We all know that being a parent is no easy feat. Your little one will inevitably change so much throughout their first years on Earth, and that means you'll have to encounter a lot of change too. While you may have only just felt like you had gotten a handle on feeding your baby, now all of a sudden your little angel has turned the big 1!
At this point, you're probably wondering how your toddler's diet will be different from the infant diet that you've grown accustomed to. Well, your head is most certainly in the right place.
Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters and it can be a difficult transition period for the both of you. During these trying times, it's quite natural to worry whether your toddler is getting all the nutrients they need.
For this reason, some parents may start to wonder whether a toddler formula might be the next best step for their child. Toddler formulas are designed for children between the ages of 12 to 36 months. They are different from infant formula in that they are intended to complement the transition to a family diet. As such, they are not suitable for babies under 12 months of age.
However, there's a lot of debate surrounding whether toddler milk is truly necessary or not. In this article, we'll walk you through what it is, when it's appropriate to use, how it compares to whole cow's milk, some good ingredients to be on the lookout for, and some of the best EU organic toddler formulas available on the market!
What is Toddler Formula, is it Different Than Infant Formula?
If you've seen products out there labeled as follow-up milk, follow-on formula, growing-up milk, children's milk, or toddler drink you may be confused as to whether or not these are the same things. Although different manufacturers may use different names, toddler milk is any formula intended for use from your child's first birthday up until the age of 3.
Importantly, these formulas are not intended to be a child's only source of nutrition, but rather they are meant to complement the transition to a family diet.
These protein-based drinks are formulated to fit the nutritional requirements of young children and are fortified with a variety of micro and macronutrients including fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that are typically present in infant and follow-on formulas and also cow's milk in varying degrees.
Furthermore, despite containing similar ingredients to infant and follow-on formulas, toddler formulas have different nutritional values. As such, they are not suitable for use under 12 months of age as they could leave infants malnourished.
In Europe, cow's milk is most commonly used as the source of protein but some formulas are made with goat milk instead. However, the actual protein content of the formula is usually lower than what you'd find in cow's milk and sits within the permissible range outlined by the European Union for infant formula and follow-on formula.
The controversy surrounding toddler formula is primarily rooted in whether it is or is not necessary for toddlers to use. Ultimately, the medical consensus is that beyond 12 months, the majority of healthy toddlers don't need to stay on formula. AAP found toddler formula “unnecessary and potentiallyharmful to young children” in 2022.
This is largely due to the higher sugar content and reduced protein levels of toddler formula when compared with whole milk. It should be noted the toddler formulas that we offer do not contain any added sugars or artificial sweeteners such as corn syrup which are commonly found in many other toddler formulas.
If your little one has a healthy diversified diet of whole milk and solids, then it is likely that they are getting all the nutrients that they need. Or if your family is vegan, some parents opt to use soy milk as an alternative to whole cow milk. This decision should be made with the consultation of your child's doctor.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), it is recommended that young children between the ages of 12 and 24 make the transition to consuming between 16 to 24 ounces of whole dairy milk per day.
However, when it comes to the European Union, some Member States have opposing opinions. While some health authorities in Europe endorse the use of toddler formulas as a means of ensuring adequate nutrient intake, others feel that drinking only cow's milk alongside a mixed diet is sufficient.
That being said, all toddlers are unique and while many will do fine without formula for others it can be particularly beneficial. As such, the decision to start your child on toddler formula should be made according to your child's individual needs, your comfort level as a parent, and most importantly the recommendations of your child's doctor!
Traditionally in the western world, once your little one reaches their first birthday, it's customary to begin offering your toddler whole cows milk. We'll explore the health benefits that cow milk has to offer and how this compares to the toddler milks on the market today!
Extra fat in your child's diet is an essential part of ensuring healthy growth and brain development for tiny tots under 2 years of age. For 1-year-old toddlers, breast milk continues to provide valuable nutrients.
However, for those who are ready to wean from nursing, usually, whole milk is recommended largely due to its high-fat, protein, and calcium content.
If your toddler is getting the AAP's recommended serving of between 16 and 24 ounces of whole milk a day, this should be enough to satisfy their nutritional needs for fat, calcium, and vitamin D.
If your toddler is healthy and hitting growth milestones then by 2 years old your pediatrician will likely recommend a switch from whole milk to skim milk (non-fat) or low-fat milk. At this point, the AAP recommends that children between 2 and 5 get between 16 to 20 ounces of skim milk or low-fat milk a day.
Undoubtedly cows milk is a nutritious food that is full of vitamins and minerals that toddlers need. Despite this fact, some medical experts have pointed out that the vitamin D in milk alone may not be enough to satisfy your child's requirements at this age, and for this reason, supplementation is often encouraged.
Micronutrient deficiency is a public health concern in many industrialized countries with vitamin D and iron deficiency being some of the most prevalent among young children worldwide. These deficiencies have been linked to issues such as anemia, impaired neurodevelopment, and immune system function.
Moreover, toddlers that drink a lot of cow's milk are at an increased risk of iron deficiency as it's naturally quite low in iron. If your toddler is consuming a lot of cow milk, you may find that they are not only less hungry in general, as they're filling up on milk, but they may also be less likely to eat foods that are rich in iron.
Beyond that, milk can decrease the absorption of iron in the body. All of this can be problematic as iron deficiency can affect your little one's growth and may result in behavioral and/or learning issues.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers Akkermans et al. (2017) found that micronutrient-fortified young child formula given to little ones between the ages of 1 to 3 for 20 weeks was an effective way of improving the iron and vitamin D status of healthy Western European toddlers.
