Soy Milk

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Should 19-mo-old drop soy now?

Feb 2000

My son is 19 months old and has been drinking soy milk for several months as his dermatologist recommended due to his eczema. His eczema seems to improve. Recently he has been sick a lot and I took him to see his Pediatrician. However, his Pediatrician is longer practiced with the group; therefore, he was seen by other doctor who is in the same group. One of my questions I asked was does soy milk has the same amount of nutritional values as whole milk. She replied that I should avoid whole milk and soy milk completely. When a baby is one year or older, he doesn't not need whole milk any more. Instead of getting calcium and vitamins from milk, he can get those from orange juice, Tums, Multi-Vitamins and Vitamin C. Any advice?

My son just turned three and has been drinking soymilk (Westbray-Enriched) since he was one years old. He has severe dairy allergies, and the soy milk was recommended by his doctor and an allergy specialist at Kaiser. I can't imagine why you would be told not to give your child soy milk unless he was intolerant of it, had difficulty digesting it or was allergic to it (soy allergies are fairly common). My son had a blood test looking for possible allergies because of his terrible escema, but showed no allergic reaction to soy. My son loves the soy milk, drinks a lot of it and has remained in the 90th percentile for height and weight. I Recently found out about the FOOD ALLERGY web site which has incredible resources for children with food allergies.

I was alarmed by your pediatrician's incorrect information! Children under one year of age should not drink cow's milk at all, whole or otherwise (although cheese and yogurt are thought to be okay). It has been linked to juvenile onset diabetes among other problems and it is now mainstream advice not to give cow's milk before age one. After age one and up until age two whole milk is recommended. For soy milk I would choose one fortified with calcium and other vitamins and minerals and which has 4% percent fat. Fortified soy milk has some vitamins and minerals that you don't get in regular milk, such as iron. Another option is an organic Toddler forumula, like the one by Baby's Own (which has soy and cow's milk that has been processed for easy digestion). As long as your child is eating lots of other foods--milk consumption, soy or dairy, shouldn't be a problem. Back to the pediatrician issue--we have found that medical doctors are rarely adequately informed about nutrition and aren't ususally the best ones to ask about the subject. However, I would certainly expect a pediatrician to be informed on the subject of whole vs. non-whole, and the no milk under age one issue. I don't expect every pediatrician to know everything, but that seems extremely basic.

I would suggest you seek another opinion, either from another pediatrician, pediatric allergist, or dietician experienced with young children. You do not say what type of illnesses your child has been plagued with, but there may be a variety of factors involved: Is your child in a day care or similar setting where he/she is in regular contact with other young kids ? Has your child frequently been prescribed antibiotics ?

Your doctor's advice sounds a bit biased. Many people are quick to finger dairy products as increasing mucous production in the body and triggering allergies, but this is not the case with everyone and there have been no definitive studies demonstrating this cause and effect. Orange juice fortified with calcium seems a reasonable option, but Tums and/or supplements for a 19-month old ? Why bring up a child to swallow tablets for sustenance ? How about some real food calcium-rich alternatives like yogurt or cheese (cow or goat milk varieties), tofu, fish such as sardines, mackerel or salmon, or green veggies like collard greens, spinach or broccoli ? Another important consideration is that whole milk provides a regular source of dietary fat to under-twos which is critical for brain development.

We have had allergy concerns with our 2.5 year old (her father is asthmatic and has many many allergies), so from the age of one she drank 1/2 whole milk and 1/2 soy milk (make sure you buy it fortified w/ calcium, vitamins A & D), and since she turned two we switched her to a low-fat milk/soy milk blend. From the above list, our daughter loves salmon, sardines and string cheese, tolerates tofu and the green veggies, and burned out on yogurt after eating a lot of it. Time will tell whether she will develop allergies, and if certain dairy products may be a problem for her, but so far she's been remarkably healthy. Good luck !

Children under one year of age should not drink cow's milk at all....It has been linked to juvenile onset diabetes. This is important. I have heard that it is not safe until after 2 years old. The alternative sources of calcium offered by one writer have been used for centuries by Asians, for example.

According to Sally Fallon in NOURISHING TRADITIONS, the only animal milk fit for human consumption, if tolerated, is unhomogenized, unpasteurized organic milk (see earlier comments on this topic as to why). This 1995 classic is now available at Wild Oats Market on University.

As to the enriched soy milk suggestion: Ms. Fallon writes: Artifical vitamin D [has been] shown to be toxic to the arteries and has been linked to hyperactivity and other allergic reactions. This may be a clue for the mom who mentioned her son's eczema. She also needs to know that serum tests are notoriously inconclusive. The only real method to diagnose a food allergy is total removal for 3-6 weeks and adding back the suspected food by itself to monitor the response (an elimination and provocation diet). Often the food that is craved is the allergen. I would like to know more about the food allergies web site she mentioned.

