Do We Need Follow-On Formulas and Toddler Milks?

Toddler drinking milk out of a bottle

Okay, let's get into it.

If you have walked down the baby food and formula aisle of the supermarket recently you will be aware of just how many choices there are when it comes to formula. You have also likely been bombarded by ads on television and social media for follow on formulas and toddler milks.  It makes sense, right? If your little one has been formula fed then as they grow and their nutrition needs change, shouldn’t their formula change too?

We see advertisements for toddler formulas with thriving children, playing eating, smiling. These ad also make sure to promote the fact their product contains all the essential vitamins and minerals! They also don’t miss their chance to highlight the probiotics they contain to support immunity, growth, digestion and development. Some products even claim to fix fussy eating and reduce childcare illness.... insert eye roll here.

As a parent with a toddler that is suddenly eating less, throwing vegetables and getting every childcare bug going around, we can see why a product like this would seem very attractive. Most parents would sacrifice a kidney to avoid ANOTHER round of gastro, so $40 for a tin of toddler milk seems a small price to pay.

But are they needed? What do they actually offer?

Unfortunately, these products are rarely needed and pray on the anxiety of parents wanting to give their little one the best start to life. There is such a hyperfocus on the role of fruit and vegetables in ensuring your child is “healthy” that when they stop eating them (as many typically fussy toddlers do!) parents can get very stressed about their wellbeing. 

Compared to your everyday regular cow’s milk, these products are:

  • Often higher in sugar  (around double the sugar!)
  • Lower in protein (around 60% of the protein from the same serve of cow’s milk)
  • Lower in calcium (not by much but still, it is usually less)
  • Incredibly expensive (about 5 x more per serve)(1)

A study undertaken by VicHealth and Deakin University in 2020 found that toddlers would consume around 240g more sugar (this roughly 60 extra teaspoons of sugar) a month if they consume toddler milk daily when compared with cow's milk.(2) Marketing for baby formula is also tightly regulated in Australia…but the same doesn’t apply for toddler milks. Heavy advertising for these products is a bit of a loophole that allows companies to create brand recognition and get sales when they can’t advertise baby formula.

Toddler milks can also fill little tummies up and displace whole foods and make fussy eating worse!


So, what can you do?

We are aware that fussy eating can be a problem and cause a lot of anxiety for parents. We can pretty much guarantee you that toddler milks aren’t the answer. If your little one is struggling to gain weight and is eating less, than they might have a role, but likely you can meet their nutrition needs through food with the guidance from a paediatric dietitian. If they do need a supplement or toddler formula, a dietitian will also be able to guide you on the best one and offer strategies to support their eating longer term so you don’t need these types of products for long. 

Instead of offering toddler milks:

  • Focus on offering a variety of foods at meals and snacks 
  • Include 1-2 liked and accepted foods at each meal and snack 
  • Remember that kids are really good at regulating what they need. It is really normal for appetite and intake to drop in the toddler years as growth slows.


As always, if you are concerned enough about your little one’s diet to want to try these types of products, then you probably need some 1:1 support. So save your money and reach out for guidance that is going to make you feel confident, reassured and actually address the issue at hand.





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