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What Is The Best Toddler Formula? (2021 Guide)

By Thepickyeater @pickyeaterblog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.

If your child has passed the age of 12 months, you may be wondering whether or not you should continue giving them formula. In this post I'll answer all you questions about whether or not you should continue formula, and provide you with a list of the best toddler formulas on the market today!

What Is The Best Toddler Formula? (2021 Guide)

When your child is an infant they need breast milk or formula to grow and thrive. As they grow older, solids are introduced, but breast milk and formula continues to be the main source of nutrition.

However, after the age of 12 months, many parents wean their child from the breast or formula. But as your child grows, you may be wondering if you should continue with formula, or possibly switch to a toddler formula.

In this post, I'll answer all of your formula questions so that you can decide if continuing with formula or switching to a toddler formula is a good idea for your child. This post will also help you find the best toddler formula - with detailed guidelines on what to look for and what to avoid!

Remember, before making any dietary change, please consult your child's pediatrician.

Do Babies Need Formula After 12 Months?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians, pediatricians recommend that children between the ages of 12-24 months should switch to whole dairy milk, and consume 16-24 ounces a day.

Before the age of 12 months, giving your child dairy is discouraged. This is because babies' kidneys are not yet mature enough to handle the proteins and minerals in cow's milk.

Therefore, it is not necessary to continue with formula after the age of 12 months. However, this number is not set in stone, and babies and families will vary a bit on when they make the transition to whole milk.

What Is Toddler Formula?

Toddler formula is for children between the ages of 9 months and 3 years. It is meant as a transition between infant formula and whole milk.

It is made with many of the same ingredients as infant formula. However, as I've explained when recommending organic formula, many ingredients in toddler formulas such as added sugars, thickeners/stabilizers, and synthetic nutrients are not beneficial for your child.

It is also important to note, that not all toddler formulas are FDA-regulated for their nutritional content. Which means that most of the brands on the market have have more sodium, fat, and sugar than infant formula.

However, not all toddler formulas are bad! There are actually high quality, organic toddler formulas out there to choose from. Depending on your child's needs, using a toddler formula may be a good choice. Especially if you choose a high quality formula that has additional vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Why is 12 months the rule of thumb to stop regular formula?

Transitioning your child off of formula at 12 months is the general rule of thumb because by about that time their kidneys have developed enough to be able to handle the proteins and minerals found in cow's milk.

Of course, if you are breast feeding, you can continue doing so until you and your child are ready to wean.

Does my child need to continue using formula after 12 months?

No, your child does not need to continue using formula after 12 months since your child's kidneys are developed enough to handle whole milk. At this point your child should also be getting nutrients from healthy superfoods such as avocados, blueberries, spinach, and butternut squash.

However, in some cases (if your child was premature, or your pediatrician is concerned about growth/weight, or your child is a super picky eater), continuing formula may be the right choice.

Is Whole Milk As Nutritious As Formula?

The best, organic toddler formulas have added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, above and beyond what whole milk provides. This is usually not necessary for most children that are getting an otherwise balanced diet, since a lot of those vitamins can also come from food.

Whole milk is meant to provide your child with needed calories, fat, protein, and minerals - but won't be as "nutrient packed" as formula which is fortified with additional nutrients for children who need it.

Is Toddler Formula Better Than Milk?

Simply stated, no, toddler formula is not better than whole milk. However, in some cases, and for some children toddler formula could be a better option. According to the AAP, there is no evidence that toddler formula is any better than regular, organic, whole milk.

When Is Toddler Formula Recommended By Your Doctor?

Your pediatrician may recommend toddler formula for any of the following reasons...

  1. A kidney condition, that makes your child unable to digest cow's milk
  2. Iron deficiency anemia
  3. Developmental delays
  4. A child that is malnourished
  5. Growth concerns

But remember, do not start toddler formula without the recommendation of your pediatrician.

How Frequently Should I Give My Child Toddler Formula?

If you choose to give your child toddler formula, it is recommended that they consume somewhere between 12-24 ounces per day. The bulk of their nutrition should come from solid foods. As your child grows past the age of 12 months they will gradually shift to getting most of their nutrition from a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy protein sources.

Best Toddler Formula: What to Look For

  • USDA Organic: This ensures that you are buying a formula that was made without pesticides, GMOs, hormones, artificial and synthetic ingredients.
  • Whey:Casein Ratio: A whey to casein ratio of 60:40 most closely resembles breast milk.
  • Grass Fed: Organic formulas use cow or goat milk, so look for ones that are grass fed.
  • No Added Sugars: This includes ingredients such as corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar, brown rice syrup, corn sugars, and syrup solids.

Ingredients to Avoid in Toddler Formula

  • Synthetic DHA and ARA: DHA and ARA is naturally found in breast milk. When added to a formula it is sometimes comes from algae and fungus, often using hexane. DHA and ARA that are extracted using a different process is preferred.
  • GMOs: Look for formulas that are certified non-GMO. If you buy an organic formula, it is automatically non-GMO. GMOs are concerning because they are genetically engineered crops that are made to be resistant to Round-Up.
  • Carrageenan: This ingredient has been banned in Europe but is still used in formulas in the US. It is know to cause inflammation in the intestines.
  • Soy or Soy based products: Too much soy given to infants can lead to health complications in the future.
  • Synthetic Nutrients: Lutein, lycopene, nucleotides, taurine, l-carnitine and l-methionine are synthetic ingredients that are allowed in US based formulas, but not European formulas.
  • Palm Oil: Palm oil is in most US formulas. It is not environmentally friendly, and can cause digestive issues in some babies. However, if you have to choose between palm oil and soy oil, I would recommend going with palm oil, because soy can be even more problematic in children.

Some of the items below were given to me to review by the manufacturer or as part of an affiliate program. I may receive commissions if you make a purchase through the links provided. I only recommend products I've actually evaluated, I believe are the highest quality, and can do the most to help you and your family. By purchasing any of these products from the links below, you help keep this blog running, so thanks for your support!

Keep in mind that every person & situation is different, especially yours, so make sure to talk to your doctor and see how these guidelines and tips can help you. These tips are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never disregard or delay in seeking professional medical advice because of something you read here!

My recommendations are based on the manufacturer's claims and ingredients list, and what I feel best giving to my own family. Your individual results may be different based on your overall diet, exercise, age, weight, family history, or pre-existing conditions.

9 Best Toddler Formulas: European Brands

U.S Best Toddler Formula

There is only one toddler formula made in the United States that I recommend.

Best Toddler Formulas with Goat Milk

Goat milk formula is a good option for many toddlers and infants. If you have a child who doesn't tolerate cow's milk, opting for goat milk based formula may be better! For more about the pros and cons of goat milk vs. cow's milk and the pros and cons of each, check out my post Is Goat Milk Formula Healthier than Cow's Milk Formula?

For now, let's review the best toddler formulas that use goat's milk.

When Should I Stop Giving My Toddler Formula?

It is best to follow the advice of your pediatrician. Most children will not need additional formula past their second birthday. They should be getting the majority of their nutrition from solid foods.

Before starting your child on toddler formula, speak to your pediatrician.

For more helpful articles and information about baby and toddler formula, check out these posts!


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