Flavored baby formula: Perfect for picky eaters or a gateway to obesity?

[deleted account] ( 33 moms have responded )

Blogging moms and nutritionists are criticizing a new formula for toddlers that comes in chocolate and vanilla flavors, saying it gives kids an early start toward obesity.



"Is it really a good idea to get our kids hooked on all things chocolate at the same time they're learning to walk?" one blogger posted on Momlogic.com.



"What's next, genetically modifying moms to produce chocolate breast milk?" wrote another.



Introduced by Glenview, Ill.-based Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. in February as a beverage for toddlers who are transitioning from infant formula or breast milk, Enfagrow Premium's toddler chocolate and vanilla formulas are milk-based but contain 19 grams of sugar per 7-ounce serving. The company said the product is no sweeter than chocolate milk or orange juice that toddlers drink and contains added nutrients that milk lacks, such as Omega-3 DHA and prebiotics.



"The toddler years can be particularly challenging since food preferences may be erratic and unpredictable," said Mead Johnson spokesman Chris Perille. "Products such as Enfagrow Premium can play a role in helping children achieve a more balanced, healthy daily diet."



Perille said the idea is to get a toddler to consume milk, even flavored milk, because it will lead to a healthier lifestyle.



Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, disagreed.



Nestle, who purchased a 29-ounce package of Enfagrow for $18.99 (22 servings) to study the product, said it will lead children who drink it to crave sugary beverages.



"You want kids to be interested in eating a very, very wide range of foods because variety helps create nutritional balance," she said. "You don't want them to think that every food needs to be sweet or salty."



Enfagrow is in what the food industry calls the "follow-on formula" category, which extends the concept of baby formula into toddlerhood. Abbott Nutrition, a unit of North Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories, produces a competing unflavored product called Similac Go & Grow.



Mead Johnson launched 30 products in 2009 after a several-year dry spell, Sekera said, and has a strategy that aims to extend the time consumers spend using their products beyond early infancy.



Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of MomCentral.com, a Web site geared toward busy moms, said at first glance chocolate-flavored formula might sound like a bad idea, but in some cases, it might be a "second best" option for parents with picky toddlers.



"If something stands between your children and drinking milk, then this becomes a better choice than juice or juice-based products, even, theoretically, water," she said.



According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, normal toddlers experience a sharp drop in appetite after they turn 1 due to slowed growth. A typical 1-year-old needs just 1,000 calories a day, according to the academy, about half that of the average adult. The academy recommended providing several nutrition-rich options and allowing toddlers to choose what they want to eat from those options. For toddlers who refuse to eat any of it, the academy recommended wrapping up the food for later.



Feeding a toddler sweetened foods at that age, the pediatric organization said, will fuel the child's interest in eating more sweets and diminish their desire for nutritious foods. Dietary supplements are rarely needed for toddlers who eat a varied diet.



"They just want to eat bread and crackers," said Jill Houk, co-founder of Center Chef Food Studios in Chicago and a participant in the Healthy Schools Campaign. "They want to eat fruit or anything sweet. In the short term, it may seem like, 'I just want to get nutrition in this child.' But in reality, you're creating a very bad situation."



That doesn't mean parents should ban sweetened food in their children's diet, said pediatrician Rebecca Unger at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she specializes in nutrition and obesity.



"For a healthy child who doesn't have medical problems affecting growth and behavior and development, I don't think it's necessary," she said. "Could there be reasons for a child who is a really picky eater who is having other issues to drink it? Maybe."

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

[deleted account]

I believe April is talking about a study done on bottle feeding babies. It didn't matter what was in the bottle (breast milk or formula). The study showed that babies who were bottle fed were more likely to finish bottles/cups of milk as they grew older. I've seen countless parents get upset if a baby doesn't finish a bottle at the daycare I worked at. Formula is expensive and breast milk is hard to pump so they will ask us to keep giving it to them until it has to be thrown out. The bottle is easy to suck and the milk kind of "dumps" in their mouth (as compared to the breast). Which is why a breastfed baby will take a bottle of formula after feeding leading moms to think they have no milk. The study was only trying to encourage parents to let the child stop when they want and not try to encourage them to drink more.



Just trying to clarify things...

