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What to Expect When Switching Baby Formula

Why Enfamil Uses Palm Olein Oil in Baby Formula

IN THIS ARTICLE: We address praise, concerns, and misconceptions of palm oil and why we use it in our infant formula.

It’s important to all of us that our babies receive the best possible nutrition. At Enfamil, we strive to create infant formulas that are inspired by human milk composition and function. Our goal is to provide your baby with the best possible start in life.

We've done extensive research to develop our Enfamil products, including the plant-based oils we use to create them. One of these oils is palm olein oil, which helps make our formulas compositionally similar to human milk.

What is Palm Olein Oil?

Palm olein oil is a refined version of palm oil; the liquid component of palm oil that has undergone “fractionation” or a process that filters out crystals in the crude oil. This helps make the oil more temperature-stable, shelf-stable, and nutritious!

Why is palm olein oil in baby formula?

Enfamil uses palm olein oil for three main reasons; its nutritious benefits, its stability, and its accessibility:

Nutritious benefits of palm olein oil

The goal of infant formula is to create a food source that is as close to a mother’s breast milk as possible in terms of nutrition and sustenance. Palm olein oil is an excellent source of fatty acids that model those found in breastmilk such as palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acids.

Stability of palm olein oil

The refined oil we use in baby formula helps keep our product physically consistent–we don’t want you to come across clumpiness, discoloration, or harsh flavors. It’s also important to keep our product shelf-stable so that it’s fresh when you buy it, and stays fresh for as long as possible. Always be sure to check the expiration date before purchase and use.

Accessibility of palm oil

Palm oil is one of the most widely abundant resources, and in a world where supply chain issues can lead to catastrophes, we want to make sure we do everything we can to keep production going.

Difference between palm oil, palm olein oil, and palm kernel oil

Palm oil: unrefined

Palm oil may refer to crude palm oil and/or palm olein oil. In both cases, the product is edible and commonly used as a cooking oil and/or ingredient in food. Another word for crude palm oil is “red palm oil” due to its natural reddish or orange color and distinct flavor. The redness comes from natural pigments called carotenoids, which also make carrots orange and ripe tomatoes red.

Palm olein oil: refined

Have you ever seen coconut oil become solid in the jar, or olive oil become cloudy when chilled? Refining oils helps them maintain their same liquid state and avoid getting cloudy. The process also helps neutralize the color and flavor of unrefined palm oil.

Palm kernel oil: made from the seed

Palm kernel oil is also edible but sourced from the seed, rather than the fruit. Its nutrition and properties are different from palm oil, but palm kernel oil is not used in our formulas.

If you have any questions or concerns about including any variation of palm oil in your or your baby’s diet, be sure to consult with your doctor for guidance that’s specific to your needs.

Criticism of Palm Oil in Baby Formula

We understand that there have been some concerns raised about the use of palm olein oil in infant formulas. Some have alleged that it negatively impacts calcium absorption, bone mineralization, and stool health among infants who are fed formulas that contain it.

However, we want to reassure you that these allegations are based on studies conducted more than 20 years ago (the Nelson 1998 study and Koo 2003 study) that have significant limitations.

Numerous and more recent clinical studies have shown that formulas containing the multi-oil fat blend in our infant formulas result in growth and development comparable to that seen among infants fed breast milk, are well tolerated and promote soft stools:

  • Babies fed infant formulas/milks absorb and retain as much calcium for bone as healthy infants fed breast milk. When measured at 4 years of age, children fed our products as babies have bone mineral content and bone mineral density similar to those fed breast milk as infants.1
  • The fat blend in our infant products is patterned after breast milk. The palm olein oil in most of our routine and specialty infant formulas provides palmitic acid, the source of about 20 percent (by weight) of the fatty acids in breast milk and is a good source of energy for growing infants2,3

In other words, studies show that formulas with palm olein provide the baby with at least as much absorbed calcium as human milk.4

Why Enfamil uses palm oil

All things considered, Enfamil uses palm oil in our infant formulas because we believe it’s the best option for reliably providing nutritious infant formula to as many families as we can. Keep in mind that each individual baby may respond differently to different ingredients and formulas, which is why it’s always best to review your options with your doctor to help find the right balance for your baby.

For more information about our formula ingredients, features, and benefits, check out our family of formulas.


Palm oil comes from the fruit of a tree, whereas palm kernel oil comes from the seeds of the fruit. The tree is native to Africa, and palm oil is a key ingredient in many traditional West African cuisines. Today palm oil is cultivated all over the world in tropical climates, and is still used as a primary source of cooking oil in many countries, as well as an ingredient of many foods and household products.

We are committed to ensuring that the palm oil used in our products is procured in a way that meets or goes beyond applicable laws and regulations, respects human rights, safe guards health & safety, and protects the environment. For more information, check out our sourcing for sustainable growth policy.

Palm oil is generally considered edible for people of all ages, including babies. Enfamil uses a unique blend of oils, which includes palm oil, in order to create a product that is nutritionally and compositionally similar to breast milk.

It can be easy to confuse hydrogenated with fractionated, but they mean very different things.

  • Fractionated (the process that makes palm olein oil) means that the oil has been refined. The saturated fat percentage may increase as a result, but that doesn’t mean more fat is being added, nor that nutrients or healthy fats are removed in the process.
  • Hydrogenated (the process that makes “partially hydrogenated oils") is a process that hardens the oil, and in the process destroys unsaturated fats and creates trans fats.
  • Hydrolyzed formulas (nothing to do with oils) refers to breaking down milk proteins so that they’re easier to digest.

Some of Enfamil’s competitors do report using palm oil; those that don’t report using ingredients such as high oleic safflower oil, soy oil, and/or coconut oil. For more direct comparison, check out our comparison chart.




1Maria Padial-Jaudenes, Esther Castanys-Munoz, Maria Ramirez, and John Lasekan. Physiological Impact of Palm Olein or Palm Oil in Infant Formulas: A Review of Clinical Evidence. National Library of Medicine. 2020; doi: 10.3390/nu12123676 PMCID: PMC7759907
2Innis SM. Human milk and formula fatty acids. Journal of Pediatrics. 1992. 120(4); S56-S61
3Yuhas R, Pramuk K, Lien EL. Human milk fatty acid composition from nine countries varies most in DHA. Lipids. 2006. 41(9); 851-858
4Hicks PD, Hawthorne KM, Berseth CL, Marunycz JD, Heubi JE, Abrams SA. Total calcium absorption is similar from infant formulas with and without prebiotics and exceeds that in human milk-fed infants. BMC Pediatrics. 2012. 12: 118

All information Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil .