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Pros and Cons of Soy Milk for Toddlers

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 09, 2021

As you transition your baby from breast milk or formula, you may be researching milk alternatives. Due to the growing demand for alternatives to dairy, you have many options. 

Some non-dairy milk alternatives on your grocery store shelves include:

Soy milk is derived from the soybean. It is a great vegan option for families who prefer milk not taken from animals. Is soy milk a good option for your toddler? Learn more about the pros and cons of soy milk. 

Pros of Soy Milk for Toddlers

Similar Nutrition. At the age of 1 year, your toddler should have two servings of dairy per day. By the age of 3, they should consume 2.5 servings per day. Important nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamin D are in dairy products. If your child is lactose intolerant or you have personal reasons for avoiding dairy products, you must find an alternative source of these nutrients. 

Many milk alternatives lack nutrients like calcium or protein. However, soy milk contains very similar nutrient ratios to cow's milk. Giving your child soy milk means you don’t have to think about making up the necessary dairy nutrients with other foods.

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Potential Health Benefits. Soybeans naturally contain phytoestrogens called isoflavones. Elevated levels of estrogen are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. However, these molecules are not a danger to your child. They are so small that they act like anti-estrogens. These molecules offset the body's natural estrogen levels when they are too high.

In fact, women diagnosed with breast cancer who consume soy products seem to live longer than women who don’t. There is also a decreased risk of breast cancer reoccurrence in women who consume more soy.

Soy milk also helps with kidney functions. Plant-based foods are easier for your body to digest than animal protein. If your toddler consumes a greater quantity of animal protein from other foods, soy milk may be a good way to balance out the impact on their kidneys and their body as a whole.

Cons of Soy Milk for Toddlers

Possible Allergen. It is possible for your toddler to have an allergic reaction to soy. Symptoms of a food allergy include:

  • Rash
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

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If your toddler displays any of these symptoms, remove soy products from their diet and see if the symptoms disappear. If they do, then talk to your doctor about other dairy alternatives. Sometimes children grow out of allergies. You may try to reintroduce soy later on in your toddler’s life. 

Set Limits. Babies spend the first year of their life with milk as the primary nutrition source. It can be difficult to break the habit of relying on milk for nutrition. Some babies want to drink more milk and eat less food. 

Your toddler may feel full from drinking milk. This will make them less likely to eat the food they need for balanced nutrition. No matter what milk you switch your toddler to, ensure that they receive adequate nutrition from other food sources.

How to Offer Soy Milk to Toddlers

Start slow. Begin by adding a little soy milk into your child’s breast milk or formula so they can slowly adjust to the taste difference. If your toddler is still using a bottle, this is a great opportunity to introduce them to a sippy cup.

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If your toddler is resistant to the taste of soy milk, then try another milk alternative. As you work through the transition, continue offering the different milk consistently as your toddler adjusts. It may take multiple instances of offering them soy milk for them to fully adjust to the taste difference.

Remember that it is okay to begin introducing soy milk to your baby between 6 months and one year as long as they are still getting a majority of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Making the Switch to Cow’s Milk for 1-year-olds.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “By the way, doctor: Children and soy milk.”

healthychildren.org: “Common Food Allergies,” “Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs.”

NutritionFacts.org: “Soy milk.”

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