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Some people use toddler formula to supplement a toddler’s nutritional needs. However, it should never replace a regular diet or deter a child from eating food.
A doctor may recommend toddler formula when an infant experiences malnourishment, is significantly underweight, or has a medical condition.
Caregivers should not give toddler formula to infants over 12 months without consulting a pediatrician.
A quick look at the 6 best toddler formulas
- Best organic: Baby’s Only Organic
- Best for allergies: Neocate Jr. Unflavored
- Best for sensitive stomachs: Baby’s Only Sensitive
- Best plant-based: Else Plant-Based Complete
- Best for breastfed babies: Similac Go & Grow
- Best nondairy: Gerber Good Start
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Best organic: Baby’s Only Organic Toddler
- Size: 12.7 ounces
- Number of servings: 17
- Ingredients: A2 milk, brown rice syrup, canola oil
Baby’s Only Organic dairy formula contains non-genetically modified (non-GMO) ingredients, with no palm oil, corn syrup, artificial flavors, or potentially harmful chemicals.
The company claims it is certified organic, made in the USA, and packaged in a BPA-free container.
Organic formula is not necessarily healthier or better than the standard formula. However, some caregivers may find reassurance in choosing an organic product.
Find more organic products for infants here.
Best for allergies: Neocate Jr. Unflavored
- Size: 14.1 oz
- Number of servings: 21
- Ingredients: corn syrup, vegetable or coconut oils, vitamin and mineral blend
This formula is hypoallergenic, meaning it is suitable for severe allergies. It is based on amino acids and is free from:
- dairy and lactose
- soy protein
Neocate designs this formula as a medical food for children with gastrointestinal and malabsorption issues. It is nutritionally complete.
This formula is only suitable for children over 1 year of age.
Caregivers of infants with medical conditions affecting digestion and absorption should consult a pediatrician for advice.
Best for sensitive stomachs: Baby’s Only Sensitive Toddler
- Size: 12.7 oz
- Number of servings: 17
- Ingredients: proprietary blend of DHA & ARA, choline, lutein, and vitamins, brown rice syrup, and canola oil
Baby’s Only Sensitive features a similar nutritional profile to other Baby’s Only formula but is an easily digested option for children with lactose sensitivities.
Like other Baby’s only products, this is also free from GMOs, palm oil, corn syrup, artificial flavors, or potentially harmful chemicals.
This milk-based formula is an alternative to soy toddler formulas.
Best plant-based: Else Plant-Based Complete Formula
- Size: 22 oz
- Number of servings: 17
- Ingredients: 20+ vitamins and minerals, plant-based protein from almonds and buckwheat
Else Plant-Based Complete Formula is suitable for toddlers over 1 year of age and is vegan-friendly.
This formula is free from dairy, soy, and gluten, making it suitable for toddlers with certain allergies. However, it contains almonds, making it unsuitable for children with nut allergies.
This toddler formula is suitable for children aged 1–3.
Best for breastfed babies: Similac Go & Grow
- Size: 24 oz
- Number of servings: 18
- Ingredients: milk and soy, 25 vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, lutein, DHA, human milk oligosaccharide, beta carotene
Similac’s Go & Grow Toddler Drink is similar to infant formula but designed for a toddler’s expanding nutritional needs.
Like breast milk, it is rich in healthful nutrients, such as lutein, DHA, and human milk oligosaccharide, making it useful for caregivers who cannot continue nursing during toddlerhood.
According to the company, Similac Go and Grow is suitable for toddlers aged 1–3.
Best nondairy: Gerber Good Start
- Size: 24 oz
- Number of servings: 18
- Ingredients: 2.8 grams of protein from soy per 5 fl oz, DHA, no artificial growth hormones
This nondairy toddler formula uses soy proteins to provide nutrition for toddlers with milk or lactose allergies.
This lactose-free option is easy to digest and safe for infants. According to Gerber, toddlers can start drinking this formula at 9 months and continue using it until they are 2 years old.
Speak to a medical professional before using soy infant formula.
