Choosing the right formula milk Toddler formula milk

Toddler drinking milk

The government recommends using cow's milk as a main drink after one year of age

Toddler milks (also called growing-up milks) are a relatively new product to the market aimed at 1-3 year olds. Their sales are growing fast -  46%1 of parents we asked who had a child over one had used them.

However, the government's advice is that they are not necessary and in October 2013 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also published an opinion stating that these milks provide no additional value to a balanced diet. The EFSA opinion also said their 'scientific experts could identify "no unique role" for young-child formula in the diet of young children.' Furthermore, while the composition of baby milk and follow-on formula is strictly regulated, toddler milks are not covered by similar composition legislation and there are no controls on how they can be promoted. 

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Does my baby need toddler milk?

No. After the age of one you can give your baby cow’s milk as a main drink. Growing up milk is advertised as ‘specially designed to meet the needs of your toddler’. But their nutritional value is compared solely to cows’ milk, and not cows’ milk plus food which your toddler would in reality be eating.  

Milk and dairy products are the main source of calcium in our diets. 300ml of cow’s milk (around half a pint) will provide all the calcium a 1-3 year old needs (350 mg/d). But the recommended daily servings of Aptamil, Cow & Gate and HiPP Organic growing up and toddler milks do not. 

SMA recommends a daily serving size of 500ml for its toddler milk which does provide the calcium that a 1-3 year old needs but this serving size is a lot larger. There are concerns that this amount of milk will displace solid foods from a toddler’s diet and all the nutrients these foods would provide.

Here's how different brands of toddler milk compare to cow's milk in terms of sugar, calcium and cost:

@inlinemarker@ Toddler milk - should you buy it? @inlinemarker@

What's in toddler milk?

Although toddler milk is advertised as containing much more iron than cow’s milk this is misleading. Cow’s milk contains very little iron and is not where you or your baby gets iron in the diet. Iron is found in red meat, eggs, lentils and pulses and green leafy veg.

Your baby should meet all their nutritional needs through the food they eat and a multivitamin drop that contains Vitamins A, C and D as recommended by the government, not through expensive fortified milks.

Toddler milks contain up to twice as much sugar than is found in cow’s milk. 300ml of cow’s milk contains around three teaspoons of sugar, compared with seven teaspoons in the recommended daily serving of 500ml of SMA Toddler milk. SMA Toddler milk also contains vanilla flavouring. These higher levels of sugar and vanilla flavourings encourage a preference for sweet things and in the long-term can lead to dental cavities.

Cost of toddler milk

Toddler milks are expensive. For powdered toddler milks, preparing the recommended daily serving (according to manufacturers instructions) costs up to £235 per year. If you use ready-to-feed formula this cost increases to up to £593 a year.

In contrast, the annual cost of the recommended daily serving of cow's milk (300ml/day) is just £62. 

1. Online survey of 727 mothers with children under 3 years old between November and December 2012

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