Is It Safe To Switch To Soy Milk For Toddlers?

✔ Research-backed

Soy milk, as the name suggests, is derived from soybeans. If you are considering introducing your little one to this plant-based milk, the benefits of soy milk for toddlers should first be considered.

Soy milk is a nutritious and vegan alternative to cow’s milk. It is high in protein and can benefit your child’s health (1). However, if you are thinking of feeding your children soy milk instead of cow’s milk, you should consider its nutritional value and possible side effects.

Scroll through this article to learn about the nutritional value of soy milk and if it is beneficial for toddlers.

In This Article

Soy Milk Vs Cow Milk

There are many differences between soy milk and cow milk when it comes to nutritional content (1) (2).

It has been found that whole milk tends to contain around 61 calories, while soy milk contains just 38 calories per 100g serving. When it comes to fat content, cow milk has 3.2g of fat as opposed to 2.12g of fat in a serving of enriched soy milk.

In terms of protein content, whole milk and soy milk are nearly the same with 3.27g and 3.55g respectively.

protip_icon Experts say
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights that nearly 50% of infants with cow’s milk protein allergy may also have cross-reactivity with soy protein (9).

Soy Milk And Calcium Content

Choose fortified soy milk enriched with important nutrients.

Image: Shutterstock

Compared to cow milk, soy milk is a bit low on its calcium content (1) (2). Which is why, if you do decide to give your toddler soy milk, you must consider choosing a fortified form of soy milk that is enriched with important nutrients like folate, calcium, vitamin A, D and B.

It has also been found that soy milk contains certain compounds known as phytates, which tend to decrease calcium absorption – so you’ll need to make sure your toddler consumes more calcium-rich foods if he’s been drinking soy milk (3). You can choose to introduce your toddler to foods like yogurt, cheese, canned salmon and orange juice fortified with calcium (4).

Is Soy Milk Good For Toddlers?

Talk to a doctor about soy milk if your toddler has a milk allergy.

Image: Shutterstock

Consumption of non-fortified soy milk as opposed to cow milk could create a deficiency of calcium in the toddler. However, growing children need calcium for the proper growth and development of bones, teeth, hormones, muscles, and even the central nervous system. In such cases, you may choose to switch to soy milk that has been fortified with calcium and other important vitamins (5).

In general, soy milk can turn out to be an impressive alternative milk option for children who are intolerant to cow’s milk. However, if your toddler has milk allergy, they may also experience allergies when given soy-based foods, including soy milk.

In such cases, it is best to seek a pediatrician’s advice before turning to soy milk for toddlers.

protip_icon Quick tip
Read the package label carefully and look for “no added sugar” options. Store-bought milk alternatives, such as soy milk, may have added sugar.

The Side Effects Of Soy Milk For Toddlers

Consumption of soy milk can cause abdominal pain in toddlers.

Image: Shutterstock

It is also important to note the various health concerns that arise as a result of consumption of soy milk.

  • Soy milk is often used as a substitute for cow’s milk, but many a time, soy milk may also trigger severe allergic reactions. Consumption of soy milk could cause itching, skin rashes, abdominal pain etc (6).
  • Soy milk has phytates which hinders the absorption of a few nutrients such as iron, zinc and phosphorus. This may cause a few nutritional deficiencies if the meals are not properly balanced (7).
protip_icon Quick fact
Individuals with hypothyroidism should avoid excessive ingestion of soy products (10). A case study reports goiter and overt hypothyroidism in an iodine-deficient toddler on a soy-based diet (11).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much soy milk is too much for a toddler?

A toddler should not consume more than 16-24 ounces of milk, including soy milk, per day (8).

2. What is the healthiest milk for a toddler?

Children under two years require extra fat for brain development. Whole-fat cow milk is full of nutrition and is one of the most healthy options for a toddler (8).

3. Can soy milk affect a toddler’s hormone levels?

Preliminary studies suggest that soy milk with a higher amount of isoflavones may have an effect that lowers estrogen levels in the body, acting as an anti-estrogenic agent. However, further comprehensive research is needed to understand its diverse effects on a toddler’s body (12) (13).

Soy milk is plant-derived milk that could be an excellent nutritious and vegan alternative to cow’s milk, especially for toddlers with cow milk intolerance. There are several benefits of soy milk for toddlers, and it might help boost the immune system, as it is high in protein and other nutrients. However, due to the low caloric and calcium content, a calcium-fortified form of soy milk is preferred to avoid calcium deficiency. It may be prudent to look for any allergic reactions and digestion problems and take your doctor’s approval before trying any new food option for your toddler.

Infographic: Side Effects And Contraindications Related To Soy Milk

Soy milk is a preferred alternative for toddlers who are lactose intolerant or whose parents wish to opt for vegan milk sources. Although soy milk is high in nutrition and is easily digestible, there are some contradictions to its usage. This infographic highlights the side effects of soy milk and provides instances where it might not be a suitable milk alternative.

things to know before using soy milk for toddlers (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Soy milk is commonly used as an alternative to cow milk for toddlers who are intolerant to it.
  • The calorie content in soy milk is lower than in cow milk, but the protein content is almost the same.
  • It is important to choose soy milk fortified with calcium, vitamins, and folate to prevent calcium deficiency in toddlers.
  • However, some toddlers may have allergic reactions to soy milk, so it is important to seek medical advice before giving it to them.
benefits of soy milk for toddlers_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Soy milk, unsweetened, plain, shelf-stable.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1999630/nutrients
  2. Milk, whole, 3.25% fat, with added vitamin D.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746782/nutrients
  3. How do phytates impact calcium absorption?
    https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/how-do-phytates-impact-calcium-absorption/
  4. Calcium.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/calcium
  5. Calcium.
    https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
  6. Soy Allergy.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11320-soy-allergy
  7. Are anti-nutrients harmful?
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/
  8. Feeding Your Baby and Toddler (Birth to Age Two).
    https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/feeding-your-baby-toddler#feeding-1-2yrs
  9. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs.
    https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/milk-allergy-foods-and-ingredients-to-avoid.aspx
  10. Thyroid Issues? What You Should Know About Foods and Supplements to Avoid.
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/thyroid-issues-what-you-need-to-know-about-diet-and-supplements/
  11. Angela Maria Caprio et al.; (2022); Case report: Goiter and overt hypothyroidism in an iodine-deficient toddler on soy milk and hypoallergenic diet.
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2022.927726/full
  12. Straight Talk About Soy
    https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/soy/
  13. By the way, doctor: Children and soy milk
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/By-the-way-doctor-Children-and-soy-milk
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Dr. Neema Shrestha is a pediatrician with a special interest in the field of neonatology. She has an overall experience of five years working in the field. Currently working in Kathmandu, Nepal, she completed her MBBS from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal in 2008, Diploma in Child Health from D.

Read full bio of Dr. Neema Shrestha