Home > Kids > Fitness and Nutrition > Children's Nutritional Needs > Soy Formula as Alternative to Breast Milk

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Soy Formula as Alternative to Breast Milk

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using soy formula as opposed to regular formula? What if one wants to supplement breast-feeding or use formula exclusively because they can't breast-feed?

A: Soy formulas may be an appropriate alternative for full-term infants whose nutritional needs are not being met by breast-feeding or cow milk protein formulas. For example, if an infant has a known allergy to cow's milk, soy formulas are a good alternative as a supplement.

Many soy formulas are also made lactose-free (without a certain type of sugar/carbohydrate in them) that can be useful for children who have lactose-intolerance (not able to digest milk sugar easily).

Now, possible disadvantages... Soy formulas may not be not appropriate for infants born much earlier than expected (very premature) and/or who weigh significantly less than expected at birth because they can't process these nutrients as well.

Also, if your child develops bloody diarrhea and/or other symptoms from cow milk formulas, he/she may require a special type of formula that is much easier to digest.

Contrary to common practice, soy formula does not effectively treat colic, so it is not recommended that parents routinely change formulas without first talking with their baby's doctor, if colic is suspected.

Finally, in terms of using soy formula as a supplement to, or substitute for breast-feeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding as the main nutritional source. However, pediatricians and other health-care professionals understand that breast-feeding is not always possible or desirable for all mothers.

Thus, formula could be used as a supplement to breast-feeding, or as the main nutritional component. A note of caution though: if you want to do a combination of breast- and bottle-feeding with formula, try not to introduce a bottle in the first few weeks of life. We want to make sure the baby gets the hang of it, your breast milk comes in well, and it continues in adequate supply.

Hank Bernstein
Children's Hospital

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


10 Best Creative Apps for Kids
Looking for apps that foster creativity? Check out these top-rated art and music apps for kids.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

A New Intergalactic Reading Adventure!
Get your reluctant reader hooked on an irresistible new story, Galactic Hot Dogs! Join the Book 1 reading marathon, and get behind-the-scenes tidbits on the official Galactic Hot Dogs blog. Also, print this cool Galactic Hot Dogs reading log to keep your bookworm excited about reading!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks