Toddler milk may be harmful, AAP warns amid push for tighter product guidelines

FILE-Cans of powdered baby formula are seen locked behind glass on shelves at a pharmacy. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is warning that toddler milk is "potentially harmful" to young children, adding to health officials' concerns regarding the health benefits of some milk formulas. 

These products are promoted to consumers asserting that the toddler formula can improve brain development or immune function, a claim that the AAP noted in a 2023 report is "unnecessary and potentially harmful to young children."

The AAP tells FOX News that approximately 80% of toddler milk has higher sugar content than whole milk and 100% have less protein. 

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Despite the health warnings, toddler milk has skyrocketed to a $20 billion global business, per a recent report.  Citing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FOX News reported that the majority of infants in the U.S. receive some or all of their nutrition from formula.

Standard infant formula can be added with the proper solid foods around 4 to 6 months old. This assures the intake of necessary nutrients including iron, calcium, and zinc, the AAP told FOX News in a previous statement. 

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FOX News noted from the statement that infant formula is regulated under The Infant Formula Act, requiring products to meet nutritional requirements as the only source for babies through the first 12 months of age. 

A World Health Organization (WHO) report noted that "formula milk marketing, not the product itself, disrupts informed decision-making and undermines breastfeeding and child health." 

RELATED: So-called toddler milks are unregulated and unnecessary, pediatrician group says

An FDA spokesperson tells FOX News that if the toddler drink is intended for infants younger than 12 months, the product has to comply with the agency’s infant formula guidelines in addition to all other applicable food regulations.

Separately, some experts caution consumers that infant formula and toddler milk are often marketed and packaged in a way that could lead parents to believe they are the same in terms of nutritional content.

However, some advocates contend that toddler formula is helpful to many young children who don’t get the proper nutrients in their diet.

Moreover, FOX News noted that parents of young kids should always check with their pediatricians for the best and latest nutrition advice.

FOX News contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.