Why You Should Skip Toddler Formulas, by Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital


Toddler formulas are being marketed as the next step in a child’s nutrition, but a dietitian at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is urging parents to opt for milk and food instead to address your toddler’s nutritional needs.

“Toddler formula is really not necessary, and these beverages do not provide a nutritional advantage for most children over a well-balanced diet that includes human milk or cow’s milk,” said Linda Davila-Herrera, registered dietitian nutritionist at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“Once children are a year old, they can start on cow’s milk or soy milk, and mix a packet of Carnation Breakfast Essentials into it if their child needs extra calories to gain weight,” Davila-Herrera said. “Pediatric formula can be proscribed for children with special dietary needs, but for most children, we encourage exploring new solid foods at mealtime.”

Formulas can be pricey, and are not a very high-calorie beverage, Davila-Herrera said. Most toddlers’ nutritional needs can be met with foods and some type of milk beverage, be it cow’s milk, soy milk, or pea protein-based milk.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics still prefers human-milk or cow milk for children aged 12-24 months as a part of a nutritionally balanced diet,” Davila-Herrera said. “However, caution should be exercised to limit cow’s milk intake to 16 ounces per day because of the negative effects excess milk intake has on iron status.”

Almond or cashew milk should be avoided because they are lower in protein and lack the calories that most toddlers need, she said.

Toddlers love to explore the world around them, and food presents them with a perfect opportunity, Davila-Herrera said.  “We want to make sure they’re exploring and trying new foods to get a variety of vitamins and minerals,” she said.

Davila-Herrera offers the following tips to introduce toddlers to foods:

  • Be patient. Some toddlers need as many as 15 introductions to a food before they will take it.
  • Create a positive feeding environment. Do not punish or make toddlers sit at the table until they eat the food in front of them. Such actions can teach the child to override their body’s natural cues to stop eating when they’re satisfied, which can lead to challenges later in life.
  • Do not praise the child when trying new foods. Instead, demonstrate that different foods are part of a regular, healthy meal.
  • Be a role model. Try foods with your toddler, and ensure the whole family is eating the same foods at meals. This can be done by cutting up foods into tiny pieces the toddler can manipulate and safely eat.
  • Make it easy for toddlers to feed themselves to build independence.

If parents are having difficulties or need feeding support, Davila-Herrera recommends asking your pediatrician, dietitian, or child’s health care provider.

Visit IntermountainHealth.org for more information.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see

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