image001 It is often required by parents to choose between different types of formulas while selecting formula to feed their babies. During the first year of life, rapid development and growth happens, which does not occur at any other time in a person’s life. Infants in their first year are dependent on a single source of nutrition; hence, it has to be the perfect source. Now here comes the question: soy vs. milk formula, which is better? This article describes the difference that exists between milk and soy formulas.

Soy vs. Milk Formula—Which Is Better?

1. General Introduction

  • Milk-based formula

The standard base of an infant formula is cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is modified for baby use by adjusting the levels of carbohydrate, protein as well as fat and fortifying it with additional vitamins and minerals (the majority of both soy and milk based formulas give 20 calories per ounce). In the last decade, the traditional infant formula’s quality has improved to a large extent. However, researchers have not yet been able to mimic the unique qualities of breast milk, which is an ideal food for human babies.

  • Soy-based formula

Soy protein is made from soybeans and is also modified by addition of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to be used in infant formulas. While soy-based formulas are recommended by some health experts, others say that some compound such as amino acids are lacking in these formulas, which help a baby grow. Infants who have allergy to lactose (sugar present in cow’s milk) may have less sensitiveness to formula based on soy-protein. However, up to 50% of babies who are prone to allergy also develop a negative reaction to soy and may need a hypoallergenic formula.

2. Soy vs. Milk Formula

The healthy feeding choice for babies is breast milk. However, if your baby requires formula, then which formula should you choose, soy or milk formula? It is clear from the research that babies should not be fed on soy-based formula until it is medically necessary such as in cases of lactose intolerance in babies (though this condition is very rare).

According to numerous researches conducted in this field, it has been proved that soy formula can pose harm to a baby’s developing endocrine system. It is often linked to the development of ADHD in children. It may lead to the early onset of menarche and early development of breast tissue in developing girls. Soy formula may contain aluminum and manganese in levels that are dangerous for a developing child.

The use of soy-based formula has been severely restricted in countries such as the U.K., France, Israel and New Zealand due to the increasing research evidence pointing towards the adverse health effects of soy-based formula milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also restricted the use of soy-formula. According to AAP, human milk is the ideal source of nutrition for developing babies. They say that though there are very few cases where soy milk is indicated medically, still more than 20% of formula milk sold in the U.S. is soy-based formula milk. The AAP acknowledges that soy-based formulas have adverse effects on the health of the babies. It contains phytoestrogens, which may also harm the developing babies.

Some Facts About Soy Formula

  • There are only a few indications for the use of soy-based formula milk such as infants suffering from galactosemia or rare condition characterized by hereditary deficiency of lactase and in situations where parents prefer a vegetarian diet for their baby.
  • In infants who have documented allergy to cow milk protein, protein formula that is extensively hydrolyzed should be used as soy protein allergy is present in 10-14% of these infants.
  • Infants who have acute gastroenteritis and who were previously well can thrive on continued use of either human milk or diluted cow milk based formulas after rehydration. Soy-based formulas should be used only in cases when secondary intolerance to lactose develops.
  • Soy-based formula is not advantageous than cow milk based formula when used to supplement infants fed on breast milk.
  • Preterm infants are not recommended to be fed upon soy protein based formulas.
  • Soy-based formula has not proved to be beneficial in either the prevention or management of colic or fussiness in infants.
  • Infants suffering from enteropathy or enterocolitis induced by cow milk protein should not be fed upon soy based formula as these infants are often sensitive to soy protein. These infants should be fed upon either hydrolyzed protein or synthetically derived amino acids.
  • It has not been proved that routine use of soy-based formulas prevents atopic disease in both healthy and high risk infants.

What About Other Types of Formulas?

There are different types of formula available to suit the needs of most babies. Some of these are:



Lactose-free formula

It is often used in babies who are intolerant to lactose. Such formulas have lactose replaced with a different type of sugar such as corn syrup.

Extensively hydrolyzed formula

These types of formula milk have proteins broken down into smaller particles, which are easy to digest by the babies. They are indicated in babies suffering from allergies such as eczema or having trouble in absorbing nutrients.

Formula for low birth weight and premature babies

More calories and proteins are present in these formulas. They also contain a different type of fat that is easily absorbed, referred to as the medium-chain triglyceride or MCT.

Human milk fortifier

Special needs of breast fed babies are met with this product. Some of these products are mixed with breast milk and some are fed alternatively to breast milk.

Metabolic formula

Babies suffering from diseases that require specialized nutrition may require metabolic formula.

Other formulas

Other formulas: New formulas are made and marketed to help babies relieve symptoms of colic and reflux. The protein content in these formulas is very similar to breast milk and their composition slightly varies from regular formulas.

Want to get more information about choosing a formula for your baby? Check out the video below: