These days, everyone understands that babies who are no longer breastfed should be given infant formula until twelve months of age.
What is less understood is what should happen after your child’s first birthday.
There is no doubt breastmilk continues to be important throughout the second year and beyond.
Mothers and babies who wish to continue breastfeeding can do so for as long as they wish – indeed, for two years and beyond is the World Health Organization’s recommendation.
Formula is a different matter altogether. By twelve months, your baby will be eating from a wide range of healthy food options, and milk becomes a secondary part of his diet.
After that first birthday party, your 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).
Low fat dairy products should be avoided, which generally have a higher sugar content.
The differences between cows’ and human milk in the second year and beyond come down to growth and immune factors that cannot be reproduced in a factory.
Do Toddlers Really Need Toddler Formula?
At a time when shortages of toddler formula are causing stress for Australian families, it's well and truly time to ask – do toddlers really need these products?
Let's take a look at the cold hard evidence:
#1: CHOICE says NO
The Australian Consumer watchdog gives toddler formula the big thumbs down.
A review in July 2014 highlights the role of toddler formula advertising as stealth marketing for infant formula. This has been long known by many in the baby and parenting industry, and finally everyone is now catching on.
#2: The World Health Organization says NO
In 1986, the World Health Organization first deemed the practice of providing infants with the specially-formulated, follow-on milks ‘not necessary’ and has repeatedly reissued the message over the last 29 years. Follow-on milks are commonly known as stage 2 or 3 milks, as well as toddler formula.
#3: The Australian Dietary Guidelines say NO
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) states “special complementary foods or milks for toddlers are not required”.
#4: Public Health Association of Australia says NO
Doctor Paul Gardiner, President of the Queensland Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia, blames the marketing of formulas, claiming, “advertisements play on parental guilt (and emotions), making it difficult for parents to seemingly deny their children these products.”
#5: Australian Experts say NO
says powdered milk is an abundant and inexpensive commodity. By adding a few cents worth of fats, vitamins and minerals, cheap powdered milk could be presented to parents as “Premium”, “Pro”, “Gold+”, “Organic” or even “Platinum”. This turned a product that might otherwise sell for A$7 a kilogram into something that retails for A$19-28 a kilogram.
#6: Dieticians say NO
Joy Anderson, an accredited practicing dietitian and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, says: “Toddlers can get all the nutrients they need from the normal food groups. Prebiotics are dietary fibre (indigestible carbohydrates), so that can come from fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Omega 3 is highest in oily fish, but other foods contain it, such as beef, especially if grass-fed. Short-chain omega 3 fats, the sort found in vegetable sources like linseed, are not nearly as valuable as the long-chain type from fish and meat. Iron is obtained mostly from meat, but also fish, legumes and wholegrain cereals.”
Is Toddler Formula Nothing More Than A Product Created To Target Vulnerable Parents?
Many parents say they continue using formula beyond twelve months as their toddler enjoys it.
They also say they don’t need to worry about their toddlers being fussy eaters, and it's an easy way to supplement their diet.
These are all quite reasonable responses. But you need to ask yourself – is it worth the price for what is really nothing more than powdered milk with a few extras thrown in?
The nutrition panel on the side of that toddler formula tin might look reassuring, listing a host of important vitamins, minerals and other factors. It states the percentage of your child’s daily requirement and how much a serve provides.
However, more important perhaps is to look at the ingredients listing – where are all those added extras coming from? You might be shocked to find the answers include fungus and algae.
If you (like most parents) take care to choose fresh, healthy foods which you buy locally, you might think twice about feeding your baby nutrients created synthetically or from unregulated sources, when those same nutrients can be provided by wholesome family meals.
Most one year toddlers are fussy eaters and prefer small, frequent serves of foods they recognise and enjoy. Frustrating as it is, parents provide and children decide, when it comes to meal times.
Healthy eating habits are important right from the start, and a healthy child will not starve or become malnourished simply because of developmentally typical picky eating.
Topping them up with bottles or cups of toddler formula will suppress their appetite for food and can lead to a dependence, which will be hard to wean from later.
Infant formula is an important replacement for babies under twelve months of age who cannot be fed breastmilk from their mother or a donor. But how do you determine which product will best suit your baby, when the range of brands and types seems never-ending? Find out what you need to know in our article, Choosing Baby Formula – 5 Facts to Help You Decide.