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Newborn and Infant Care

Soy Formula

01/13/2000

Question:

I have been using soy formula since my three-month old was four weeks old. Since then, I have been hearing things about possible health benefits over cow`s milk. Are you aware of any? If so, what are they?

Answer:

Generally, infants are placed on commercial infant formulas that are based upon cow`s milk. Soy protein formulas are recommended for infants who have lactose intolerance, such as galactosemia or primary lactase deficiency, or a severe secondary lactase deficiency, such as acute diarrhea.

Soy protein formulas differ from standard cow`s milk-based formulas in both protein and carbohydrate content. The fat content of soy-based formulas is about the same as in cow`s milk-based formulas. Protein content in soy formulas is slightly higher because soy protein is lower in biological value than cow`s milk-based protein.

Soy-based formulas may also be considered in families with a strong family history of allergy, although this is somewhat controversial.

Soy formulas can promote normal growth in healthy term newborns, but there are some potential disadvantages for using soy formulas in babies without a documented requirement to avoid cow`s milk-based formulas. The most common potential problem is a reduction in bone mineral content. Bone mineral content may be decreased in term infants fed soy formula compared to infants fed cow`s milk-based formulas. If term infants are fed soy-based formulas, it is important that Vitamin D intake is sufficient to prevent inadequate bone mineral content.

I recommend that you discuss the choice of formula for your baby with your primary health care provider. If there is no clear need for the soy formula, discuss whether it may be preferable to switch to a cow`s milk-based formula. These formulas are readily available and are sometimes less expensive than soy-based formulas.

Good luck.

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Response by:

Judy Wright Lott, RNC, NNP, DSN
Associate Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati