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In the past few decades there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the topic of soy milk for toddlers and babies. After all, doesn’t soy milk interfere with hormones, affect the thyroid and potentially cause allergic reactions in children? We will answer all of that and more in this post as we dive into soy milk for toddlers pros and cons.

About Soy Milk

Is soy milk safe for toddlers?

To answer the question of safety regarding soy milk, we need to acknowledge that as of yet, there hasn’t been any evidence per research done that would seem to suggest that there is anything inherently unsafe about giving soy milk to toddlers. In some cases, soy milk can even be beneficial to toddlers. However, it’s important to note that studies are still being conducted on the matter.

Part of the issue when it comes to soy milk is it’s propensity to cross-react with a milk protein allergy. In addition as well is the fact that, in some cases, it may cause other health issues when  consumed in excess.

Is too much soy milk bad for toddlers?

Too much of anything good can become a bad thing. Since studies are inconclusive when it comes to soy, we’d recommend you watch your child’s daily intake.

In general, you’ll probably want to aim for about 16 ounces of soy milk per day if you are replacing your child’s cow’s milk with it. 

Even if you only use soy milk on occasion or as a general supplement, be careful not to overdo it. Instead, give your child plenty of variety in his or her diet to keep too much of a good thing from becoming an issue down the road.

Can soy milk cause constipation in toddlers?

Soy milk may cause constipation in some toddlers. In many situations, drinking soy will decrease the number of bowel movements you will see because of its high fibre content. This can be both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

On the other hand, soy milk has been noted to seem more effective at limiting the amount of diarrhea often observed in toddlers. It may also be gentler on the stomach than cow’s milk for toddlers in some cases.

Can 1 Year Old Drink Soy Milk?

So, what age can babies drink soy milk?

The best age to start is 1 year and up, which is around the time you can stop sterilising bottles, too. The reason behind this is that your child’s digestive system is now fit to handle a variety of foods, drinks and yes, even certain bacteria, without he or she becoming devastatingly ill. For more information on bottle safety, check out our post on Quando smettere di sterilizzare i biberon.

Never give soy milk to a baby as a replacement for soy formula , regular formula or breast milk. Doing so will not provide adequate nutrition to your growing infant.

Having said that, there are many soy formula options available on the market. See our post on Vegan Substitutes For Baby Formula for more details. 

When you do start giving your toddler soy milk, be sure to check the ingredients. Aim to purchase a soy milk without added sugar that is fortified with added nutrients to ensure that your child is getting the vitamins and minerals he or she needs to grow healthy and strong.

If you are wary or aren’t sure if soy milk is the right alternative to cow’s milk for your child, see BBC’s Good Food article Is Soy ‘Milk’ Good For You

Soy Milk Pros

So, what do we think are some of the most beneficial qualities of soy milk for toddlers?

Consider the following:

  1. Easy Alternative to Cow’s Milk – Do you want to replace cow’s milk in your child’s diet with soy milk? Soy milk is one of the best alternatives to cow’s milk given it’s nutritional makeup. See how it compares to other milks in this soy milk guide.
  2. Provides Ample Calcium and Other Nutrients – The nutritional makeup of soy milk includes Vitamin D, Omega-3 and nine other essential amino acids. In addition, soy milk tends to be low in fat and high in protein. This makes it a great milk alternative for many toddlers.
  3. Perfect for the Lactose Intolerant – Assuming that your little one doesn’t have a milk allergy, soy milk may be perfect for your toddler who is lactose intolerant. If your child has an actual milk allergy, meaning he or she is allergic to the proteins the milk rather than the sugars in the milk, then your toddler may have a cross-reaction with the soy milk. Speak to your pediatrician before giving your child who is allergic to milk a milk alternative like soy.
  4. May Ease Diarrhoea – Most mums and dads can attest that the switch over from breast or bottle milk to full on cow’s milk can be a major adjustment for little ones. While soy milk may prove to be quite a transition in and of itself, it may be easier on your child’s digestive system than cow’s milk.
  5. Readily Available at the Grocers – Another pro for soy milk? You can find them at nearly any grocery store ready to drink, and that’s a major plus!
  6. There’s No Evidence of Harm (Yet) – Very few studies have been conducted on the effects of soy milk in children. The studies that have been performed have yet to show any conclusive information about soy milk being harmful for toddler health.
  7. Naturally Sweet and Mild Tasting – Soy milk is naturally mild and can have a sweeter taste to it. Your toddler may enjoy this taste.

Soy Milk Cons

So, What are the negatives of soy milk? They are as follows:

  1. Hormonal Imbalance – Soy milk contains oestrogen receptors that mimic oestrogen hormones themselves. Is this a problem? Well, scientists aren’t sure. More research needs to be conducted, although there doesn’t seem to be much proof of adverse health effects just yet.
  2. Thyroid Risks – There have been instances that show that soy can cause problems with the thyroid in young infants when given in the form of formula.
  3. May Contain Additives – When selecting a soy milk for your toddler, be sure to check the label. Some soy milks come with icky additives, and many are chock full of unnecessary refined sugars.
  4. Very Few Studies – Studies done on children can be difficult due to safety. So it is uncertain if any additional information about the effects of soy on children will be discovered. For that reason, moderation will be key when serving this type of milk to your little one.
  5. Allergies Could Still Be an Issue – As previously mentioned, soy milk may not always be the go-to milk alternative if your child has an allergy to cow’s milk. Confer with your doctor to devise the best plan for replacing cow’s milk within your child’s diet before taking matters into your own hands.
  6. Less Poop – In many cases, the switch from dairy to soy reduces the number of bowel movement and diarrhoea in many children. This could be an issue, however, if your child was already constipated to begin with. Work with your paediatrician to figure out the best way to stimulate your toddlers bowels while also avoiding what caused the constipation, such as dairy, in the first place.
  7. Not Always Necessarily Vegan – Although many soy milks are vegan, bear in mind that many soy formulas are not. Do your research and keep your eyes peeled if you are a vegan family looking for vegan options for your baby or toddler. Vegan families can also check out our line of vegan baby products.

Which Milk Is Healthiest for Toddlers?

So, what brand of soy milk is best for toddlers in terms of general health?

We recommend you go with the brand that offers unsweetened options and that comes fortified. This will ensure that your little one isn’t getting unnecessary added sugars in his or her diet. It will also ensure that they are getting the calcium and other nutrients they need.

In terms of which milk is overall best for toddlers in general, it is important to note that some mothers continue to breastfeed their children, even into toddlerhood. In this way, breastmilk is still the best option, even for toddlers.

Having said that, most paediatricians will recommend switching over to cow’s milk at the age of 1 if the child isn’t being breastfed. But because some toddlers may be allergic to milk proteins or may suffer from lactose intolerance (the two are not the same) then unsweetened and fortified soy milk is the often next best option.

Soy Milk Can Be Offered to Toddlers, With Limits

We hope we’ve helped shed some light on soy milk for toddlers pros and cons!

All in all, when it comes to offering soy milk to your toddler, be sure to talk to your paediatrician first before adjusting his or her diet. 

Remember, there are no conclusive studies that show that soy milk is bad. But it hasn’t necessarily been deemed beneficial in all cases, either. With this in mind, it is best to use soy milk in moderation for toddlers over the age of 1.