Toddler formula sales are growing, but experts warn that most kids don’t need it
Formulas for toddlers are a booming business in the U.S.: Sales of the drink have more than doubled in recent years as companies convince parents that their little ones need increased fluids. But many experts warn that these products, designed for children ages 1 to 3, do not meet any nutritional needs beyond what is found in a typical toddler diet, are subject to less regulation than infant formula, and are expensive.
In addition, some parents feed babies infant versions even though they do not meet federal standards for infant formula and may not provide enough nutrients for babies to maintain their growth.
Pediatricians and federal health officials Say that by the time most babies are 1 year old, they can start drinking cow’s milk or an unsweetened plant-based milk substitute. A in 2019 “Consensus” Statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health and nutrition organizations recommend against using toddler formulas, saying “they provide no unique nutritional value beyond what can be obtained with healthy foods; in addition, they can add sugars to the diet.” Baby formulas often contain sweeteners and fats that add calories.
Produced by the same company Child formula — including Enfamil, Gerber, and Similac — also make baby formulas, as do some smaller, boutique brands that advertise that they have organic or other special qualities. Baby formulas are available almost everywhere baby formulas are sold and are marketed to provide extra nutrients to help babies develop brain, immune system and eyes, among other benefits. These are different from the medical formulas prescribed for children with special needs.
A 2020 study found that sales of toddler formula in the United States increased from $39 million in 2006 to $92 million in 2015.
According to a survey conducted by the leadership, parents are often confused by marketing for formulas Jennifer Harris, a marketing and public health researcher at the University of Connecticut. He found that 60% of caregivers Falsely believed toddler formula contains nutrients that toddlers can’t get from other foods.
Dr. Anthony Porto, a pediatric gastroenterologist and professor of pediatrics at Yale University, said he is concerned that these products may give children more nutrients and calories than they need. Unlike what’s designed for babies, toddler formula has no nutritional rules: experts say it’s impossible to standardize a supplement in a baby’s diet because no two babies are alike.
inside Focus groupParents report feeding their babies formula to fill nutritional gaps when a child isn’t eating enough, a common concern among parents, Harris said.
“Children are often picky eaters,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, chair of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado. But around one year of age, babies’ growth plateaus, she says, and “they’re suddenly not as hungry anymore.” That can worry parents, he added, but “it’s a completely normal occurrence.”
If parents have concerns about their child’s diet, they should consult with a pediatrician or family doctor, Daniels said. Although picky eating sometimes worries parents, she says, it’s common in children.
Blanche Lincoln, president of the Infant Nutrition Council of America, which represents the makers of Enfamil, Gerber, Similac and store brands, said in an email that baby formulas can be helpful because they “fill nutritional gaps during this period of transition.” These drinks help meet the specific nutritional needs of children by providing them with energy and important nutrients as well as essential vitamins and minerals during this critical period of growth and development, said Lincoln, a former U.S. senator from Arkansas.
But toddler formula isn’t being consumed by babies alone—it’s being fed to babies, too. A Recent research, Porto and colleagues found that 5% of children’s parents reported giving their children drinks marketed for older ages. And Harris’s research suggests that 22% of parents Infants older than 6 months were fed toddler formula in the previous month. Both studies were conducted before the recent infant formula shortage, which may have exacerbated the problem.
“Infant formula and toddler formula sit next to each other in the supermarket,” Harris said. “They look the same, but toddler formulas are cheaper than infant formulas. So people confuse them, and they make the mistake. Or they think, ‘Oh, it’s less expensive. I’ll get that instead.’ “
According to an email from FDA spokeswoman Lindsay Haack, children’s beverages do not meet the definition of infant formula, so they are not subject to the same requirements. This means they don’t have to go through the clinical trials and pathogen safety tests that the infant versions do. “Unlike infant formula, baby formulas are not necessarily designed to meet the nutritional needs of their intended consumers,” Hacke said.
In a statement to KHN, the Infant Nutrition Council of America said, “Toddler beverages have a distinct use and nutritional makeup from infant formula; the two are not interchangeable. The toddler nutritional drink label clearly identifies the product as an infant beverage. 12 months or older on the front of the package label. old child.”
However, several expensive toddler formula brands made by smaller companies – often advertised as made from goat’s milk, A2 whole milk (which lacks a common milk protein), or vegan ingredients that are not soy – meet the nutritional needs of children and some advertise it.
Harris argued that it also confuses parents and should not be allowed. Just because a toddler formula contains the nutrients required by the FDA for infant formula doesn’t mean it meets the other tests required of infant formula, he said.
Federal regulators have not forced the companies to recall those products In an email, FDA spokeswoman Mariana Naum said, “FDA does not comment on potential compliance actions.”
One company, Nature’s One, named its toddler formula “Babies Only.” Warning letter About their marketing to children from the FDA a decade ago. That case was closed in 2016. The company’s website states that baby’s only formula is “Meets the nutritional requirements for the baby” and that “Baby’s Only Organic® can be served up to 3 years of ageCritics say the language implies that formula is okay for babies under 1 The company’s website and its Instagram account feature customer testimonials from parents who feed their babies the formula, as well as photos of babies drinking it.
Nature’s One CEO and President Jay Hyman says Baby’s Only is clearly labeled as a toddler formula and the back of the can says “Baby’s Only is formulated for babies 1 year of age and older or when directed by a health care professional.” He also said that since the company was launched in 1999, its formulas have met all the nutritional, manufacturing and safety standards required of infant formula even though they are not required. “We’ve acted like we’re an infant formula, but we’re selling it as a toddler formula,” Hyman said.
He said that the clinical trials required by the FDA are a huge barrier to bringing a new infant formula to market, and many other countries do not require clinical trials. Babies recently completed a clinical trial, he said, and the company hopes to soon be able to sell it as an infant formula.
Yet pediatricians and nutritionists continue to warn parents about using the drink in children. “There’s no question that baby 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) A national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of three major operating programs KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.