Formulas for toddlers 12 months of age and older have no essential nutrients for most children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report.
All formulas for infants — babies younger than 12 months old — sold in the United States must meet the requirements of the Infant Formula Act and undergo annual inspections.
However, no U.S. national or international criteria exist for the composition or definition of older infant-young child "formulas" (OIYCFs) — AKA toddler milk products — intended for those 12 months and older. Some of these transitional formulas have been criticized for containing unnecessary or potentially detrimental elements, such as high sodium content or added sweeteners.
The report emphasizes that OIYCFs do not provide a nutritional advantage in most children over a well-balanced diet that includes breast milk and/or dairy milk. Therefore, children 12 months and older should be provided with fortified foods to optimize a healthy diet and nutritional intake.
"OIYCFs have no specific role in routine care of healthy children and are more expensive than cow milk," the authors write.
The AAP says that the marketing of OIYCFs should clearly be distinguished from standard infant formula. For instance, it could be labeled as a toddler "drink" or "beverage" rather than a follow-on or toddler "formula." Product placement in store shelves of OIYCFs should not be alongside standard infant formulas.
Ensuring adequate nutrient intake for your toddler
Nutrition in the early years of life is important for cognitive and long-term brain function and is one of the determinants of health and disease risk later in life. The AAP recommends continuing breastfeeding after six months of age and introducing complementary foods at this time.
Toddlers at the age of 12 months often have begun consuming cow milk-based products. Cow milk is adequate to meet a toddler's needs in addition to solid food intake that includes iron and zinc sources.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children aged 12 through 23 months get 1⅔ to two cups equivalents of dairy daily to meet their milk protein limit. However, too much cow milk may negatively affect a child's body's ability to absorb the iron they need from foods.
On the flip side, when families switch from cow to other plant-based milk types, such as almond, soy, or alternative milk like goat milk, toddlers may be at a higher risk of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D deficiency.
Toddler formulas for infants over 12 months have no nutritional health benefits for most children. However, they can safely be used alongside other healthy foods, which offer the greatest nutrition source.