Toddler formula sales are growing, but experts warn that most kids don’t need it
Toddler formula is a booming business in the U.S.: Sales of the drink have more than doubled in recent years as companies convince parents their kids need liquid boosters. But many experts warn that these products, designed for children ages 1 to 3, fail to meet nutritional needs beyond a typical toddler’s diet, are less regulated than infant formula, and are expensive.
Additionally, some parents feeding toddler versions to infants may not be able to provide infants with enough nutrients to sustain their growth, even if they don’t meet federal standards for infant formula.
Pediatricians and Federal Health Officials Said that when most children are one year old, they can start drinking milk or unsweetened plant-based milk alternatives. in a 2019 “Consensus” Statementthe American Academy of Pediatrics and other health and nutrition organizations advise against the use of infant formula, saying “they do not provide any unique nutritional value beyond what a healthy food can provide; in addition, they may add sugar to the diet.” Toddler formula often contains sweeteners and fats that add calories.
produced by some of the same companies infant formula — including Enfamil, Gerber and Similac — also make toddler formula, and some smaller boutique brands are advertising their organic or other special qualities. Toddler formula is available almost anywhere that sells infant formula and is sold with extra nutrients to help children’s brain, immune system and eye development, among other benefits. They are different from medical formulas prescribed for children with special needs.
One Study in 2020 It was found that US infant formula sales rose from $39 million in 2006 to $92 million in 2015.
according to a Jennifer Harris, a marketing and public health researcher at the University of Connecticut.she found 60% of nursing staff Falsely believe that infant formula contains nutrients that young children cannot get from other foods.
Dr. Anthony PortoThe Yale Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Professor of Pediatrics said he is concerned that these products may give young children more nutrients and calories than they need. Unlike formulas designed for infants, toddler formula has no nutritional provisions: Experts say it’s impossible to standardize supplements into a toddler’s diet because no two children are alike.
exist special groupHarris said, parents report that they fill the nutritional gap with toddler formula when their children aren’t eating enough, a common concern among parents.
“Babies are usually voracious eaters,” says Dr. Stephen Daniels, Chief of Pediatrics at Colorado Children’s Hospital. But at about a year old, the children’s growth and development stalled, he said, “and suddenly they weren’t as hungry as they used to be.” That might worry parents, he added, but “it’s completely normal. .”
If parents have concerns about their child’s diet, they should consult a pediatrician or family doctor, Daniels said. While picky eating can sometimes worry parents, it’s common among toddlers, he said.
Toddler formulas may be helpful because they can fill a “transition period,” Blanche Lincoln, president of the American Council on Infant Nutrition, which represents Enfamil, Gerber, Similac and store-brand manufacturers, said in an email. The Nutritional Gap” Foods on the Table. Former U.S. Senator Lincoln from Arkansas said the drinks “help meet the specific nutritional needs of young children by providing energy and vital nutrients, as well as essential vitamins and minerals during this important period of growth and development.” “
But toddler formula isn’t just ingested by young children — it’s also fed to babies.in a A recent study, Porto and colleagues found that 5% of infant parents reported giving their infants drinks marketed to older age groups.Harris’ research shows 22% of parents of infants over 6 months of age were fed infant formula in the past month. Both studies were conducted before the recent shortage of infant formula, which may have exacerbated the problem.
“Infant formula and toddler formula tend to be next to each other in supermarkets,” Harris said. “They look similar, but toddler formula is cheaper than infant formula. So people confuse them and they get the wrong one. Or they think, ‘Oh, this is cheaper. I’ll buy this.’ “
According to an email from FDA spokeswoman Lindsay Haake, toddler beverages do not meet the definition of infant formula, so they are not subject to the same requirements. That means they don’t have to undergo clinical trials and pathogen safety testing like the baby version. “Unlike infant formula, toddler formula is not necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the intended consumer,” Harker said.
In a statement to KHN, the U.S. Council on Infant Nutrition said: “Toddler beverages have the unique use and nutritional profile of infant formula; the two are not interchangeable. The labeling of the Toddler Nutritional Beverage clearly indicates that the product is intended for use in toddler beverage packaging. Children 12 months and older on the front of the label.”
However, some expensive toddler formula brands made by smaller companies – often advertised as being made with goat’s milk, A2 whole milk (lack of a common cow’s milk protein) or non-soy vegan ingredients – do meet the nutritional needs of babies, some people advertise this.
It also confuses parents and shouldn’t be allowed, Harris believes. Just because a toddler formula has the nutrient content the FDA requires for infant formula doesn’t mean it has met the other tests required for infant formula, she said.
Federal regulators have not forced either company to withdraw the products. “The FDA does not comment on potential compliance actions,” FDA spokeswoman Marianna Naum said in an email.
A company called Nature’s One, whose toddler formula is named “Baby’s Only”, received Warning Letter A decade ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was concerned about marketing them to babies. The case was closed in 2016. The company’s website says Baby’s Only formula “Meeting the nutritional needs of infants” Then”Baby’s Only Organic® is available up to 3 years oldCritics say the language implies that the formula is suitable for babies under 1. The company’s website and its Instagram account have testimonials from customers from parents who have reported feeding and drinking formula to their babies. Photo of milk powder.
Jay Highman, CEO and president of Nature’s One, said Baby’s Only is clearly labeled as a toddler formula, and the back of the can says “Baby’s Only is designed for toddlers 1 year or older, or by a healthcare professional.” He also said Said that since the company was founded in 1999, its formula has met all the nutritional, manufacturing and safety standards required for infant formula, although they do not have to be. “We act like we’re infant formula, but we’re selling it as toddler formula,” Heyman said.
The FDA-required clinical trials are a huge barrier to bringing new infant formulas to market, and many other countries don’t need them, he said. Baby’s Only recently completed a clinical trial and the company expects to sell it as an infant formula soon, he said.
Yet pediatricians and nutrition experts continue to caution parents against using toddler beverages. “There’s no question that infant formula is very important in the first year of life,” Daniels said. But he doesn’t recommend the toddler version, “because it’s not as useful, because it’s confusing, because it’s expensive.”
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that provides in-depth news coverage on health issues.Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the top three operating programs in the U.S. KFC (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a donating non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the state.