Soy Milk for Babies – Benefits and Side-effects

A bottle of soy milk for babies

When it comes to fulfilling the nutritional needs of a baby, breast milk is the best. Doctors commonly don’t recommend offering soy milk to babies till they are one year old. However, in case you are looking for alternate options of breast milk when babies start weaning or if your baby is lactose intolerant, soy milk can be an acceptable substitute.

Also, it is important to know the difference between soy milk and soy-based formula. The soy-based formula may be specially formulated to include nutrients required for the healthy development of the baby whereas the regular soy milk is usually deficient.

In any case, it is advisable to give soy milk to your baby in moderation as soy milk can trigger an allergic reaction.

What is Soy Milk?

Soy milk is a high protein plant-based drink made from soybeans. The soybeans are soaked, ground and then boiled and filtered to produce a creamy white liquid which looks like cow’s milk but differs from it in several ways. Soy milk contains vitamins like thiamine, folate, riboflavin, vitamin D, E, and K. Soy milk is low-fat, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. It even does not contain any lactose.

Health Benefits of Soy Milk for Infants

Soy milk can be a good choice for babies above one year old who are intolerant to lactose or are allergic to whole cow’s milk. Soy milk is high in proteins, iron, and a variety of vitamins crucial for the healthy development of infants. Soy milk is low in fat which may help in maintaining healthy body weight in infants. It can further lower the risk of heart issues and child obesity in infants. Because of its high-fibre content, babies consuming soy milk may have a lesser incidence of bowel troubles and diarrhoea.

If a baby is born with galactosemia, an inherited condition in which the body is unable to break down galactose (a simple sugar present in milk), soy milk can be offered. Moreover, drinking fortified soy milk ensures sufficient calcium intake as fortified soy milk has vitamin D which boosts calcium absorption. Babies who do not find the taste of cow’s milk appealing can opt for soy milk available in different flavours.

How to Select Soy Milk?

It is desirable to opt for the full-fat variety of soy milk for your infant as fat is necessary for his proper growth and development. But in case your child is vulnerable to obesity or cardiovascular diseases, it is sensible to opt for the low-fat soymilk.

Also, it is important to check the nutrition fact label and the list of ingredients on the product before purchasing it. You may like to select a formulated soy milk infant formula packed with all the essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins vital for the healthy growth of your child. In case of any doubt, it is wise to consult your doctor.

A newborn drinking milk from bottle

Soy Milk vs Cow Milk

Soy milk has certain benefits over cow’s milk. Soy milk contains a negligible amount of fat and sugar as compared to cow’s milk. Also, it is cholesterol-free. Further soy milk is a rich source of iron and fibre in contrast to cow’s milk.

But then again cow’s milk offers essential nutrients like vitamin A and B12 that soy milk doesn’t. Although both drinks contain similar calcium content, soy milk has phytates, a natural compound which can decrease calcium absorption by the body. But the calcium contained in cow’s milk is absorbed more easily.

Cow’s milk has all the ‘good’ fats necessary for an infant’s proper growth. It even provides a slightly more protein than soy milk. However, soy milk is also a good source of protein, so it can be used as an alternative to cow milk. But if you are giving soy milk to your baby, ensure that your baby’s diet includes other calcium-rich foods as soy milk has less calcium.

Are There Any Harmful Effects of Soy Milk on Babies?

Breastfeeding moms may wish to know if soy milk is safe for babies or not? The simple answer is that soy milk as a singular source of nourishment for your baby may not be such a good idea as soy milk does not contain all the essential nutrients vital for the healthy growth of a baby. However, giving it to infants below one year should be totally avoided. Some of the harmful effects of soy milk on babies are listed below:

  • Studies suggest that soy milk contains phytoestrogens that may trigger oestrogen-like effects in infants leading to possible health issues like increased risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer later in life. However, research in this field is inconclusive.
  • Some babies may be allergic to the protein in the soy milk.
  • In rare instances, consumption of soy milk can lead to an imbalance in thyroid levels resulting in goitre (abnormal enlargement of thyroid gland).

Feeding only soy milk to your baby can result in serious nutritional deficiencies in your baby. You may like to use soy milk more as a supplement rather than a replacement for breast milk or whole cow’s milk. If you still wish to offer soy milk to your baby, do supplement his nutrition from other dietary sources for his healthy development. It is sensible to give soy milk in moderation as it may trigger an allergic reaction. In case of any concerns regarding the effects of soy milk on your baby, it is best to seek your doctor’s advice first.

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