Jocelyn - posted on 07/09/2010

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WTF. Why not just blend up a twinkie and shove it in their bottle?
Yeah formula doesn't taste good, but there are certainly better ways to fix that than by loading it with 19 grams of sugar (per serving!)

Rosie - posted on 07/13/2010

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It is the exact same ingredients as pediasure so not exactly sure what the problem is?"

Because you are not supposed to give a child pediasure unless there is a medical need. Label it formula and then it becomes something children can drink all the time.


i would also like to point out that no child needs toddler formula either. good old milk is what is generally recommended. i think this formula is made for children that need it medically as well. ;)

[deleted account]

Who sets what's "normal" anyway? Children (and adults) are all different. I understand the health problems that come from obesity, but as long as your big or small kid is healthy then that should be all that matters. I heard the whole pregnancy how "small" my belly was like there was something wrong with me or my baby. Come to think of it if my mom mentions how skinny I am one more time I'm going to go nuts.

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33 Comments

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*Lisa* - posted on 07/13/2010

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I'd be interested to see if kids who previously don't like formula will 'like' these new tastes. I found a vanilla-flavoured formula and tried my son on it and he HATED it. But he HATES all formula so we are waiting til he's 1 to try weaning him off breast-milk onto cow's milk. Fingers crossed.
Oh wait, you're right Kati, it says toddler. Do they need formula still as a toddler??

[deleted account]

@Kati, I recently made peace with my curly hair...lol!

I get what you are saying, though. My daughter has always been in the 5%, but never as small as your boys. I catch a lot of crap from people about her being so small. Especially when I was breastfeeding...it was implied that I wasn't producing and I should switch to formula. Thank goodness my doctor and mom kept me sane and helped me realize she is just small! I couldn't imagine what you have to go through with your boys at times, though. And no, you don't want the opposite problem of what you have. Obesity causes so many other health problems.

[deleted account]

"It is the exact same ingredients as pediasure so not exactly sure what the problem is?"

Because you are not supposed to give a child pediasure unless there is a medical need. Label it formula and then it becomes something children can drink all the time.

Rosie - posted on 07/13/2010

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i know sara. this sounds bad but sometimes i wish they had that problem. obviously when i think about it i don't, but you know, straight haired girls always want the curly hair, curly haired girls want straight type of thing! :)

[deleted account]

April my son has been formula fed because I couldn't breastfeed due to my milk not coming in. From my experience formula fed babies aren't "made to" drink every last drop...how can you physically force a baby to drink, you can't they'd just choke! My son is now 7 1/2 months and eats 3 meals per day plus about 500-600ml of formula per day and he drinks what he wants, sometimes it will be a full bottle, sometimes it won't.

LaCi - posted on 07/13/2010

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I used to wonder how the heck I could stop my son from finishing multiple bottles ;x Damn growth spurts.

Sherri - posted on 07/13/2010

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My son was only ever given what we eat and drink but from day one has hated milk (white or flavored) so we just give him cottage cheese, yogurt and a multivitamin. He is not picky about anything else but you like what you like and hate what you hate.

[deleted account]

I think giving them flavoured milk which they may like taste of better is just letting them be picky. My son eats anything and he's only 7 1/2 months but that's because I've let him try everything. As for a newborn baby they don;t know any different and aren't likely to reject drinking formula.

[deleted account]

I wasn't judging (hope I didn't come off that way). Yes, those things have their place, and thank goodness for it! But it a child doesn't NEED these things, then why give it to them? Sugar does so much harm. Not that you have to worry about obesity with your boys...hehe...those little cutie pies! :)

Rosie - posted on 07/12/2010

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i know you weren't judging about pedisure or boost sara ;), but my oldest and youngest were all prescribed pediasure or boost to help with their failure to thrive. so obviously the doctors think that it's better than nothing either. some kids need it.

Amy - posted on 07/12/2010

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I would never even think about giving my child that! I give my husband a hard time when he gets chocolate milk for our son (although it's not often and more so for treats for my husband then for our son).

By the time there 1 they should be able to be off of formula and take soy or cow's milk. I haven't dealt with a picky eater as my son is amazing and will eat just about anything (as long as we are eating it too!), but if he was picky I still wouldn't even think of that!

