There are a lot of milk varieties in the market these days to fit the different nutritional needs of babies. After breast milk, dairy-based milk formula is known to be the next best complete food for babies. Cow’s milk is rich in calcium, protein and fats that are similar to human milk. However, some parents choose to give their child these nutrients from other food sources.
Soy milk is rapidly gaining popularity as an alternative source of nutrition especially for parents who want to raise a vegan child. Compared to other plant-based milks such as rice, coconut and almond milk, soy milk has about the same protein and fat content as cow’s milk. It is also very easy to find compared to other milk types like goat’s milk or oat milk, for example.
Health conscious individuals prefer soy milk because it is cholesterol free. It even contains isoflavones, a natural chemical that lowers bad cholesterol levels, which may help in the prevention of heart disease. Soy milk itself is actually the juice extracted from soy beans after it is soaked, ground and filtered. Unlike regular milk, it does not contain lactose since its sugar comes in the form of sucrose. This means that soy milk is safe for lactose intolerant children.
Parents who are not satisfied with dairy milk formulas usually settle on soy milk. A number of baby formulas derived from soy milk are already fortified to fit a baby’s diet. Switching milk is recommended when a child is constantly gassy, constipated, spits up or shows signs of discomfort after a feeding. Milk protein allergy is also another reason why parents switch their child to soy milk.
Switching milk may cause other digestive interruptions, so consult with a doctor first, before making any changes. Typically, a child who started on dairy milk, should try other brands or formulations of the same type of milk first before ruling it out. The transition should also be done gradually, by mixing small parts of the new milk to his old milk, and slowly increasing the ratio.
Not all parents agree, though, that soy milk is a good substitute for dairy milk. Soy milk contains significantly less calcium than bovine milk, and babies have a high calcium requirement for bone building and growth. Because of this, fortified versions of soy milk are produced. However, some studies show that the absorbency of calcium from soy milk is still less than that of cow’s milk.
This debate is no contest for vegans because animal milk is out of the question, and so supplementary calcium is given. Fortified orange juice, kale, sardines with bones are great sources of calcium. It is also important to note than Vitamin D-fortified soy milk is not entirely vegan, because the vitamin is derived from lanolin which commonly come from sheep.
Hormones in these milks have also been a health issue. Soy milk is known to contain phytoestrogen, which is believed to cause developmental issues in males and early puberty in females because it acts like the female hormone estrogen. Soybeans are also among the top genetically modified plants around.
On the other hand, there are also cow’s milk products which may have traces of bovine growth hormone, a supplement given to cows to increase their milk production. This is believed to increase the risk for cancer. Milk consumption has also been associated to obesity because of its high fat content and early puberty in females, but the latter finding is not entirely definitive.
Even with all these controversies, soy milk and cow’s milk remain to be good substitutes for breast milk. Switching your child’s milk to soy is entirely a matter of choice, if backed up by the doctor’s approval. Milk consumption is only a part of a child’s bigger diet, so as long as your family is eating healthy, there should be nothing to worry about.