The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia state that once children are 12 months old they can be given full-cream cow’s milk to drink. Once a child is over two years they can switch to reduced-fat milk instead. It’s also recommended that young ones limit excessive consumption of other energy-dense drinks, such as fruit juice and soft drinks.
Infant formula is designed to be a breast milk substitute for babies younger than 12 months. However, there has been a proliferation of toddler formulas that look almost identical to baby formula but are instead marketed squarely at the parents of children aged one to three years instead.
As a response to the World Health Organization’s code for marketing infant formula, in 1992 Australia developed a voluntary, self-regulatory code of conduct for manufacturers and importers of infant formula. Signatories are restricted as to how they promote infant formula, however, toddler formula falls outside the scope of the code and marketing hype abounds.
Advertising for Heinz’s Nurture Gold toddler milk claims “adventurous toddlers can sometimes be so busy exploring that they can be distracted from eating. You can be sure your toddler is getting the goodness of cow’s milk plus the vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine and zinc, probiotics, prebiotics and omega-3 DHA."
With spin like this, parents could be forgiven for thinking they’re depriving their toddler of valuable nutrients if they don’t give them toddler milk – but this simply isn’t the case. Paediatric dietitian Kate Di Prima says that while toddler milk could be used as a very short-term solution for children who may be malnourished after an illness, it’s not necessary for healthy toddlers.
Many toddlers can be fussy eaters, but this doesn’t mean they’re getting inadequate nutrition or they need toddler milk. As well as being an expensive way of providing nutrients easily obtained from food, excessive consumption of these types of milk can set up problems further down the track. Too much can fill a child’s small stomach and make him or her reluctant to try food, and it can also contribute to constipation. Unless you’ve been otherwise advised by your GP or health professional, give toddler formula a wide berth.
Ideally, babies and toddlers are better off drinking only milk and water, but for many little people sweet and tasty juice is a favourite. We found products such as Nutricia Golden Circle Hint of Juice and Heinz Summer fruit drinks, which are designed for babies six months and older. While these drinks don’t have any added sugar, they’re little more than very watered down fruit juice. They’re certainly not necessary, and at more than $3 for six small packs, they’re not economical either.
If you really want to give your child juice, it would be cheaper and more practical to give them a small splash of fresh juice mixed with water in a cup. Or even better, says DiPrima, “don’t even go there in the first place – juice is not a necessity”.