With so many types of baby formula on the market, you want to find the one that is best for your child's dietary needs. Many of the brands generally use the same milk-based ingredient, but some offer an option for soy. In fact, soy formula makes up about 25% of baby formula sales in the United States. If you are considering switching your baby for soy protein-based formula, you need to keep a few in mind based on a 2008 report from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP).
The AAP strongly endorses breast milk for all babies, but understands that there is a need for some babies to consume milk-based formula. When it comes to soy formula, it is most ideal for strict vegan families, infants who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, and infants who have congenital galactosemia which is a rare genetic metabolic disorder. You should not assume that your child should start a soy diet if they are allergic to cow's milk that they will be fine with soy formula. In fact, between 10% and 14% of babies who are allergic to milk are also allergic to soy. This is when doctors recommend hydrolyzed protein formulas such as Nutramigen or Alimentum.
Soy formula is not recommended for preterm babies. Even though it has been labeled as safe by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) panel of experts, the AAP reports that soy formula contains a higher level of aluminum compared to cow's milk formula. Unless your high risk infant has an allergy or a true need for a soy-based diet, doctors recommend a cow's milk formula.
Scientific research has also questioned the potential health effects of a regular soy-based diet on infants due to its estrogen-like effects. While some animal studies had concerns about early onset of puberty, development of breast tissue, or thyroid cancer, this has not been proven as an issue in humans in those studies.
Some babies may have a more difficult time digesting formula. Some parents will turn to soy formula to take care of issues such as colic. However, there is no medical evidence that soy soothes a colicky baby more than cow's milk. If there is a digestive concern, your pediatrician can make recommendations, but switching formula may not be one of them.
Soy formula has been available for babies for over one hundred years. While it is a safe, plant-based alternative to cow's milk formula, it is not required for every baby's nutritional needs. Some babies do not need soy formula or should not consume it at all. If you are considering switching your baby to a soy formula diet, speak with your pediatrician for their
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