Parents often ask me about giving their infant a soy formula when their infant shows signs of difficulty tolerating breast milk or cow’s milk based formulas. Soy seems to be a common go-to alternative; however, there are actually only a few scenarios where soy formula is recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a journal article that reviewed the use of soy based infant formulas in 2008. Here is a summary of the main points.
A Review of Infant Soy Formula:
- Soy formula is not indicated as an alternative for breast milk or for cow’s milk based formulas except in the case of Galactosemia and hereditary lactase deficiency (both are rare diagnoses). Soy formula may also be an option for parents who desire a vegetarian diet for their infant, if breastfeeding is not possible.
- Soy formula is not indicated for children diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy. Instead, an extensively hydrolyzed formula should be considered, because 10-14% of these infants will also be allergic to soy protein. Furthermore, children with cow’s milk protein-induced Enteropathy or Enterocolitis should also be given a hydrolyzed formula or amino acid based formula. Frequently in these cases, the children are as sensitive to soy protein and therefore should not be given soy formulas.
- Soy formula has no proven value in the prevention or management of colic or fussiness.
- Soy formula has no proven value in the prevention of atopic disease in infants such as eczema, wheezing, asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis.
Determining the best feeding choice for your infant is a personal one that is best made after fully understanding all alternatives. For more information about infant feeding, contact our pediatric dietitian.