Infant vs. Toddler Formulas

My baby is 11 months old. To make sure that she gets proper nutrition, can I keep her on formula even after she turns 1? Would keeping her on regular formula be better than switching to toddler formula?

Infant vs. Toddler Formulas

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

For breastfed babies, the nutrition in the breast milk changes throughout the nursing experience. Breastmilk is quite different when the baby is 6 days old, 6 months old, and 18 months old. These changes happen gradually over time. Formulas come in a few different stages to try to address children’s changing nutritional needs as they grow.

Toddler formulas have many of the same vitamins and minerals found in infant formulas. The main difference between toddler and infant formulas is that toddler formulas contain a greater amount of calcium and phosphorus. They are designed to match the higher calcium and phosphorus levels children need as they grow, similar to the levels found in whole milk.

One benefit of formulas over whole milk is that many of them contain DHA, an important omega-3 fatty acid (that you would find in breastmilk). One way or another, getting DHA in the diet seems especially important in the first two years. If you think your child needs formula after the first year, switching to a toddler formula at that time is one way to accomplish this while providing her with the extra calcium and phosphorus she needs..

Toddlers don’t necessarily need formula, even if they don’t nurse. Children who are eating a balanced variety of healthy solids after the first birthday should be able to get the extra vitamins and minerals found in formula from their diets, perhaps with the added safety net of a multivitamin. If there is concern that your child is not eating an adequate amount of solids, formula will provide most of her nutritional needs while she is experimenting with solid food.

It is important not to force your child into eating more solids. For most kids, it’s okay for them to eat as much or as little as they want, chosen from healthy options. It will vary day by day. To encourage solids, offer them at least three times a day, preferably before a bottle.

For most kids, it’s best not to coax them to eat with moving the spoon like an airplane or with music or sound effects. They have an internal mechanism that tells them how much to eat that you want to keep intact. If you suspect it is not intact or there are serious food allergies complicating the picture, then it is usually best to work with a feeding specialist to learn how to encourage feeding while still keeping the child’s motivation strong.

She may be fine with 16 ounces of formula a day now. Or she may want 24 ounces. If she consistently takes more or less than that, run it by your pediatrician to be sure she is getting a good amount for her specific situation. At the one-year physical, you’ll get to see on the charts just how she is growing. And one way or the other, your darling baby is on the doorstep of toddling into a whole new stage of life. Bon appétit!

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Pam

    My 24 month old grandson has been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. We are looking for some nutritional support. Should we try him on a toddler formula with DHA? Or is he too old?

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  2. DONAY COOK

    My daughter was put on soy formula and now that she’s one I’ve been researching the transition of formula to milk. Through my research I’ve been reading article after article of the negative effects of soy so I switched her to cow milk immediately and she’s great with it. Was that the right thing to do and are there really negative effects from soy formula (for the first year?) If so is there anything I can do now to avoid any problems?

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  3. Kristyn

    I have a 17 month old toddler, we have been having a hard time feeding him solid food. I was thinking of trying him on a toddler formula, then I got thinking he gets gassy and diarrhea a lot so would a sensitive formula be better?

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  4. laura fiscus

    When my baby turns one and you can start giving them whole milk is there an alternative then cows milk that people use

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  5. Mrs Raymond

    Now my baby about to turn 4 month, which formula should I give him. He used to take the newborn 0-3 month.

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  6. Sam

    Hy
    My son is 17 months now and on formula milk. Could you please tell me if i switch to cow milk is that ok or i have to give him formula milk .
    He not eat too much solid. And how i shedule his diet. He is getting weak dy by day.
    Thanks

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    • Sam,

      I am not a doctor, but as a mother I’m concerned when I hear that your 17 month old is “getting weak by the day”. Can you take your son to see a doctor?

