We all know that if a baby is not breastfed in its first year, he or she should be given formula as a substitute until they turn one. But what about toddler milks (aka growing up milk, or follow up milk, or Stage 2 milk)?
Some argue that its a convenient way for toddlers to receive their daily required nutrients, while many, including the World Health Organization (WHO) firmly state that it is unnecessary, and even a waste of money.
Now moms are a pretty insecure bunch, and as much as we are told not to compare our children, we definitely DO compare. If our children are “too skinny”, comments like “Still breastfeeding? He’s not getting enough nutrients” or “Formula fed babies are healthier and chubbier” can hurt, despite us knowing full well that our children are active, happy and eating solids well. It is tempting to reach out to a can of formula that promises to deliver all the nutrients they need and more.
Is toddler formula really necessary?
The WHO recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Mothers who wish can continue to breastfeed their children beyond the age of six months, until they are two years of age or older, at the same time providing them with safe and appropriate solid foods to meet their evolving nutritional requirements.
By twelve months, baby should be eating from a wide range of healthy food options, and milk becomes a secondary part of his diet. After their first birthday party, a formula-fed baby can move to full-fat cows’ milk as part of that healthy diet, with just 250mls per day being enough to meet their requirements (which can be in the form of milk, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products).
There must be some benefit?
There’s nothing harmful in toddler milk. In fact, it’s sweet and delicious and easy to sell to kids and worried parents. But the fact that its so sweet can be worrying, in a world where children are increasingly becoming obese. Current formulations also lead to to higher protein intake and lower intake of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and B vitamins than those recommended by WHO.
And while formula milks definitely do contain nutrients like iron, calcium and vitamin D, these nutrients can be found elsewhere in a child’s diet or through a multivitamin supplement.
Depending on toddler formula can also lead to reinforcing bad eating habits, especially if children are difficult about healthy foods. To a parent, the child is getting all the nutrients he needs from formula so it’s fine to eat whatever they want.
If your child would genuinely benefit from toddler formula — like if there’s a feeding problem, like an oral motor delay, swallowing issue or prolonged illness — your doctor will let you know.
So in the meantime, don’t be sold on the clever marketing. A healthy toddler simply needs a variety of healthy solid foods and breastmilk or whole milk to complement.