- Background: In 1998, when Kelly Henchel’s child was nearing toddlerhood, she inquired about the emerging toddler milk products. A formula company representative confessed to her that these products were primarily a marketing gimmick.
- AAP’s Findings: The AAP published a report on Friday concluding that toddler milk has no significant nutritional benefits for children between 6 months to 36 months. Infant formulas, in contrast, are nutritionally balanced dietary sources suitable for infants up to 12 months.
- Pediatrician’s Input: Jenelle Ferry, a neonatologist and director at Pediatrix Medical Group in Florida, stated that the term “toddler formula” is misleading. She emphasized that toddler milk is not equivalent to infant milk and is not necessary for toddlers.
- Industry Response: A spokesperson for Abbott Nutrition, which manufactures a popular toddler formula brand, justified the product by pointing to the nutritional gaps in many U.S. toddlers’ diets. They emphasized that their toddler drinks are only meant for children aged 12 to 36 months and not for younger infants.
- AAP Recommendations: The AAP advises infants under 12 months to continue with infant formula or breast milk. Toddlers, 12 months and older, should focus on a balanced diet, including cow’s milk, which is rich in vitamin D and calcium.
- Marketing Tactics: Advertisements have long promoted toddler formula as beneficial for toddler nutrition, which the AAP and a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) deem misleading. WHO’s report last year highlighted aggressive digital marketing strategies by formula milk companies, such as infiltrating advice forums for expecting parents and promoting false health claims.
- Public Perception: A study from May in Nutrition Reviews found that many mothers, particularly from Black and Hispanic communities, perceive toddler milk to be more nutritious than cow’s milk. Notably, toddler milk is pricier but offers less protein and higher fat content compared to cow’s milk.
In Conclusion: The AAP’s report serves as a cautionary note for parents, suggesting they prioritize a balanced diet over toddler milk for their children aged 12 to 36 months. Many pediatricians, including Dr. Kelly Henchel, have echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of informed choices in children’s nutrition.