The AAP reviewed the nutritional value and found that toddler formulas “lacked standard composition and nutrition requirements.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reviewed a variety of toddler formulas that are being marketed as a healthy alternative to human milk and infant formula. However, these drinks “lack the standard composition and nutritional requirements.”

In fact, AAP said that toddler “formulas,” which are promoted as nutritional drinks for older infants or preschoolers, are “generally unnecessary and nutritionally insufficient and that the marketing practices used to promote them are questionable.”

There is currently no oversight in the US to ensure that formulas marketed to this age group meet any uniform standards.

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“Products advertised as ‘follow up formulas’, ‘weaning formulations’, or ‘toddlers milks and formulas’ are promoted in a misleading manner as being a part of healthy diet for children or, when directed towards young infants as equivalent to infant formula,” stated Lead Author George J. Fuchs III, MD FAAP, member of the Committee on Nutrition.

These drinks are not meant to replace a balanced meal. They are inferior to infant formula for children younger than 12 months and do not offer any benefit over cow’s milk, which is much cheaper. This also applies to children older than 12 months. As with all children, you should always consult your pediatrician if there are any special nutritional requirements.

The AAP, however, has stated that it supports continued breastfeeding, along with complementary foods introduced around six months of age, for as long as both mother and child desire, or two years. The Academy went on to say that if an infant isn’t breastfed, it recommends using whole cow milk for infants starting at age 12 months as part of a balanced, nutritionally complete diet.

It’s easy to understand why families and caregivers are confused by all the names, ingredients, and alleged benefits of these ‘formulas.’ Some toddler drinks contain a lot of sugar. “And to top it all off, they’re usually more expensive than milk,” says Steven A. Abrams MD, FAAP.

Advising parents and caregivers, the AAP recommends that for infants younger than 12 months, the liquid portion of the diet should be provided by human milk or standard infant formula, which in the US have been reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on the Infant Formula Act.

Toddlers (12 months or older) should be fed a varied diet that includes fortified food to maximize nutritional intake. AAP says that “formulas for older infants and young children” can be safely used as part of a varied child’s diet but “does not provide nutritional advantage to most children compared to a well balanced diet including human milk or milk from cows.”

The marketing of these drinks must make a clear distinction between them and standard infant formula, including in the promotional materials, product names, and packaging. The AAP warned that they should not be displayed alongside infant formula in stores. They continued: “Pediatricians must complete a nutritional assessment and adjust the child’s intake of solid foods or vitamins as necessary.”

We all know picky eaters. There may be a reason why some families do not consume dairy products or cow’s milk. Ask your pediatrician if they can evaluate whether or not children are receiving all the Nutrition they require. You can work together to develop a plan that addresses any deficiencies,” said Dr. Fuchs.