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We live in a country where it's very popular to give toddlers a follow-up powdered formula called "lait de croissance" roughly translated as "grow milk" or "toddler milk" like the one pictured here: Nestle NAN pro

I know the formula industry has a strong lobby here with pediatricians, and many doctors (including the one we visited for a one-year check-up) recommend using it instead of regular milk. Either type of milk would of course be combined with a normal toddler diet consisting of three meals a day and eating a variety of solid foods: veggies, fruit, grains, meats, yogurt, etc.

Would organic whole cow's milk be better for a one-year-old toddler than this powdered stuff?

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    I'd say YES. If the toddler is eating regular proper meals, then don't waste your money on something you already admit is pushed by a lobby. Formula won't hurt your child, but it does hurt your pocket. – Dave Clarke Mar 13 '15 at 12:53
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    You can read of the many pros and cons of drinking animal milk all together, organic or not. Humans were designed to drink human milk. That toddler milk probably has some kind of dairy product in it. I'm no advocate for or against milk per say, but I know I hated it as long as I can recall, my kids don't like it either. There's nothing in cow milk you can't get in some way from something else. Personal opinion would be test both and see which your baby prefers. Then test against other drinks, like water, juices, etc. I'd probably go organic whole milk if I had to. Not a fan of powdered things – Kai Qing Mar 13 '15 at 21:49
  • SKeptics Stack Exchange has a range of questions on this topic - check out skeptics.stackexchange.com/search?q=cows+milk – Rory Alsop Mar 16 '15 at 9:38
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    Note that in many countries, the dairy industry also has a large lobbying interest as well. I'd have your doctor make the call rather than your poli-sci friends. :) – DA01 Mar 16 '15 at 15:11
  • I do admit I'm influenced by my poli-sci friends... my husband is a poli-sci prof :-) – Brusselssprout Mar 16 '15 at 15:36
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For most children, cow's milk (organic or not at your preference) will be the superior choice. Whole milk is usually recommended from 1-2 years old, although there is starting to be some preference for 2% even at that age for children at high risk and who have good, healthy diets with plenty of fats and vegetables (like my second, who at 18 months though an 8oz steak was a nice appetizer, and eats three eggs for breakfast some days).

The toddler formula tends to be sweeter than milk (which might help encourage them to drink it, but in general sweeter is not a plus), has a few extra vitamins (particularly DHA), and not much else. It's quite a bit more expensive than regular milk in general, and if your toddler has a normal, healthy diet, you're going to be fine on milk. You can always supplement with a multivitamin if you're worried about particular vitamins.

DHA is a good thing to have, and something that can be hard in some areas to obtain; fish is the best source, and in my experience kids love fish when prepared appropriately and not too strongly flavored (though both of mine think salmon is the best, so who knows).

If your child is very undersized and having difficulty eating solid foods, then this may not apply; discuss with your pediatrician. If you feel your pediatrician is simply marketing to you, consider getting a second recommendation from a different pediatrician; that's generally true any time you feel uncomfortable with a recommendation from your pediatrician. You should be able to trust your pediatrician to give good advice not substantially affected by marketing. (In the US, we have laws that help prevent this to some extent, by limiting what doctors may receive from marketing reps, though of course this is never perfect.)

Some articles about the difference; these are not scientific papers but seem to be very consistent nonetheless.

Mums waste £500 a year

Nemours recommends only using toddler formula as a gateway to milk (half milk/half formula mixtures) if your toddler won't drink regular milk

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I think this question is best answered by evaluating the different types of milk.

Organic vs "Regular" Milk

There isn't clear evidence that either of these is better than the other. This article doesn't quote a lot of studies, but it nicely summarizes info that I have read in related studies.

One problem with organic milk and organic foods in general is that you can't always be sure that you are really getting a truly organic product. A lot of organic milk is now produced by large corporations who may not really give their cows much time to feed on grass in a pasture, may buy and mix non-organic cows into their herds, and bypass other organic rules.

And there is no clear evidence that growth hormones, pesticide residues, or antibiotic residues are harmful or that organic milk is healthier.

Animal Milk vs Infant Formula

DrGreene.com tackles a question about feeding an 11 month old toddler formula vs cow milk. This paragraph sums things up well:

Toddlers don’t necessarily need formula, even if they don’t nurse. Children who are eating a balanced variety of healthy solids after the first birthday should be able to get the extra vitamins and minerals found in formula from their diets, perhaps with the added safety net of a multivitamin. If there is concern that your child is not eating an adequate amount of solids, formula will provide most of her nutritional needs while she is experimenting with solid food.

Raw Milk vs Pasteurized Milk

This Skeptics.SE answer has some great facts regarding unpasteurized vs pasteurized milk.

Using the best data currently available, strictly from a food-borne illness standpoint, consuming raw milk carries roughly 9.4 times higher relative risk than consuming pasteurized milk. But in absolute terms, both risks are incredibly small, with raw milk carrying a 1/94,000 (0.001064%) chance of illness, and pasteurized milk carrying a 1/888,000 (0.000113%) chance of illness.

Goat Milk vs Cow Milk

Goat milk has been profferred as a more easily digestible alternative to cow's milk. DrSears.com covers the differences between the two, and this infographic also compares their healthiness. In general, the two are considered pretty comparable.

Animal Milk vs Breast Milk

Animal milk, of any kind, is designed to be consumed by animals of the same species! Humans were not made to drink cow or goat milk, but to drink human milk! However, since the question is specifically about non-breastfeeding options, I'm not going to cover it further.

Milk and Vitamins vs Vitamin Enriched Formula

One of the touted benefits of formula is all the supplements and minerals it contains. However, there are many vitamins on the market for children of all ages, including young infants and toddlers.

This actual doctor answers a question specifically regarding DHA:

Is it better to get omega-3 fatty acids from food or from supplements?

Certainly foods, since the plants and fish that contain omega-3 fats have other good nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. People who do not eat fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids should consider taking an omega-3 supplement of 500 mg per day; fish oil is used in supplements, but there are also vegetarian supplements that have ALA. Studies suggest that people who have already had a heart attack may benefit from higher doses of omega-3 supplements (basically, double the 500 mg), so if you do have heart disease, consult your healthcare provider about whether taking a higher dose of omega 3s makes sense for you.

While we're specifically talking about children, and this doctor is not, the science is the same. It's better to get these nutrients from food, not supplements. When it comes to taking a vitamin versus feeding a child formula for obtaining these nutrients, they're really the same! The formula, essentially, just has the supplements included, but they're not any different than those found in children's vitamins.

The Conclusion

When it comes to your child's nutrition, organic milk isn't better than regular milk. Cow milk isn't better than goat milk or formula provided your child is eating a healthy variety of solid foods. After one year of age, a child's primary nutrition source shouldn't be liquid. Milk or formula, of whatever type, should be used only as way to provide specific nutrients that young bodies need in higher quantities, such as calcium and phosphorous.

When evaluating which to buy, your primary focus should really be on the rest of your child's diet. There's no conclusive evidence that says milk is better than formula, or vice-versa. Instead, most advice (mine included), suggests that you choose whichever works best for you.

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