamil are usually around 27g of fat per 100g of formula). 

lebenswert baby formula organicstart

In other words, Lebenswert Stage 1 provides an overall nutritional profile that is similar to the major American baby formula brands, though it is a bit light on the fat content and compensates with a higher protein content; it also does not include Omega-3 or Omega-6 fatty acids.

Does Lebenswert Stage 2 Meet USDA Nutritional Recommendations?

In general, yes, but with some exceptions. Here is a table comparing the USDA recommendation for 6-12 months to what the Lebenswert Stage 2 provides (in 100g of formula):

Carbohydrates USDA: 95g Stage 2: 57.3g
Proteins USDA: 11g Stage 2: 14.8g
Fats USDA: 30g Stage 2: 22g
Omega-3 USDA: 0.5g Stage 2: 0g
Omega-6 USDA: 4.6g Stage 2: 0g
Vitamin A USDA: 500μg Stage 2: 405μg
Vitamin B1 USDA: 0.3mg Stage 2: 0.65mg
Vitamin B2 USDA: 0.4mg Stage 2: 1.4mg
Vitamin B6 USDA: 0.3mg Stage 2: 0.52mg
Vitamin B12 USDA: 0.5μg Stage 2: 1.4μg
Vitamin C USDA: 50mg Stage 2 120mg
Vitamin D USDA: 5μg Stage 2: 7.7μg
Vitamin E USDA: 5mg Stage 2: 15mg
Vitamin K USDA: 2.5μg Stage 2: 62μg
Folate USDA: 80μg Stage 2: 165μg
Niacin USDA: 4mg Stage 2: 5.1mg
Calcium USDA: 270mg Stage 2: 630mg
Iron USDA: 11mg Stage 2: 6.5mg

Similar to Stage 1, the Stage 2 is low on fat, high on protein, and does not include Omega-3 or Omega-6 fatty acids. It also is very low on carbohydrate needs.

Of course, this analysis is based on 100 grams per day of powdered formula, and does not consider the fact that you'll likely be supplementing formula with first foods (like rice cereal).

Also, if your child's intake is higher than 100 grams per day, like at 120g/day (which is likely), they will obviously receive more nutrition (20% more). But even with 20% more, the Lebenswert still doesn't reach the USDA's protein or carbohydrate recommendations. 

Does Lebenswert Stage 3 Meet USDA Nutritional Recommendations?

In general, yes, but with some exceptions. Here is a table comparing the USDA recommendation for 6-12 months to what the Lebenswert Stage 3 provides (in 100g of formula):

Carbohydrates USDA: 95g Stage 3: 60.0g
Proteins USDA: 11g Stage 3: 10.2g
Fats USDA: 30g Stage 3: 24.0g
Omega-3 USDA: 0.5g Stage 3: 0.42g
Omega-6 USDA: 4.6g Stage 3: 0g
Vitamin A USDA: 500μg Stage 3: 353μg
Vitamin B1 USDA: 0.3mg Stage 3: 0.67mg
Vitamin B2 USDA: 0.4mg Stage 3: 1.1mg
Vitamin B6 USDA: 0.3mg Stage 3: 0.55mg
Vitamin B12 USDA: 0.5μg Stage 3: 1.0μg
Vitamin C USDA: 50mg Stage 3: 70mg
Vitamin D USDA: 5μg Stage 3: 13μg
Vitamin E USDA: 5mg Stage 3: 8.5mg
Vitamin K USDA: 2.5μg Stage 3: 40μg
Folate USDA: 80μg Stage 3: 267μg
Niacin USDA: 4mg Stage 3: 3.7mg
Calcium USDA: 270mg Stage 3: 389mg
Iron USDA: 11mg Stage 3: 6.9mg

In terms of macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), you'll notice that your growing baby will need more than the 100g/day serving (nearly 50% more!). The micronutrient content, however, is closer to USDA recommendations.

One thing you'll notice is that suddenly Omega-3 appears on the list, which is due to added fish oil (DHA), and likely the rapeseed oil (ALA). In 2020, the EU passed (well, it was passed in 2016, but enforcement started February 2020) a requirement that baby formulas include Omega-3, and this is a new addition to the Lebenswert formulas (but doesn't seem to be showing up in Stages 1-2 yet). It will likely take a few months for stock of the earlier version to be cleared from stock, with the new ones slowly taking over in mid to late 2020. 

european baby formulas omega 3 dha requirement law

While the nutritional content of Lebenswert Stage 3 seems low relative to USDA guidance, it is important to realize that once a baby reaches 6+ months, two things will likely occur. First, your baby will be consuming more than 100 grams per day of powdered formula (or 750mL per day of mixed formula).

Second, most parents begin to introduce solid foods in addition to formula or breastfeeding. These usually first include rice and/or oatmeal cereals, and then progress to fruit and vegetable purees. These will complement the nutrition found solely in the formula, including additional iron and carbohydrates.

Some parents might be interested to learn that Lebenswert formulas contain trace levels of fluoride. This is not added by the manufacturer, but appears in trace amounts (0.04mg per 100g, or 0.005 per 100mL) due to the water used during manufacturing. This is equivalent to about 0.05 mg of fluoride in a liter of prepared formula, which is much less than found in a bottled water (about 0.4mg per liter), and way less than found in fluoridated tap water (about 5mg per liter).

