Toddler Formula: Is It Worth The Money? | Kidadl


Toddler Formula: Is It Worth The Money?

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Sometimes called follow-on milk or follow-up milk, toddler formula has been marketed as the 'in between' product for when your toddler is transitioning from baby formula to cow's or plant-based milk and beginning to eat whole foods.

But do toddlers really need another type of formula? There are lots of arguments for and against toddler formula and if it's really needed, so we have looked into some pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your child as they venture into this next stage of their development.

If you would like to read more about bringing up toddlers, why not check out our articles on toddler growth spurts and how to get rid of a dummy?

What Is Toddler Formula?

Toddler formula is very similar to infant formula but it is marketed towards parents with children nine months old and upwards. Toddler milk was formulated to be a 'nutritional supplement' for when your little one is moving on from breast milk or regular formula, along with transitioning to solid food.

The only difference between infant and toddler formula is the amount of certain ingredients. Toddler formula contains more calcium and phosphorus than baby formula, but this could also easily be obtained from a multivitamin if you were concerned your child wasn't getting enough nutrition. In fact, it is recommended that all children between the ages of six months to five years old are given a daily supplement, containing vitamins A, C, and D. The only exception is babies who are consuming more than 500 ml of formula a day, as they do not need the extra vitamins.  

The main difference, truthfully, is the price! Toddler formula is more expensive, and it allows formula companies to keep you as a customer for that little while longer. If you feel more comfortable transitioning from infant formula, to toddler formula and then onto cow's milk, plant-based milk, and solid food then of course that's up to you. If you don't already buy organic cow's milk then you could make the switch to this instead, as it has fewer additional ingredients than regular whole milk, and organic milk is often considered the healthier option when it comes to animal-derived milk. So ultimately, toddler formula isn't really doing anything that a healthy diet full of whole foods won't do.

Why Use Toddler Formula?

By looking at their advertising, it would seem that there are quite a few reasons to use toddler formula for feeding our little ones, but many health care providers take issue with toddler formula companies' aggressive marketing techniques. The advertising of infant formula is regulated by tough guidelines, but these do not apply to follow-on milk, so this allows companies to lure parents in this way, and still sell high volumes of a product that many of us wonder if our kids even need?

Sometimes when parents are worried about their baby's weight they are encouraged to switch to formula or combine it with breastfeeding in order to get their baby moving up the percentiles at a faster pace. So if you are worried about your child's growth now that they are a toddler, should you be giving them toddler formula as a boost? Well, not exactly. Kids are really good at regulating their own food intake, as long as we don't mess with it, this means they will eat until they are full and then stop.  So if your child is happy and thriving, even if they are a little on the small side, they are most likely getting everything they need from solid foods, breast milk, cow's milk, or plant-based milk. There is also a risk of being too reliant on toddler formula as a substitute for healthy whole foods, and it can even making fussy eating worse, as parents may think along the lines of 'it's OK if they didn't eat any veggies with dinner, the formula has vitamins in' and so on.

Occasionally for formula-fed children with specific allergies, you may be advised to continue with their hypoallergenic formula, and based on your health care provider's advice there may be a toddler milk alternative with higher amounts of vitamins. Often, kids with a dairy allergy are able to tolerate dairy milk from age one or sometimes age two as their gut matures so this is a case-by-case situation, many children are even allergy-free by the time they reach their first birthday!

If you are concerned about your child's eating habits or diet, speak with your pediatrician. Toddler formula might be recommended in some cases but it is rare for a pediatrician to suggest it for this reason. Generally, by the time your child is 12 months old, they will be exploring solid foods, and figuring out what they like and dislike. So while there is nothing specifically bad about toddler formula itself, it is just not a universally needed foodstuff, and except for in certain cases, most toddler's growth and development will be absolutely fine without it.