      Best,
      @MsGreene

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  7. Hello, Good day

    I would like to know if I can give my NEWBORN ENFAMIL a ENFAGRO 0-12 formula please, & thank you very much

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  8. Robyn

    Why are people being hoodwinked into buying expensive formulas, not only do formula companies want to eradicate breastfeeding , they want to secure the toddler feeding market. Marketing geniuses!!!

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    • Shayda

      Hi, Robyn. Maybe it would help you to consider the fact that there is a percentage of women who ff against their preference of breastfeeding for millions of reasons you’ve clearly never been faced with. For these said women, it is a small comfort to have ‘expensive formulas’ by way of organic companies in an effort to still provide the best for their babes.
      Breastfeeding until 15 months was a breeze with my first & I was young enough to believe it would always be that easy-for myself & any other mother who wished to do so- until my second came along & we struggled to make it to 11 months before having to supplement. As agonizing as it was for me to purchase my first container of formula, I was thankful to even have that option.
      Your perspective is never the only one.

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  9. jacqueline galvan

    Hi, I have a 9 month old going on 10 months. I want to know if it’s okay to transition her from regular formula to stage 3 formula. Please let me know. I bought some but I’mm not sure if I should go along and feed it to her.

    Thank you

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    • cat

      My 10 month old has been on stage 3 for over a month he demands thicker food and it’s been fine on him I don’t give it to him before bed in case he gets sick I don’t want him t

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  10. Tiffany

    Can I introduced my 17 month old son to toddler formula he likes whole milk but I feel like he’s not getting enough of nutrition from his food is it too late to start the formula by I waited too late to Introduced.

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  11. jan

    can i give a toddler formula to my 3 month old?
    thanks,
    jan

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    • That would not be wise. The needs of the two are very different and so are the formulas.

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  12. Alexis

    Can my 7 month old daughter drink toddler formula?

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  13. Tian

    Could you please suggest any good formula for 2+ years. Thanks.

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  14. Tonia handy

    Hi I’m a mother of four kids. I have 13 month baby. I noticed with this one that she was kind of fussy. She didn’t like whole milk. I try adding milk to her formula gradually, but she noticed a difference and just spit it out. After two weeks I decided to introduce her to Toddler formula, She loved it but my husband thinks I should give her at least a month of trying whole milk. Do you think whole milk is better than toddler formula? What are the pros and cons of toddler formula? Thank you for your time. Sincerely,Tonia mother of four.

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    • Anneka

      I tried whole milk with my one year old and he didnt. seem satisfied with it. He started over eating and drinking and squirming/whining through the night. There’s obviously something in the formula that his body is really needing. DHA is also present in some formulas where it is not in Whole milk. I have recently switched back to formula and my little guy is happy and satisfied again.

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  15. Kannan

    Could you please suggest any good formula for 4+ years.

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    • Cheri

      4 years? There is no formula. Milk and food should be the only thing in their diet.

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  16. Genevieve

    Dear Dr. Greene- is it ok to give a 4 month old infant a formula labeled as toddler? I am searching for a organic formula to supplement breastfeeding and the only organic formula that I have found to taste, smell and that appears to be of greater quality is a formula that is labeled for toddlers. I see on the nutritional info the calcium is much high than that of infant formulas. Is this a bad thing for a infant this age? Thank you.

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    • Jessica

      Earth’s Best Organic makes infant formula . Similac also makes an organic infant formula.

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    • Erica

      I used Baby’s only toddler formula since my son’s birth. Some say that it’s labeled as a toddler formula to encourage early breastfeeding. Others say the reason that it’s labeled toddler formula is because it has a higher casein ratio than that of infant formula. Basically, it has all of the nutrition that a newborn needs, but it can cause constipation. I had this issue until I paired it with an infant probiotic. After adding the probiotic, it was smooth sailing. Formula smells great and is the cleanest organic formula in the U.S. (They derive their DHA and ARA from eggs and not hexane). My son is now a year old… He has never been sick and is growing right on schedule. Could be genetics, or could be his awesome formula! ;)

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