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Transitioning to Whole Milk or Toddler Formula

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I received a question from our iPhone App regarding the use of a toddler formula, such as Enfagrow. The mother wondered if this was preferred over switching to cow’s milk when a child reaches 12 months of age. While there have been several products that have been brought to market in the last few years, so called toddler’s formulas, there is really no evidence to show that these are preferable to using cow’s milk you’re your child reaches 1 year of age.

The toddler’s formula does contain more calcium and phosphorous than infant formulas, but beyond that there is really no advantage to using a toddler formula over milk.  It really seems to be an expensive marketing ploy directed to parents who are concerned about calories and vitamins.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that 1 year old children either continue breast feeding or make the transition to whole milk.  It is also recommended that child transitions from bottle to a cup (sippy cup is fine).

At that time a toddler should reduce their milk intake to approximately 16 ounces a day, as they are getting the majority of their nutrition from eating a wide variety of solid foods, with less calories coming from breast milk or whole milk.  If a parent is offering their toddler a variety of healthy foods, you will be amazed at what they will and will not eat, but they do manage to gain weight and grow, which often surprises their parents.

The most interesting thing about a toddler, is that they self-regulate, and unlike adults, they eat when they are hungry, rather than out of boredom or due to stress.  So, if you offer your toddler healthy meals and snacks accompanied by whole milk from a cup, they will meet their nutritional requirements and also get enough calcium and vitamin D.

On the other hand, for parents that have a difficult time dealing with a child’s whims for eating, and will indulge their child’s  food preferences,while also allowing them to have juice instead of milk, the idea of a toddler formula seems to be just the ticket!

Just let them drink their nutrition (somewhat like an adult who might need a nutritional supplement like Ensure while they are sick), but this may not be the answer as this really just reinforces poor eating habits. Like many things in parenting, the “perceived” easy solution, may not always be the best.

So, at the end of the day there is little need for “follow up  formulas” for the otherwise healthy toddler.  Save the money, buy whole cow’s milk unless otherwise directed by your pediatrician.  Make sure that your child is getting about 16–18 ounces of milk a day and several other servings of dairy products.  If you are really concerned about calcium and vitamin D as well as other vitamins, then offer them an over the counter vitamin supplement.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue.

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