Some people use toddler formula to supplement a toddler’s nutritional needs. However, it should never replace a healthful diet or deter the child from eating food.
A doctor may recommend toddler formula when an infant experiences malnourishment, is significantly underweight, or has a medical condition.
Caregivers should not give toddler formula to infants over 12 months without first consulting a pediatrician.
Most toddlers do not need toddler formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not recommend the use of toddler milk or formula. They encourage the use of other protein and vitamin D sources instead.
Numerous reports suggest that toddler formula is a marketing gimmick, pushing a product that toddlers do not need.
For those who choose to use toddler formula, it is essential to remember that toddlers do not need it as frequently as babies need to drink from bottles or breastfeed.
Instead, treat the formula as a nutritional supplement and continue giving the child a wide range of other healthful, nutrient-dense foods.
After 12 months, most healthy toddlers do not require formula at all. Instead, a consensus statement by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the AAP, and the American Heart Association recommend using breast milk or whole cow’s milk as the primary drink for toddlers.
There is little research supporting the use of toddler formula, and unlike infant formula, toddler formulas are not all FDA-regulated for their nutritional content. So while they seem safe, little regulation or research into these products means it is not always possible to ensure safety.
In general, toddler formulas add little to a child’s diet. In some cases, they may replace healthier foods, especially if a toddler is already eating well.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
Similac Go & Grow
For picky toddlers, caregivers may feel more confident using formula if a pediatrician recommends doing so.
Similac’s Go & Grow Toddler Drink is similar to infant formula but designed for a toddler’s expanding nutritional needs.
Like breast milk, it is rich in healthful nutrients, such as lutein, DHA, and human milk oligosaccharide, making it useful for caregivers who cannot continue breastfeeding during toddlerhood.
According to the company, Similac Go and Gro is suitable for toddlers aged 1–3.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) advise against soy and other plant-based formulas for infants.
However, soy-free, plant-based formulas are also available. A common alternative to soy is pea protein. Research into the health benefits and risks of toddler formulas based on non-soy plant protein is limited.
Caregivers of toddlers who consume a vegan diet should consider other protein sources or plant-based milk, particularly if there is no medical reason to use toddler formula. A pediatrician or dietitian can offer advice.
Gerber Good Start
For toddlers who need a soy-based option, try Gerber Good Start Infant and Toddler Formula.
This lactose-free option is easy to digest and safe for infants. According to the company, the toddler can start drinking this formula at 9 months and continue using it until they are 2 years old.
Fewer transitions may be easier for the toddler. Speak to a medical professional before using soy infant formula.
Else Plant-Based Complete Formula
Else Plant-Based Complete Formula is free from dairy, soy, and gluten, making it suitable for toddlers with certain allergies.
The company state that this formula is suitable for toddlers over 1 year of age and is vegan friendly.
Ingredients include almond, so it is not suitable for children with nut allergies.
For toddlers with sensitive stomachs, the safest option may be to replace the nutrition from toddler formula with something else. Caregivers may also want to consider allergy testing.
For children with medical conditions, speak to a pediatrician about whether a formula is necessary and which one to choose.
Similac Sensitive Go & Grow
Go & Grow features a similar nutritional profile to Similac’s basic toddler formula, but in an easily digested option for children with lactose sensitivities.
This milk-based formula contains no artificial growth hormones, according to the company.
EleCare Jr. Unflavored
This formula is hypoallergenic, meaning it is suitable for toddlers with severe allergies. It is based on amino-acids and is free from:
- dairy and lactose
- soy protein
According to EleCare, this plant-based, natural powder is suitable for vegans.
To promote healthful weight gain, most pediatricians and doctors recommend that a person breastfeeds for as long s possible. Breast milk can help supplement a toddler’s diet and ensure they get the right nutrition. For people who are unable to breastfeed, formula is the next best option.
Caregivers should not try to get toddlers to gain weight unless a pediatrician specifically recommends that they do so. Being a picky eater does not necessarily mean that a toddler is malnourished or must gain weight.
Gerber Good Start Grow Toddler Drink
Gerber’s Good Start Toddler Drink may help fill nutritional gaps for toddlers who lack proper nutrition.
The formula contains a range of essential vitamins and minerals to ensure a toddler is well-nourished.
The AAP recommend that caregivers breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life and continue breastfeeding while supplementing with foods for at least 12 months. For babies who do not get breast milk, formula is the next best option.
This recommendation does not extend to toddlers, who can get all of their nourishment from food.
For most toddlers, cow’s milk and other protein-rich foods are a better option than toddler formula.
If a doctor recommends supplementing with formula, try several options to find the best one to meet a child’s needs. A pediatrician may suggest a specific formula based on a toddler’s medical conditions or needs.