I apologize in advance for the following information (which certainly dismayed me, as the mother of a 10-year-old who refuses to eat red meat or chicken or nuts, and who relies on tofu, eggs, dairy products, sushi and Thai hot-and-sour seafood soup for her protein). There is some controversy brewing as to the long-term benefit of eating soy, because concentrations of isoflavones in soy products can mess up the thyroid and cause other damage as well. I heard about this via KPFA's health and fitness show, which also mentioned the following anti-soy site: (The site is full of findings and advice and does not appear to be produced by cranks.) Check it out and let the rest of us know what you think. Melanie

My advice on the soy thing would be to take any of the advice given on the KPFA Health and Fitness show with a grain of salt. While I love KPFA, I feel compelled to comment that the host of that particular show has a distinct bias towards eating meat and other animal products, against vegetarianism, and has never to my knowledge had on a pro-vegetarian guest.

Yes, there can be particular reasons for not going to soy- allergies are common (but so are milk product allergies), much soy is produced with lots of pesticides (so buy organic, thank you) and it can be just plain indigestible for the very young (both our kids were kind of colicy if they got any soy before age 1 or so). That's important to know- no food is perfect (except mother's milk). But it's not the devil's food source, and I would be suspect of an organization that's simply anti-soy, not devoted to balanced information about diet.

Finally, I would note that the source is from a HEAVILY meat-invested country- New Zealand exports lots of lamb and other sheep products. Who is 'SOS' and what are their backers? I would welcome links to a truly balanced website, that cited ALL the research, not just that which supports a particular position.

(I hope my post does not sound intemperate. I just am skeptical of the advice on that program, and from that website, and hope that I expressed that in a tolerant and non-confrontational way.) Thanks, Nils

To Soy or Not to Soy

Oct 1999

(continued from the discussion What to use for mixing cereal for breastfed baby?

I have some direct experience with the Soy vs cow's milk formula dilemma. When my daughter was about 5 months old, for various reasons I began experiencing a drop in my milk supply. None of the remedies (oceans of water, fenugreek, etc) were working. I was forced to begin supplementing in order to maintain her health and my sanity. Since we are an allergic family (though not specifically to cow's milk), I thought I'd start with Soy based formula instead of cow's-milk formula, just to be on the safe side. This turned out to be a mistake for us. My daughter threw the formula up after a couple of hours the first time, a couple of minutes the second, and during the feeding the third time. This pattern looked like an allergy to me, so I quit feeding her the soy formula immediately. I tried raw goat milk with similar results. When I took her to the pediatrician, they recommended a cow's-milk based formula. She tolerated that just fine as a supplement till she was more than a year old (when I introduced regular cow's milk). Evidently the proteins in the formula are so far broken down already that it only very rarely triggers an allergy--certainly it's nowhere near as dangerous as feeding your baby straight cow's milk in the first year. Later on, I took her to my allergist and actually had her tested for allergies to several things. She turned up with only one allergy--to Soy. The allergist says that it's fairly common for babies to develop an allergy to soy if it is introduced in the first year. In fact, if your child is prone to allergies, whichever one (cow's milk or soy) is introduced first will be the one they will develop the allergy to! The good news is that many children outgrow the soy allergy by about 4 years of age, according to my allergist.

So the moral of the story as I finally saw it was: don't stress about it in advance. Try a standard formula first, unless you have a strong family history of cow's milk intolerance. Just be prepared to try several different formulas till you find one that works for your baby. Be flexible, and everything should work out just fine.

Based on your posting I gather that your main concern vis-a-vis formula choice(s) is whether your baby may be allergy-prone. I can understand your confusion having waded through too much information with my own child, whose father is asthmatic and has terrible allergies. It is true that there is a lot of conflicting information out there from credible sources. Of course you should talk with your own pediatrician, but all of the pediatricians/pediatric allergists we have consulted told us that allergies usually do not appear until a child is few years old. The issue we wrestled with was, if the child shows no visible signs of allergy NOW how do you know whether exposing them to cow's milk based formula (for example) will precipitate an allergy down the road ? (Nobody seems to know). After looking at the ingredient labels of all the formulas out there I was far more dubious about all of the other things ADDED to the soy and/or cow's milk and decided against using any kind. We opted to give our daughter goat's milk yogurt daily (less allergenic than cow's milk) and I cut back to nursing only twice a day (first thing in the a.m. and before bed). Goat's milk yogurt is pretty readily available here, our baby loved it, we felt better about it than formula and she is so far (age 2) allergy-free and otherwise in robust health. Good luck !!

A mom who introduced soy to her child for similar reasons now has a child allergic to soy. I suggest you look at Sally Fallon's book *Nourishing Traditions* to find a baby milk alternative. It will be appropriate to your baby's gut and very nourishing. If you have trouble finding a copy of this book (it is in high demand), let me know. Nori

We recently had a discussion about soy vs. cows milk formula on a list for breastfeeding/pumping mothers that I am a part of. One of the women on that list has done a lot of research on the topic and here is some of the information she shared. (I am posting it here with her permission.)

There used to be a time when the routine advice to was to give soy formula if there was *any* chance of allergies and some doctors still give that advice even though it turns out that there are a lot of problems with soy formula. One problem is that a lot of people are allergic to soy so it didn't turn out to prevent allergies after all. In fact, anywhere from 30 to 50% of babies who have an allergic reaction to cow's milk based formula end up having a reaction to soy formula too. Secondly, soy contains hormone-like compounds called phytoestrogens. These compounds are currently under debate and researchers are trying to determine what effect, if any, they may have on a baby. One of the effects that people speculate they may have is that they may stimulate fat cell growth.