Lebenswert Testing in Infants

We tested Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 varieties in four infants, one aged 2 months (Stage 1), one 6 months (Stage 2), and two 10 months (Stage 3).

Mixing and Taste-Testing

The first thing we noticed is that the Lebenswert formulas were not clumpy or bubbly during or after mixing. They did a nice job blending easily with water, and any bubbles setted quickly.

It is not thick and creamy in taste or texture, unlike Holle. Lebenswert has a consistency and taste that is a bit more like breastmilk, making it a thinner and better flowing formula (through slow flow nipples). 

When we used a tiny bit of formula to fortify breastmilk (only if your doctor says so!), it mixed very nicely.

Safety First: Never prepare powdered formula with anything but water. If you're interested in fortifying your breast milk with formula you must ask your doctor for guidance first, as this can be very dangerous for your baby.

Feeding with Lebenswert

Three of the four test babies took the Lebenswert formula without any difficulties. Interestingly, the babies who tried the Stage 1 and 2 varieties all took it without any issues.

But the Stage 3 was accepted in one but not the other. Tasting it ourselves, the "super taster" in our group suggested he could taste a fishy flavor. It's unclear whether this is what led to the rejection by one of the babies, but it's worth mentioning. Of course, any baby formula using fish oil for DHA runs the risk of having a bit of a fishy flavor, so that shouldn't be surprising.

None of the babies developed any noticeable gas relative to their usual post-feeding burps or spit-up. Same goes for conspitation and bowel movements, which the parents reported proceeded as usual after feeding a few times with Lebenswert formulas. Note that no parents switched to Lebenswert after trying it out, which is unlike what happened when we tested Holle formulas. 

Conclusions

We have featured Lebenswert near the top of our best organic baby formulas list for several years now, but we were excited to do an updated and more thorough review of all three stages of Lebenswert formulas.

Overall, we're excited by several aspects of Lebenswert, including their use of Bioland organic milk products (whey, lactose, skim milk), their relatively accessible price point (versus HiPP Combiotik formula or Holle formula), and their simple ingredients profile. This includes the fact that lactose is used as the primary carbohydrate source in Stage 1, rather than maltodextrine or food starch.

We weren't very excited by the use of maltodextrine (Stages 2-3) and starch (Stage 3), and especially the fact that it fully substitutes lactose. For parents looking for a low lactose baby formula, this makes Stage 2 Lebenswert a good option for infants over 6 months of age.

Lebenswert is also one of the few baby formula companies that omitted Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from their formulations, until the EU passed legislation to require at least DHA (Omega-3) in all baby formulas intended for use from 0-12 months. This is slowly being phased in as of mid-2020, though Lebenswert is been manufacturing formulas containing DHA since February 2020, when enforcement began. This brings Lebenswert formulas closer to USDA recommendations for infant nutrition, but it also disappoints some parents who are concerned that Omegas are extracted and processed using Hexane.

Overall, the nutritional profile of Lebenswert was a little weak on fat content, though other macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) were at good levels relative to US guidelines.

In terms of mixing, taste, and acceptance, the Lebenswert formulas were surprisingly similar to breastmilk, and overall acceptance rates were very high.

Expensive? Yes. All baby formula is expensive, and Lebenswert and other European formula brands are among the most expensive on the market. Lebenswert tends to be a bit less expensive than Holle, likely because milk products are not being sourced exclusively from Biodynamic (Demeter) farms, which can get costly. Overall, we think Lebenswert is a great option for parents looking for an organic baby formula that conforms to the stringent EU organic requirements, though they might consider supplementing with breastmilk and DHA.

Where to Buy Lebenswert?

Over the past 10+ years of operating Mommyhood101, we have worked with several companies that import European baby formulas to the United States.

Most of the companies have come and gone, some were pushed out by new FDA labeling requirements for European formulas, and some couldn't maintain their supply chain logistics and tended to ship expired or poorly handled formula.

The largest retailer of European baby formulas in the US is OrganicStart.com, which sells a huge variety of formulas to US customers and tends to have the best prices. Not only that, but they have free and super fast shipping, and keep their formulas in stock right here in the US for immediate shipping! You can always check our monthly chart that details the best current prices on European baby formulas. Click this link to use our OrganicStart coupon code: mommyhood101 for a 10% discount!

lebenswert baby formula organicstart

References Cited

German Organic Farming Regulations

Consulting Dietician Nutritionist (Mr. John Anderson)

EU Legislation Requirements for Infant Formula Composition 

Consulting Food Sustainability Expert (Dr. Alexi Ernstoff)

United States FDA Infant Formula Nutrient Requirements

United States USDA Infant Nutritional Needs & Recommendations

Published Analysis of Nutritional Contents of European Baby Formulas

Disclaimer: To our knowledge, all ingredient and nutritional information contained in this article was accurate at the time of publication. We make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or timeliness of the information. Always read the packaging and instructions, and consult with your child's pediatrician before making nutritional and feeding decisions.

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