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New report warns that beverages marketed as toddler formulas are not necessary

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, warns that beverages marked as toddler formulas are not necessary, and they're not often as healthy as they claim to be. Here's NPR's Maria Godoy.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Toddler formulas - or toddler milks - are drinks and powdered mixes targeted for young children from 6 months to 3 years of age. These products have been around for many years now, but sales and advertising have jumped in recent years. Pediatrician George Fuchs of the University of Kentucky is the lead author of the new report. He says toddler milks are often marketed as transitional or next-stage formulas for growing infants and toddlers.

GEORGE FUCHS: Suggesting or implying that there's this formula continuum from birth to age 3 - I think that is, to me, misleading.

GODOY: That's because, unlike infant formulas, toddler formulas or toddler milks are not designed to meet all of a child's nutritional needs in the first year of life.

FUCHS: Infant formula is regulated by the FDA. They have to review and approve all infant formula sold in the United States. That's not the case for the toddler drinks. They're entirely unregulated.

GODOY: He says the marketing around toddler milks often touts added nutrients to boost brain development or support a healthy immune system, and that can lead parents to mistakenly believe that these products offer more nutrition than either breast milk or cow's milk. Fuchs says that's not the case.

FUCHS: So the net effect was certainly one that conveyed a wrong impression by parents - and probably health care providers as well.

GODOY: In fact, the AAP report notes that many of these drinks contain added salt and sugar, and they have less protein than cow's milk. At the same time, Fuchs notes that toddler drinks tend to cost significantly more than cow's milk.

FUCHS: So taking all the - you know, negative attributes I think outweigh the positive attributes of those toddler drinks.

GODOY: Instead, pediatricians say babies should drink breast milk or infant formula until they're 12 months old. After that, cow's milk or breast milk is recommended, along with a varied, balanced diet of solid foods.

Maria Godoy, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Maria Godoy is a senior science and health editor and correspondent with NPR News. Her reporting can be heard across NPR's news shows and podcasts. She is also one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.