If you are breastfeeding and supplementing with formula, you should use a Low Iron version, at least for the first 4-6 months, if not forever. That is because the iron in iron fortified formula will interfere with the absorption of the iron in your breast milk which increases the risk of anemia. Also, the iron will interfere with the antibacterial properties in breast milk.

IMO Lactose free formula is deficient in nutrients -- a baby NEEDS lactose -- and should only be given in special circumstances as recommended by a doctor -- most of whom won't because they know that babies aren't lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is a condition that arises around 2-3 years of age usually. Also, human milk contains lactase which helps digest lactose.

Sometimes parents have been scared off from using cow's milk based formula. After reading about how deficient formula is compared to breast milk, people internalize the message that cow's milk formula is bad. But it's all relative. Cow's milk based formula is still the best thing for a baby who can't have breast milk and is too young for solids.

This person is someone who I find to be both knowledgeable (she is well read, and well versed in many of the issues that come up around breastfeeding and nutrition for babies) and she is very sensible, so I trust her research and her advice. I am sure you will hear many different opinions, I hope that you find this information useful in your decision making process.

Please note that ALL soy formula on the market is made from genetically altered soybeans, probably manufactured by Monsanto. These soybeans have been modified to withstand heavy applications of pesticides also manufactured by (guess who?) Monsanto. For more info, please visit, specifically

I will say right off that I am not an expert on soy, but I wanted to give my 2 cents anyway.

Someone wrote to this group about their concerns about soy as a phytoestrogen. There has been a lot about this in medical literature for the lay person and I'll summarize the points I've read that seem most salient:

1. Soy has been eaten in great quantities by many people for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. It has not been shown to be harmful, even in high doses.

2. Phytoestrogens are very weak. Our environment is full of chemically produced estrogens that are even stronger than those produced by the human body. Because of the way estrogens lock into estrogen receptors in the body, current thought is that it is better for these receptors to be locked up with mild plant estrogens than with strong chemical estrogens.

(end of summary)

I hadn't heard that estrogen might produce fat cell creation, although it's obvious that *some* female hormone influences at least how fat is distributed. It is true that estrogen receptors are found mostly in the fat cells, and more fat cells means the body uses (absorbs?) more estrogen.

Our pediatrician recommended that any supplementing of breast milk be done with soy formula because of its lower chance of producing an allergic reaction than cows milk. Some days my son took up to half his milk in soy milk. He never had any indigestion or gas problems. When he was in the finger-food stage (probably 6 months on), a lactation consultant suggested tofu as a finger food. He still likes tofu--it's a nutritious, easy to fix snack or, when eaten with rice, protein serving at dinner. He was introduced to nori at an early age, and his current favorite dinner is sushi: rice and tofu pieces rolled up in nori and sliced. I have always bought organic tofu, and recently I realized that I could increase our calcium intake by buying tofu that is thickened with calcium chloride instead of magnesium chloride.

Need soy with more fat in it

Jan 1999

After much experimenting, I think my almost 2 year old boy is alergic to dairy. So I've started buying soy milk from health food stores. However, in reading the labels, I noticed that although they have one's with fortified A, D, Clacium, etc., they're always NONFAT or LOWFAT. Since he's not even 2 and a little under-weight, I think the fat would do him good. Is there a brand out there that does have more fat in it? do him good. Is there a brand out there that does have more fat in it? If not, then how could I get a little more fat into his diet since I'd rather not give him the ANIMAL fat but prefer the good, healthy fat. Diane

Edensoy Extra is fortified with Beta Carotene, vitamins B-12, E, D, and Calcium. It also has 3 grams of fat per 8 oz. serving (about the same as 1% milk-which has 2.5 grams/8 oz.) Not a high-fat food, but not fat-free either. Our almost 3 year old son has many, severe food allergies, including dairy. And like your son, he is on the thin side so we try to give him extra calories with fat, preferably unsaturated fat. We fry much of his food in olive or canola oil and use soy margarine on bread and toast. We also make avocado sandwiches. His diet is probably more limited than your son's because of the variety of foods he's allergic to. You can email me if you want more suggestions. I am a registered dietitian. Hope this helps. Suzanne

Trader Joe's house brand soy milk(Soy Um)tastes great, is vitamin and calcium fortified and not low fat. Another plus is that it's inexpensive and comes in both quart and 8 oz. boxes. Avocado is a good source of non-animal fat.

Depending where you live, you might find it worthwhile to go get the real thing (soy milk) from Chinatown. It tastes (in my opinion) one hundred percent better than the stuff you get from Westsoy, etc. I am certain they would not bother taking out any fat. Get the kind that comes refrigerated; it's fresher. Joyce

July 2001

My 14 month old drinks soy milk because he is allergic to dairy. My question is long can soy milk be kept out of the refrigerator? I know unopened it does not have to be refrigerated but once opened & poured into a sippy long is it safe to serve?? THANKS!! Ruth

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