Toddler formula is very similar to infant formula

When To Switch To Toddler Formula

From 12 months, it is safe for your infant to drink cow's milk, or to transition to whichever plant-based milk your family drinks (check with your pediatrician though to be safe!). As well as this, they will now be exploring solid food and most likely trying a few different things every day, as they wean from infant formula or breast milk, or both if you have been combination feeding. Breast milk actually changes and adapts as your baby grows, so it is still a nutritionally perfect food for your toddler to have alongside solids, in fact, the World Health Organisation now encourages breastfeeding up to age two and beyond if you are able to.

So before making the switch from breast milk or infant formula to toddler formula, make sure you have really done your research, does your toddler need a food supplement? Or are they happy to have regular milk (cow's milk or plant-based milk) or breast milk and a mixture of whole foods throughout the day? If you have a particularly fussy eater on your hands and you are concerned that they aren't having their nutritional needs met, then toddler formula could be useful for your little one, but it's best to check with your pediatrician first.

How To Transition Toddler From Formula To Milk

From six months of age, you can mix cow's milk with your baby's food or use it in recipes, but it is not suitable as a drink until they turn one year old. There is not enough iron in cow's milk for it to be your baby's main source of nutrients. Whole milk is necessary up to at least age two, as it provides the most energy and vitamins, if your child has a good appetite and eats a variety of foods, you can offer semi-skimmed milk however skimmed or 1% milk does not contain enough calories to be part of your child's diet until they are at least five years old.

If you follow a plant-based diet or just prefer to avoid dairy, unsweetened plant-based calcium-fortified milk alternatives (including soy, oat, or almond milk) can also be given to your child from the age of one alongside a healthy varied diet. Some pediatricians may say it is best to wait until age two to introduce alternative milks such as soy or oat, so it is worth checking if you are unsure. Rice milk shouldn't be given to under-fives, as it has been found to potentially contain too much naturally occurring arsenic.

This is great news that your toddler can enjoy a variety of other milks now from dairy to soy. It also means your little one is growing up, which can feel quite bittersweet, especially if they like to drink out of a cup now rather than a bottle, although that might not be for a little while yet. Of course, if you are breastfeeding you may not wish to introduce a different type of milk at all, but if you did want to try it out, it's good to know it's now safe to do so.

Toddlers can be given whole milk as a drink from the age of one.

Do I Really Need To Buy Toddler Formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has previously stated that, 'Toddler milk or transitional formula are unnecessary for most children and provide no nutritional benefit over a healthy, balanced eating plan.' As mentioned above, there are exceptions to this, such as those with an allergy or particularly picky toddlers but generally speaking, most kids will transition from the formula they drank as babies, to whole milk, plant-based milk, and a healthy whole food diet without issue.

It has been observed that while spokespeople from the toddler milk industry are quick to state that this type of formula is only supposed to be a supplement to drink alongside whole foods, the marketing actually suggests to parents that toddler formula is a necessity in order for their children to have a healthy nutritious diet at this age. This simply isn't true, as toddlers can get their daily nutrition allowance from regular milk, breast milk, and a varied diet of solid foods.

The way that toddler transitions formula is advertised and also presented, suggests that it is the unquestionable next step after infant formula. The packaging is very similar, and it is also placed right alongside the formula in the supermarket, not with the other food supplements where technically it does belong. So there is no wonder there is quite a bit of confusion surrounding it, or indeed why many parents use it believing that it is the best thing for their child.  Ultimately, follow-on milk is not a suitable replacement for breast milk, and the fact that it can be presented so similarly to infant formula is can be seen as slightly deceptive especially when you factor in that they are often targeting new parents who only want the best for their child's health.  The choice is each parent's to make, but do remember that no food supplement can fully replace the protein and nutrients gained from eating real whole foods.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at creating your evening routine or a guide to the different types of behavior?

Kidadl Team
Written By
Amy Lines

<p>With a degree in Fashion Design from Falmouth University, Amy has a passion for textiles, tiles, art, ceramics, and houseplants which she enjoys filling her beautiful home in Hampshire with. She also has a keen interest in infant and child sleep patterns and mindfulness for adults and children, inspired by her energetic and chatty three-year-old daughter. When not exploring the outdoors, Amy can be found painting, knitting, and dancing at home.</p>

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