Thinking of trying your baby on soy milk? Advertised as a healthy alternative to cow’s milk, soy formulas have become particularly popular. However, experts warn that while soy milk is recommended as a safe alternative to use right after birth, it could actually do more harm than good in the long-term.
There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there which makes it extremely difficult to know whether soy milk is safe or not. Below you’ll discover everything you need to know about this popular cow’s milk alternative.
What Is Soy Milk?
Soy milk is made up of a number of components, with its main ingredient being soy protein. Soybeans are first soaked and then grinded in water. The liquid is then strained and you’re left with soy milk.
However, soy milk that you find in stores is often also enhanced with other components such as calcium and vitamins. They can also be flavoured and thickeners may be added to give the milk the same texture as cow’s milk.
Some soy milk products are also created with stabilisers, oils and sugars which basically make it appear more like traditional milk. These types don’t offer the same nutritional benefits as organic soy milk.
So as you can see, soy milk can contain different ingredients and no two brands will be the same.
Could Soy Milk Be Harmful To My Baby’s Health?
There have been quite a few concerns raised over how soy milk can impact a baby’s health. However, scientists claim that if it was significantly harmful it would have been taken off the shelves by now. Soy milk has been used for decades as a replacement for cow’s milk and for babies who are allergic to formula. So does the fact it is still sold mean it’s completely safe? Not according to some health experts…
Several warnings have been issued by health experts claiming soy milk can:
- Damage your baby’s teeth.
- Affect the development of the reproductive organs.
- Reduce the absorption of calcium.
- Potentially reduce the immune system.
One ingredient in soy milk is glucose. This is a type of sugar that can be damaging to your little one’s teeth in large doses. As any parent will testify, lots of sugar can also soon turn their little ones into hyperactive ninjas.
One of the more concerning health concerns is the fact soy milk could affect the way the reproductive organs develop. It contains phytoestrogens which are typically found naturally within plants. It has a very similar chemical structure to the estrogen female sex hormone. So if your baby drinks only soy milk formula, this could be a very real concern.
Despite many soy milk formulas featuring additional calcium, soy milk can reduce the absorption of this essential nutrient. So with a soy milk only diet, your baby may not be getting the right level of calcium they need to develop strong, healthy bones.
Finally, there’s speculation soy milk can also have a negative impact on the immune system. This comes after a study was carried out on rats. It showed the estrogen featured in the soy milk actively reduced the immune system in the rats that were tested. Of course, human studies would need to be carried out to prove whether this is the case for babies.
As you can see, there are a number of concerns you need to consider before feeding your little one soy milk. However, there are a few benefits too.
What Benefits Does Soy Milk Have For Babies?
Despite the concerns over soy milk, in some cases it can be better for baby than cow’s milk and other formula alternatives. Doctors will typically prescribe soy milk if your little one develops an allergy to other formulas. It can be great for infants who are lactose intolerant, as it contains a lot less lactose than other types of milk. There are lactose free soy milk variations, but these are best avoided. Very few babies need complete lactose-free products even if they are lactose intolerant.
It’s also easier to get your baby to take to soy milk as it is available in different flavours. You may have already discovered your baby is fussy when it comes to what they eat! So if you’ve been struggling to get them to take to formula, soy milk can be a good thing to try.
One thing soy milk does have a lot of is protein. This is essential for healthy growth and development. As babies grow at such a fast pace, they do require a lot more protein than adults. Within 6 months the body weight of infants doubles, so a high-protein diet is essential.
Things To Consider
So there are benefits and potential harmful effects that you need to be aware of when trying to decide whether to try your little one on soy milk. It is worth noting that ideally you should only feed soy milk to your baby if the doctor has advised you to do so. In most cases, it isn’t suitable for infants under the age of 6 months.
It also shouldn’t be given to premature babies as they require more nutrients to help get them fighting fit. While soy milk can be great for infants who don’t have the stomach for real milk and if breastfeeding isn’t an option, it doesn’t always contain as many nutrients or fat that babies need to be 100% healthy.
As mentioned earlier, soy milk can affect your baby’s ability to absorb calcium. Therefore, if you do end up feeding them a soy milk formula, you should make sure they receive additional calcium from other sources. This is easier to do after they reach six months of age as you can start introducing calcium rich foods into their diet.
Overall, soy milk is something that should only be given after a doctor’s recommendation. It can be potentially harmful, but if it did have serious negative consequences on children’s health, it would have been pulled off the shelves a long time ago. As with anything, the key is to follow your doctor’s advice.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.