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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Do toddlers need a 1 year+ formula?

The answer, according to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, may surprise you......

As parents, we all want the best for our children. It can be overwhelming going to the groceries and seeing formulas and milks targeted at children 1 year and older, promising benefits such as improved brain, gut and immune function. But are these so-called toddler milks really necessary? The answer, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report in October of this year looking at the presence of 'toddler formulas' on the market, is a resounding no..

Firstly, the AAP supports continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods introduced around age 6 months. Non-breastfed infants under 1 year should receive their nutrition primarily via standard infant formula along with age-appropriate solid foods after 6 months of age, which should provide key nutrients including iron, calcium and zinc.

In the US, the Infant Formula Act requires infant formulas to meet nutritional requirements for infants in the first year of life. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have a distinct category of older child formulas, so there are no specific criteria. As a result, the composition of these drinks is unregulated by the FDA and their promotion can be characterized by packaging claims that are not required to be based on scientific evidence or even FDA review or approval.

In addition, toddler formulas are often positioned close to infant formulas in the grocery or pharmacy aisles, a marketing ploy that can further add to parents' confusion. Therefore the recent AAP clinical report recommended that toddler milk marketing should make a clear distinction from standard infant formula in promotional materials, logos, product names and packaging, and should not be linked in any way to infant formula. In addition, these products should be labeled as something other than formula (e.g., toddler drink or beverage) and not positioned alongside infant formulas on store shelves.

Toddler milks are not nutritionally complete and do not replace a varied, well-balanced diet.

Nutritionally there are also significant concerns about the adequacy of toddler milks. The AAP advises that such products are not nutritionally complete and do not replace a varied, well-balanced diet that includes dairy products and/or human milk. Toddler beverages also have been criticized for having components considered to be unnecessary or even potentially detrimental, including high or low protein, higher sodium content relative to cow milk and added sweeteners. (An important distinction needs to be made however between these toddler drinks and medically necessary, prescribed pediatric formulas for oral or enteral use which, unlike these toddler drinks, are nutritionally complete.)

So, I usually advise parents to save their hard-earned money and, instead of purchasing toddler milks, to focus instead on ensuring a well-balanced healthy diet that consists of whole unprocessed foods, reflects the major food groups, and ideally encompasses all of the colours of the rainbow. As the AAP report states, for children consuming a diet of solid foods that provide sufficient iron and vitamin content, there is no advantage or even need to consume toddler milks.

To eating healthily and well!

Be well,


Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. She is also a certified children's mindfulness teacher and Positive Discipline Parenting coach. You can find out more at

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