The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. They are strongly opposed to the introduction of all other foods till the baby is 6 months old. However, in certain cases, the pediatrician does recommend the introduction of foods other than breast milk for children below 6 months of age. The prescribed foods are generally infant formula, cow’s milk or a combination of both.
A traditional part of Asian cuisine, soy milk is a plant milk obtained by soaking and grinding the dried soy beans. Technically soy milk can be called a stable emulsion comprising of water, oil and protein. While some believe in the health benefits of Soy milk, there are many who disagree and are of the opinion that soy milk should be avoided at all costs. It is usually hardcore vegans who insist on avoiding cow’s milk or formula based on cow’s milk. They believe that consuming cow’s milk is not healthy for human beings.
While many pediatricians and nutritionists do support the use of soy-based infant formula, exclusive consumption of soy milk should be avoided at all costs. This is primarily because; soy milk does not contain the required nutrients essential for the proper and healthy growth of an infant. In case parents and caregivers insist on feeding children with soy milk, the following criteria need to be strictly satisfied.
Breast milk continues to be the first choice of health professionals’ world over. Children exclusively fed on breast milk are known to have healthier immune systems. They are better equipped to deal with various ailments like heart diseases, Eczema, diabetes type I and II, respiratory infections, Asthma and other allergies as well as cancers of the immune system like lymphoma. Substitution of breast milk with infant formula, both standard and soy-based, should be done only in extreme cases and only after consultation with a medical practitioner.
Unlike soy milk, infant formula is highly fortified with all essential nutrients like vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids and minerals. However, most pediatricians and health authorities believe that soy-based formula is the last possible choice for growing children. Furthermore, soy milk or any other such substitutes must not be fed to children below 12 months of age regardless of the additional nutrients.