The following table compares the toddler formulas in this article on key features:
|Price||Size||Servings||Price per serving|
|Baby’s Only Organic||$15.99||12.7 oz||21||$1.26|
|Neocate Jr. Unflavored||$46.81||14.1 oz||21||$3.32|
|Baby’s Only Sensitive||$19.98||12.7 oz||21||$1.73|
|Else Plant-Based Complete||$34||22 oz||17||$1.54|
|Similac Go & Grow||$20.98||24 oz||18||$0.87|
|Gerber Good Start||$19.98||24 oz||20||$0.83|
Most toddlers do not need toddler formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend toddler milk or formula. They encourage the use of other protein and vitamin D sources instead.
Numerous reports suggest that toddler formula is a marketing gimmick, pushing a product that toddlers do not need.
For those who choose to use toddler formula, it is essential to remember that toddlers do not need it as frequently as babies need to nurse or drink from bottles.
Instead, treat the formula as a nutritional supplement and continue giving the child a wide range of other nutrient-dense foods.
After 12 months, most toddlers do not require formula at all. Instead, a consensus statement by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the AAP, and the American Heart Association recommends using breast milk or whole cow’s milk as the primary drink for toddlers.
Little research supports the use of toddler formula, and unlike infant formula, toddler formulas are not all FDA-regulated for their nutritional content. So while they seem safe, little regulation or research into these products means it is not always possible to ensure safety.
In general, toddler formulas add little to a child’s diet. Sometimes, they may replace healthier foods, especially if a toddler is already eating well.
Formula for sensitive stomachs
The safest option for toddlers with sensitive stomachs may be to replace the nutrition from toddler formula with something else.
For children with medical conditions, speak with a pediatrician about whether a formula is necessary and which one to choose.
About plant-based toddler formulas
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Soy contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the hormone estrogen. NIEHS indicates that consumption of soy-based infant formula may increase health risks later in life.
It is also essential to consider the risk of soy allergies. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, soy allergies are relatively common in babies and young children.
However, soy-free, plant-based formulas are also available. A common alternative to soy is pea protein. Research into the health benefits and risks of toddler formulas based on non-soy plant protein is limited.
Caregivers of toddlers who consume a vegan diet should consider other protein sources or plant-based milk, particularly if there is no medical reason to use toddler formula. A pediatrician or dietitian can offer advice.
Most pediatricians and doctors recommend nursing for as long as possible to promote healthy weight gain. Breast milk can help supplement a toddler’s diet and ensure they get the right nutrition. For people who cannot nurse, formula is the next best option.
Caregivers should not try to get toddlers to gain weight unless a pediatrician recommends that they do so. Being a picky eater does not necessarily mean that a toddler is malnourished or must gain weight.
The following are common questions and answers about toddler formula.
Which formula is best for a 2-year-old?
The best formula for a 2-year-old depends on the child. Most national health and nutrition organizations do not recommend serving a toddler formula.
However, some children may have specific health concerns, such as lactose intolerance or other needs, that could make toddler formula a healthy addition to a child’s diet. Speak with a pediatrician for dietary advice.
Is fresh milk better than formula for toddlers?
Generally speaking, yes. Toddler formula does not provide additional benefits to breast or dairy milk and may contain higher levels of sugar, fat, and sodium. Formula also tends to cost more than fresh dairy milk.
For children who are lactose intolerant or have other health needs, formula may be a useful dietary addition under the advice of a pediatrician.
When should I switch to toddler formula?
Manufacturers generally recommend toddler formula for children 1–3 years old.
Experts state that toddler formula does not offer any nutritional advantages over eating a healthy diet of age-appropriate solid foods and pasteurized milk.
Check with a pediatrician regarding a child’s diet and health status before trying a toddler formula.
The AAP recommends that caregivers nurse exclusively for the first 6 months and continue to nurse while supplementing with foods for at least 12 months. Formula is the next best option for babies who do not get breast milk.
This recommendation does not extend to toddlers, who can get all their nourishment from food.
For most toddlers, cow’s milk and other protein-rich foods are a better option than toddler formula.
If a doctor recommends supplementing with formula, try several options to find the best one to meet a child’s needs. A pediatrician may suggest a specific formula based on a toddler’s medical conditions or needs.