Sherri - posted on 07/12/2010

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@ April Sorry most mom's in the US have to work and Maternity leave is only 12wks so most mom's don't have an option but to bottle feed. Miss judgmental!!

P.S. my 12 yr old is only 79lbs so I don't take 1 ounce of stock in obesity being due to formula. By the way the formula is for toddlers not infants!! Is the same thing as pediasure.

April - posted on 07/12/2010

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gateway to obesity for sure. studies have already shown this with regular formula. before all of you formula feeding mamas get offended...it's not JUST the formula itself. it is also because many babies are made to finish every last drop that's in the bottle...then as toddlers they've been conditioned to drink every drop too.

Sherri - posted on 07/12/2010

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I don't use it even though my son has never drank milk a day in his life. I have opted to have him get his Vitamin D and Calcium from other sources.

[deleted account]

I'm really not so keen on pediasure either. I understand that some kids need the little extra, but too much sugar for me to feel comfortable with it.

My daughter has had chocolate milk once. She's not big on white milk, but if it's in the bottle she'll drink most of it. I hope I haven't started a "2 year old on the bottle" debate again. But like Kati said about the chocolate milk, it's better than her not getting it.

Sherri - posted on 07/10/2010

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By the way this is not infant formula this is the toddler formula for over 12mo's.

Rosie - posted on 07/10/2010

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like i said before-you label it "formula" and all of a sudden it seems like it's horrible-even i thought that just hearing it. but yeah, same thing as pediasure or boost and i've never heard anybody say anything negative about that.

as for helping some drink it better. most definitely. i cannot drink white milk, it makes me want to gag. so i drink chocolate cause i know i need the calcium. same with my middle boy, he won't drink it unless it's chocolate. it's better than nothing! waaay better actually.

Sherri - posted on 07/10/2010

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It is the exact same ingredients as pediasure so not exactly sure what the problem is?

Minnie - posted on 07/09/2010

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I honestly think children could get better nutrition through some high-quality icecream that includes eggs.

Just another marketing gimmick if you ask me.

Meghan - posted on 07/08/2010

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ew...have any of you tasted formula (well obviously, dumb question) but even the smell of it grosses me out!

J LOVES chocolate milk! LOVES IT. But it is a treat in our house. And I didn't introduce it becuase he was PICKY...wouldn't doing so encourage more picky eating/drinking habbits? They don't know any different until you give them the option!

And for me...the difference is he is 21 months old and drinks cow milk...not 3 months old and on formula. No need to introduce sweets and flavor-if it had been up to me he still wouldn't have had chocolate yet *shakes fist at Grandma*

edit to add..he thinks that juice is water with lemon juice added to it...HA poor kid is going to be SHOCKED one day!

Amber - posted on 07/08/2010

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I don't think that they should be flavoring them chocolate and vanilla. I know that my son got his first taste of chocolate milk at 2 and now he wants it ALL the time. He doesn't get it, but he's always asking.
If we had started him earlier, and every single drink he got was flavored, it would have been even harder to stop his endless asking.
They could find a different flavor, but not something that is really sweet.

Rosie - posted on 07/08/2010

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well, i'm not so keen on it. HOWEVER, pediasure, boost and all other good for you growing up drinks (that my toddler was prescribed to drink 4 cans of a day) is flavored and sweetened like that. so i guess i don't really see the difference. maybe it's the word formula that bothers me, even though it says it's not for infants under 1 year.

[deleted account]

really Sara...I hadn't found that article...this news article was from last month on the 27th, so its pretty recent...I think they should take if off the market though if they haven't already.

Corena - posted on 07/08/2010

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Flavoured infant formula seems ridiculous to me, but...I do use a flavoured toddler nutritional supplement sometimes with my guy. He doesn't usually like to eat dinner so depending on how much he has eaten during the day I sometimes give him the supplement in the evening. He mostly drinks water though. 1 glass of goat milk in the morning and occasionally a cup of watered down juice, the rest of the time its water.

LaCi - posted on 07/08/2010

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I think it should taste better. I don't think it should be flavored as chocolate, or anything as addictive. But it tastes like crap, and breastmilk is sweet. I wouldn't have bought anything sweetened with sugar, but I may have considered a lightly sweetened version if it contained something healthier, like agave nectar or something, something with slower releasing sugars that don't screw your system up easily.

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