Parenting is all about making decisions, which is increasingly hard to do in a world filled with so many choices. Many parents wonder when it's time to switch from breastmilk or formula to regular milk.
The guidelines surrounding infant feeding are relatively clear and straightforward. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. After that, the recommendations become a bit murkier. Both professional bodies recommend continued breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods. But what exactly does that mean?
The WHO and the AAP recommend that children over the age of one drink cow's milk, as well as consume nutrient-rich foods. The WHO takes their stance a step further and states that toddler formula, also called follow-up formula, is unnecessary and unsuitable for children. The AAP agrees and says that toddler formula offers no advantage over a healthy diet.
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If this is true, it begs the question why toddler formula and milk has now exploded into a $15 billion business. In the U.S., there are two types of products sold, transition formula and toddler milk. Transition formula is marketed and sold for infants nine to 24 months and toddler milk for children one to three years old.
Health experts believe that toddler milk is not only unnecessary, but may actually be damaging to long-term health. According to a press release by NYU, most toddler drinks are primarily composed of powdered milk, corn syrup or other added sweeteners, and vegetable oil, and contain more sodium and less protein than cow's milk.
A new study from researchers at the NYU College of Global Public Health the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut determined that the labeling on formulas and milks marketed as "toddler drinks" can be confusing, leading parents to believe that they are healthy and necessary.
The team of researchers conducted comprehensive research on U.S. Food Label laws and found that the food industry in the United States is a beast in and of itself. After visiting stores and collecting the nutrition labels on toddler drink packages, the researchers found that toddler drink companies made multiple health and nutrition claims. Further they stated that there was scientific or expert evidence to support the use of their products. Finally, they often used similar colors, branding, logos, and graphics as infant formula manufacturers use.
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The scientists found that while the U.S. has a regulatory structure for food labels and clear policies for infant formula, no laws exist specific to toddler drinks. They concluded that the FDA should provide additional guidance and stronger regulations on toddler drinks.
Lead author Jennifer Pomeranz voiced her concern about the labeling practices of these manufacturers, stating, "All product labels made claims related to nutrition and health, and many made claims about expert recommendations that may lead caregivers to believe these products are necessary and healthy. In fact, they are not recommended by health experts, as there is no evidence that they are nutritionally superior to healthy food and whole milk for toddlers."
The bottom line is that toddlers don't need formula and should be consuming vitamins through the consumption of a variety of whole foods. Providing a child with toddler formulas may fill a child up and prevent them from eating other foods.