Is Soy Milk Good Or Bad For Babies?

Soy milk has a number of health benefits. It is rich in nutrients and is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant. But, can it be given to babies? Is it safe? Let's find out.

By Dr Siddhant Bhargava

Is Soy Milk Good Or Bad For Babies?
Soy milk can be an excellent source of protein for babies

Breast milk is essential for infants. Once your baby turns one, intake of cow's milk is is important for overall growth and development. However, some babies cannot consume cow’s milk. This could be because of one of two reasons. One, it is because they are they are lactose intolerant or two, they may be allergic to cow's milk. In such cases, parents are concerned about their child’s nutrition intake, as milk plays a vital role in the growth of a baby. Well, there is an alternative! And, it comes in the form of soy milk. Not only is soy milk a good substitute for dairy but it is derived from soybeans that are loaded with nutrients and contain essential fatty acids. However, there are questions that persist in the minds of parents. The prime one being, whether soy milk is good or bad for babies?

Before we delve into this, let us first find out what soy milk really is?

What is soy milk?

Soy milk is a high protein plant-based drink made from soybeans. The milk extraction process involves soaking, grounding, boiling and filtering of soybeans to produce a creamy white liquid. The end product resembles closely to cow's milk. However, soy milk differs from its dairy counterpart in a number of ways, especially in terms of its nutritional components. 

Soy milk nutrition 150ml

  • Energy: 108 kcal
  • Protein: 6g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g

Also read: Benefits of Tofu for kids

Soy milk benefits for babies

  • Soy milk is rich in isoflavones (a crystalline compound whose derivatives occur in many plants, especially beans and legumes). Isoflavones are a good source of antioxidants.
  • A cup of soy milk contains about 20mg of isoflavones. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, does not contain isoflavones.

  • The presence of isoflavones is the most important and unique benefit of soy milk. They have been found to reduce cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Isoflavones also protect our cells and DNA against oxidation.

  • Soy milk is easy for babies to digest and is lactose-free.

  • The non-digestible sugar present in milk act as a prebiotic. These prebiotics help maintain the health of the gastrointestinal tract by encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and preventing the growth of detrimental bacteria.

  • A complete plant-based protein, soy milk can be given to infants who cannot eat certain sources of protein like eggs, chicken, etc.

  • Soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D helps in providing these nutrients towards optimal bone growth and development of an infant.

  • Soy is a complete protein. It contains all the nine indispensable amino acids required by the body in the right proportion and amount to meet the human body’s requirement. It helps in fostering your baby’s growth, development and repair of living tissues.

Health risks of soy milk for babies

  • Soy milk does not contain Vitamin A and Vitamin B12, which is present in mother’s and cow’s milk.

  • The calcium in cow’s milk is more absorbable than in soy milk.

  • Soy milk contains phytates which could hinder the absorption of calcium.

  • Some infants might be allergic to the protein in soy milk. It is advisable to test your baby first for any allergic reaction to soy milk.

Soy milk vs soy formula

It is important to know that there is a difference between soy milk and soy-based formulas. Soy-based formulas for infants are formulated to include nutrients, which are important for the development and nourishment of the infant. Soy formula contains soy protein isolate, supplemented with additional amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fats necessary to support infant growth and development. Parents may choose soy formula for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk–based formula or if they themselves do not consume dairy products.

Soy milk should be used as alternative if the infant is allergic to lactose. Soy milk having so many benefits, still lacks in essential nutrients like vitamin A and calcium. It should be used as a supplement rather than a replacement. Soy milk also doesn’t have certain essential fats which are present in breast and cow’s milk. Soy milk can be consumed as a healthy beverage for toddlers as an other source of milk.

Also read: Top 7 Homemade Soy Milk Recipes For All Occasions

About the author:

Written by Dr Siddhant Bhargava on 11 June 2019.

Luke Coutinho is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach - Integrative Medicine.

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