Unfortunately, more research is needed in this field. However, this study shows preliminary evidence that toddler formula can be beneficial to children that struggle to reach adequate nutrient intake through their regular diet as it can reduce nutrient deficiency in children.
When is Toddler Formula Recommended?
Toddler formulas are designed to assist parents in creating varied diets for their toddlers and to provide them with optimal nutrient intake. As such, these formulas are specially fortified with additional vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids such as DHA (omega-3), calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D, E, and C which are not always present or abundant in standard whole milk or soy milk.
Toddler milk is full of essential nutrients that support a balanced diet and children's long-term physical and mental development. In addition to that, formula feeding your toddler can be particularly beneficial if your child has a certain medical condition that inhibits their diet or affects their growth and development.
For example, if your little one has a severe food or milk protein allergy your doctor can help you to figure out the best toddler formula for your child's specific needs (in this case they may recommend a specialty formula that is hypoallergenic).
For other children who have irregular growth, significantly low weight, or who struggle with malnourishment your pediatrician may also recommend toddler formula to help remedy these issues.
If you are considering putting your child on toddler formula, make sure that you speak with your pediatrician first and follow their recommendations. A medical expert can help guide you to the right toddler formula for your child.
How Much Toddler Formula Does Your Child Need?
It's important to know that unlike infant formula or breast milk which babies need to drink often, your little one does not need to drink their toddler formula as frequently. The nutritional content of toddler formula and infant formula is quite different. Toddler formula is a transitional formula made for kiddos making the move away from their usual infant formula.
When using toddler formula, it should be treated as a nutritional supplement. What that means is that it should be used in conjunction with an age-appropriate regular diet in which your child has access to a wide range of other healthy and nutrient-dense foods such as veggies, fresh fruits, healthy protein sources, and whole grains.
But in no way are these formulas intended to be your child's only source of nutrition. Even with a toddler formula, most of your child's nutrition should be coming from a balanced diet of age-appropriate solid foods and family meals.
When it comes to toddler milk the nutritional values vary slightly between brands so it's important to follow the manufacturer's serving instructions and the guidance of your pediatrician for the best results.
What to Look For in a Toddler Formula?
Once your child hits the one-year mark, they start to become active explorers of their world. Throughout this phase of adventure and growth, they need a proper supply of nutrients. Did you know that on average, young children need up to 7x more vitamin D and 3x more calcium per kg than an adult? Good old vitamin D becomes even more important during the winter months when kids are having less fun in the sun.
Those are some rather high demands, it's no wonder that micronutrient deficiency is not so uncommon amongst children. With that said, let's take a peek into some of the important ingredients you should be looking for in your little one's toddler formula...
EU Organic Ingredients
We already talked about how part of the reason toddler formula can sometimes get a bad rep is that it's not strictly necessary for many toddlers.
However, another reason for this is that in America, not all of these formulas are FDA regulated which means manufacturers are free to include what many parents consider to be unwanted ingredients like added sugar as well as more sodium and fat than you'd find in infant formulas.
However, when choosing an EU organic formula, your little one's toddler milk is subject to strict organic standards outlined by the EU. That means you don't need to worry about artificial sugars or preservatives, hormones, pesticides, or fertilizers and these formulas are strictly non-GMO!
Vitamin C a.k.a ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that each of us probably knows best for its important role in our immunity. While getting it on the regular is important to the overall maintenance of our health, it can also boost your little one's immune system if they've got a cold. Because your toddler's body is unable to produce vitamin C, they must get a good source of it from their diet.
Scientific evidence has shown that vitamin D is an important part of helping your little one to grow strong bones and it also helps to prevent rickets. You haven't heard of rickets before? That's probably for the best. It's a condition known for causing the softening of the bones and growing children are susceptible to it. To avoid this, the CDC recommends that toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age get 600 IU of vitamin D per day!
Kids do a lot of growing and to help them have a healthy life it's super important that they grow strong bones and teeth. To do this, toddlers need an adequate supply of calcium. Did you know that roughly 99% of our bodies' calcium supply can be found in our bones?
Getting sufficient calcium every day is important and ample calcium in childhood helps to protect us from weak bones and fractures in the future. Between the ages of 1 to 3, children need 500mg of calcium a day.
Iron is a mineral used by our blood cells to help carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough iron, our organs are unable to get the oxygen that they need. That's part of what makes iron such an important part of normal brain development in babies and children!
Our Vote for Some of the Best Toddler Formulas
All of the formulas on the list of our top five toddler milks are certified EU organic, free of added sugars or artificial sweeteners (such as corn syrup), and preservatives. Plus the organic ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides or hormones and fortified with important vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Be sure to read on to learn more!
Holle Cow Stage 4
Suitable for little ones that are 12 months+
Fully EU organic, biodynamic, and Demeter certified skimmed milk
DHA (omega-3), ALA (omega-6), and iron support healthy brain development
Vitamins C and D strengthen bones and the immune system
Supplies the necessary calories and nutrients while maintaining a simple organic ingredients list
Formulated to be as close to breast milk as possible for a high-quality formula
While it's true what the rumors say, toddler formula is not strictly necessary for most toddlers, there are various situations in which it can benefit your little one.
For toddlers who are not getting sufficient nutrients from their regular diet, for those with food or milk allergies, or if your child has other medical conditions that affect their diet or growth and development, toddler formula may have an important place.
Before you decide to offer your child a toddler formula, be sure to consult your pediatrician and follow their recommendations.
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A micronutrient-fortified young-child formula improves the iron and vitamin d status of healthy young european children: a randomized, double-blind controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. January 4, 2017.
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Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies and toddler, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.