All About Formula and Milk

Children under the age of one should be consuming breast milk or infant formula. Few adopted infants are breastfed, so ideally your baby will be on a fortified infant formula. Bear in mind that a variety of “milk” like beverages exist in different cultures—cow’s milk, mare’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk—but the nutritional composition of these milks is inadequate for infant growth and may contribute to gastrointestinal or other health issues. You will need to develop a plan for identifying the infant formula (or milk) your child is consuming and how to transition him or her to an appropriate formula. A pediatrician or registered dietitian is best suited to help with this.

Specially made to meet babies’ nutritional needs, formulas come in a wide variety of bases and forms. Some are iron-fortified; others contain little iron or none at all. Most doctors recommend using an iron-fortified formula. Formulas are either milk- or soy-based, or protein hydrolysate.

Milk-based formulas: Made from cow’s milk, this is the most common for infants.

Soy-based formulas: This type is better for babies with galactosemia, lactose intolerance, or milk protein allergies.

Protein hydrolysate formulas: These are often recommended for infants with milk protein and soy allergies, or infants with gastrointestinal problems.

Toddler formula: For older infants and toddlers between the ages of 9 and 24 months. This formula is a good alternative if a toddler isn’t able to drink whole milk, as they are available in soy formulations. And since they are iron-fortified, they may also be a good choice if a toddler is a very picky eater.

Most children should remain on infant formula for the first year. Babies aren’t ready for regular cow’s milk until about the time of their first birthday. Remember that regular cow’s milk is not the same as infant formula made from cow’s milk.

Changing Formulas

Symptoms such as dry, red, and scaly skin; vomiting; diarrhea; excessive gas; poor weight gain; or, extreme fatigue or weakness should be reported to a doctor right away, and may be a sign that a change in formulas is warranted.

Not Milk?

The majority of the world’s population loses the ability to absorb lactose—a sugar found in dairy milk—and they become lactose intolerant. This is especially true as children grow older and if they are of Asian, African, Hispanic, or Indian descent. Dairy milk isn’t a good idea for these children. Lactaid® or calcium-fortified non-dairy milks, such as soy, are good alternatives.

Soy milk is not the same as soy infant formula, and should not be served as a substitute for soy infant formula.

If your child is not consuming dairy milk, make sure his milk substitute contains at least 5-8 grams of protein per serving (preferably complete proteins such as are found in soy), at least 20-25% vitamins A and D, and contains B-vitamins. Many parents of non-dairy milk drinkers supplement their child’s diet with multi-vitamins.

*This section applies to children, not infants.

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