I understand why parents are concerned about cow’s milk formula. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, whole cow’s milk doesn’t provide enough vitamin E and iron and it provides too much sodium, protein, and potassium. However, doctors at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital say that cow’s milk formula is the best option and that there are few good reasons to switch to a soy formula.
Neither of my nieces are lactose intolerant and both of my sisters breastfed, so the issue of soy use never came up. However, many mothers who have chosen soy formula may have accidentally helped their child develop a peanut allergy. The study was done with over 13,000 children up to the age of 38 months and was designed to investigate three things about peanut allergies in children. The study wanted to see if the allergies developed because of environmental factors and dietary factors. The dietary factors they studied were if the allergy was influenced by a lack of breastfeeding or by feeding infants soy milk. The conclusions were that soy milk was the only thing that influenced whether or not a child developed a peanut allergy.
It’s true that cow’s milk can be hard to digest for infants and may cause them to become fussy or colicky, but there are cow’s milk formulas that can help soothe an infant’s stomach without having to switch to soy. Doctor Gian Musarra, a pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis Children’s hospital says that the only reason parents should switch from cow’s milk to soy would be if the child has a milk-protein allergy. In fact switching from cow’s milk to soy not only increases the child’s chances of developing a peanut allergy, it could also intensify the fussiness and colic.
The best option that is recommended by Dr. Musarra and the American Academy of Pediatrics is breastfeeding. This is because it provides the infant with the most nutrients, it decreases the chances of eczema, and has been ruled out as a cause of peanut allergies in children. If you’re unable to breastfeed for a full year, or if you choose not to, then both parties also recommend using iron-fortified formula, regardless of milk preferences. If you feel unsure about the best option for your child, your best solution is to make an appointment with your pediatrician and talk about your infant’s options and dietary needs.
- Lack, G., Fox, D., Northstone, K., & Golding, J. (2003). Factors associated with the development of peanut allergy in childhood. The New England Journal of Medicine, 348(11), 977-985.
- Musarra, G. (n.d.). Breaking down baby formula. St. Louis Children's Hospital.
- Kaneshiro, N. K. (2011, August 2). Cow's milk - infants: MedlinePlus medical encyclopedia. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health.