Soy Milk for Toddlers: Is it Bad?

Published by Mama Knows Nutrition on

If you want to know about soy milk for toddlers, if soy milk is bad for toddlers, or what kind of milk to give your toddler if they can’t have dairy, read this post to learn the pros and cons of soy milk for toddlers.


Soy Milk for Toddlers

You may have heard something about soy causing certain types of cancer, or soy contributing to unhealthy productive growth. Let’s look at the facts about soy milk.

Soy Milk Nutrition

Per cup, soy milk contains:

  • 80 calories
  • 7g protein
  • 3g total carbohydrates
  • 2g fiber
  • 0g added sugar
  • 4g fat
  • Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and other vitamins and minerals
Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk

Soy milk is made primarily from water, soybeans, and some added vitamins and minerals.

Is Soy Milk Safe for Toddlers?

Compared to cow’s milk, it has similar nutrition stats. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends soy milk as an alternative to cow’s milk. There is no evidence to suggest any health risks from normal consumption of soy milk.

And, soy is a common non-dairy formula alternative for babies. The AAP has emphasized that literature reviews and clinical studies of infants fed soy-based infant formula raise no clinical concerns with respect to nutritional adequacy, sexual development, thyroid disease, immune function or neurodevelopment. Additional studies confirm that soy-based infant formulas do not interfere with normal immune responses.

Which other non-dairy milk is good for toddlers?

You have to be careful when choosing non-dairy milk for your toddler if you want to ensure they are getting similar nutrition that they would get from cow’s milk.

Many plant-based milks are low in protein, and may not be calcium fortified. This post talks about why you need to be careful when choosing almond milk for your child.

What if my child is allergic to cow’s milk? Is soy okay?

Your doctor may have recommended avoiding soy, particularly soy formula if you discover your little one has a cow’s milk protein intolerance (CMPI). Up to 50% of children affected by cow’s milk protein intolerance also develop soy protein intolerance if fed with soy-based formulas. Therefore, it is usually not recommended to use soy milk or soy-based formula. In addition, if you are breastfeeding a child with cow’s milk protein intolerance you will need to avoid both dairy and soy in your diet.

I typically first recommend pea milk like Ripple for toddlers as an alternative to cow or soy milk. It has similar nutrition to both cow’s milk and soy milk, but is an allergy-friendly option.

How much soy milk is okay?

The recommendations for milk are the same across the board, whether it’s cow’s milk, soy milk, pea milk, or something else. 16-20 ounces is the maximum I’d recommend, which is about 2-2.5 cups per day, for children ages 1 and up.

In general, aim for no more than 2-3 servings of soy foods per day. A serving of soy looks like:

  • 1/2 cup tofu
  • 1/2 cup tempeh
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame (soy beans)

Does too much soy lead to early puberty or negatively affect hormones in kids?

Soy contains isoflavones, which have estrogenic activity. Because of this, people have worried that soy affects hormones of kids and even causes early puberty. But the evidence we have so far suggests that soy does NOT have adverse hormonal effects in children or affect pubertal development. (See research here and here.)

As mentioned above, I still would aim to keep it under 2-3 servings of soy per day. We can’t make any definitive conclusions about the effects of soy without more extensive research. And that’s not a reason to be scared or avoid it altogether. However, it’s very difficult to conduct this type of research on kids. So it’s unlikely we will see a definitive answer here.

In general, the best way to protect your kids from any potential harm from any food would be to offer a diverse diet — meaning you switch it up and don’t serve the same exact foods day in and day out. That’s also a great way to make sure they get all the nutrients they need, too.

Wondering about cow’s milk?

Go to this post where I answer all the most asked questions about milk for kids – what kind, how much, can toddlers be healthy without it, and when is the best time for them to drink it?

Need a break from the stress of getting healthy meals on the table?

Check out my Dinnertime Survival Guide, a 6-week weeknight meal plan with healthy, kid-friendly meals that you can make in just 15 minutes. No prep ahead required!!


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