Please note: this information was current as of May 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Several milks specifically aimed at kids have recently entered the market. They include:
DAIRY FARMERS Kids Selection (“Helping kids to grow up right”)
PURA for Kids (“For growing bodies”)
BROWNES Junior (“…for growing, healthy toddlers”).
DAIRY FARMERS Kids Selection has a reduced fat content, making it unsuitable for children under two. PURA for Kids has normal levels of fat, and both these milks have added vitamins A and D. BROWNES Junior has extra vitamin D, plus iron and zinc to boot.
But do kids really need their own version of milk? It certainly doesn’t hurt to have the extra boost of vitamins and minerals, but children eating a healthy and varied diet will easily get adequate amounts of these nutrients from foods. And other milks contain similar amounts of calcium, or more (see our Milk article for more details). We think that kid-specific milks really aren’t necessary, and are simply a means for manufacturers to make the most of a market.
It’s the same story with toddler milk — the powdered variety that’s essentially infant formula (typically, powdered cow’s milk that’s been fortified with vitamins and minerals), but for a slightly older (12 months plus) market.
From six months, parents can start introducing solids to their child’s diet. From 12 months, toddlers can be weaned onto regular cow’s milk as part of a balanced diet. If you’ve been on the receiving end of the marketing for toddler milk, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re unfairly depriving your toddler of valuable nutrients if you don’t start them on toddler milk first. New parents in particular are vulnerable to the way these products are marketed.
Companies, by law, aren’t able to promote their infant formula, but they certainly don’t hold back with their toddler milks.
- NESTLÉ Neslac Toddler Gold was one of the 10 most advertised foods during kids’ TV time for at least one week last year.
- We’ve heard that toddlers at one playgroup insist on drinking S26 Toddler Gold out of the promotional S26 cup that came with the product.
- NUTRICIA advertised its KARICARE Toddler Gold as being “Nature’s next step” — an ad criticised by the Parents Jury, a group composed of parents who want to improve the food and physical activity environment of children in Australia, and supported by Diabetes Australia (Vic), The Cancer Council of Victoria and the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity. The Parents Jury gives biannual awards for people or organisations that affect, positively or negatively, the availability and promotion of healthy food and physical activity choices for children. Its 2006 ‘Smoke and Mirrors Award’ went to KARICARE Toddler Gold because its ad disparaged the idea of feeding children regular cow’s milk even though the product itself is mostly derived from dried cows’ milk, with added sugar.
Do toddlers need toddler milk?
Toddler milk might be useful as a short-term measure for children who are severely malnourished and/or extremely fussy eaters (if given in consultation with a health professional), but it’s not necessary for generally healthy toddlers.
- Toddlers are often fussy eaters, but this doesn’t mean they get inadequate nutrition or that they need toddler milk.
- Toddler milks may help reassure parents that their child won’t miss out on important nutrients, but it’s only a bandaid approach. Parents still need to encourage their child to eat a variety of foods and so establish good eating habits.
As well as being an expensive way of providing these nutrients — which are easily obtained from food — toddler milks drunk unnecessarily can set up problems further down the track. They can:
- Fill a child’s small stomach and in doing so compromise other nutrients a toddler needs to grow and develop.
- Limit a child’s exposure to different textures and tastes.
- Contribute to constipation.
- Give toddlers a preference for drinking sweet milk rather than normal milk (unlike infant formula, toddler milk is sweetened and often flavoured as well).