Apr 3, 2020 | Around Town
By: Kerry Jones, MPH, RDN, LDN from Milestones Pediatric & Maternal Nutrition
The first 1,000 days of life starting with conception through a child’s second birthday is a critical window to impact a child’s development and lifelong health. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children should be weaned from the bottle and consume either whole cow’s milk or breastmilk after their first birthday. Despite these recommendations, companies have started marketing milk-based, toddler drinks in the United States for children aged 9-36 months old.
What are Milk-Based, Toddler Drinks?
Milk-based, toddler drinks are a “grown up” version of infant formula that are marketed for toddlers and preschoolers. They typically come in containers and packages that are similar to infant formulas and are found in the infant formula aisle of most grocery stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets. These products have a variety of different names and can be called anything from “transitional formula” to “toddler milk” “to follow-up formula.”
Milk-based, toddler drinks consist mainly of powdered milk, corn syrup solids, and vegetable oils. Most milk-based, toddler drinks sold in the United States also contain added sugar, which goes against the recommendation that children under age 2 should be consuming no added sugar. Additionally, there are currently no FDA regulations for the ingredients milk-based, toddler drinks contain or the claims companies can use to advertise these products to parents.
What are the Recommendations?
Despite some milk-based, toddler drinks including infants in their recommended age ranges, it is important to know that milk-based, toddler drinks are not appropriate for infants. Research has found that milk-based, toddler drinks do not contain the nutrients that infants need to develop and grow. Instead, parents of infants should choose to feed their child iron-fortified, infant formula until 1 year of age or breastmilk as long as mutually desired.
Overall, research has found that milk-based, toddler drinks are nutritionally unnecessary for all children and may negatively impact a child’s development and acceptance of a nutritious, balanced diet, especially fruits and vegetables. Additionally, medical and public health experts have stated that toddler milks contribute no nutritional benefit beyond what children would be achieving through a healthy diet. The World Health Organization has added that follow-up formulas are overall unnecessary and are not a replacement for breastmilk.
What if My Child is a Picky Eater?
Children in the United States, regardless of whether or not they are a picky eater, tend to eat lower amounts of fiber, vitamin D, and potassium. However, these nutrient shortfalls are not going to be magically fixed by having your children drink a milk-based, toddler drink. Instead, children should consume cow’s milk, which has more vitamin D per serving than the average milk-based, toddler drink. Additionally, you and your family should eat a balanced diet with emphasis on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, since these foods contain fiber and potassium. Offering your children a balanced diet, practicing responsive feeding by allowing your children to decide how much to eat, and repeatedly exposure your children to healthy foods is the best way to correct any picky eating habits and prevent any nutrient deficiencies.
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