Is soy milk good for toddlers?

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on September 3, 2012

For the first few months, all a baby is fed is usually breast milk. Eventually the baby starts to have ready-made formula and milk externally. Usually parents don't think twice and feed the baby cow's milk. But today there are more babies born with an aversion or allergy to dairy. In such cases, parents have taken to feeding the baby soy milk.

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There are many opinions that are suggesting that soy milk for toddlers might be very damaging. Soy milk in infants is discouraged because it does not have all the nutrients needed for an infant's growth.  There are formulas for babies that are lactose-free formulas so you do not need to immediately shift to soy-based formulas if your child is allergic.

Let's look at some positives and negatives about soy milk.

The benefits

Let's first look at the benefits of soy milk for toddlers. Soy milk is rich in protein. Even if your child is not dairy-averse, including a cup of soy milk daily might work well. Soy milk tends to be sweeter than cow's milk and is also available in many flavors.

Soy milk is easier to digest as compared to milk from animal sources. There are many cultures that grow up drinking soy milk. Watch your toddler and adapt to how he adapts to soy milk.

The Side effects

The biggest side effect cited by most experts and doctors is the presence of phytoestrogen in soy milk. This hormone could interfere with the child's puberty and even possibly cause breast cancer if the toddler is given soy milk. This conclusion is not back by any scientific enquiry and is generally considered propaganda by the anti-soy brigade.

Soy milk contains phytates, a compound that reduces the absorption of calcium. So if you are feeding your child soy milk, remember to include other calcium-fortified food in the child's diet. Ordinarily the child would have gotten calcium from cow's milk. Calcium-fortified can include juices with added calcium, yogurt and cheese (if there isn't a dairy aversion). You might also need to add vitamin B12 as that is another important ingredient missing from soy milk but present in cow's milk. Fortified cereals are a good way to include it for your toddler.

Long term consumption of soy milk, some studies have shown, even contribute to male infertility. You might want to consider this fact if your baby boy is drinking more than occasional soy milk packets. There have been instances of development of autoimmune diseases like thyroid late in life. This is not directly linked to soy milk consumption but it has affected the perception.

If your child is even allergic to soy milk, there are other options available like almond milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk and rice milk. You need to adapt the dietary habits based on how your child reacts. Your toddler might start off digesting soy milk but could develop intolerance for it later.

Soy milk can be a safe addition provided you do not over do. Allow your child to be exposed to different types of foods.

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