What is toddler formula?

Toddler formula, sometimes called “follow-on” formula, is often marketed as the next step of formula feeding as children move into the toddler years. Because most parents switch to cow’s milk at around a year old, though, toddler formula is often thought to be more of a marketing ploy than a nutritional necessity. On the other hand, some families appreciate toddler formula as a reassurance that picky eaters are still getting the nutrients they need.

The idea that toddler formula is designed to get frazzled new parents paying for something they don’t really need comes from a few different directions. First, toddler formula isn’t subject to some of the same marketing restrictions that infant formula can be, so marketing it is a way for companies to get a brand-name out and recognizable. Second, toddler formulas are more expensive than milk, and parents who have already been paying for infant formula for a year are often relieved to move that expense out of the family budget. Additionally, toddler formula tends to be sweeter than cow’s milk, which can get toddlers hooked early, and make the switch to cow’s milk later harder. Some families get through the transition by starting to add toddler formula powder to milk instead of water, and then gradually decreasing the amount added until it’s just milk.

Who should use toddler formula?

The World Health Organization’s 2013 statement on toddler formula declared it unnecessary, and not a suitable replacement for breast milk, based on its nutritional composition. The WHO recommendation is to continue breastfeeding until age 2, along with complementary solids. If you plan to continue breastfeeding 2-3 per day after age one, there is no need to add in additional milk. 

Pediatric experts agree that most healthy children of a year or older can make the transition from infant formula to a mixture of solids and cow’s milk or a suitable plant based alternative (fortified and unsweetened soy or pea) at around a year old and get all of the nutrients they need to grow steadily. This also applies to families who want to wean from breastfeeding at around this age. After age one, milk amounts should be slowly decreased to a maximum of 16 ounces per day in order to allow for varied eating and nutrient intake. There is such a thing as too much milk! But toddlers are also notorious for going through picky eating phases, and the enhanced nutrients in toddler formula can give parents a sense of security that a child going through a picky phase is still getting their needed nourishment.  

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


  • “Cow’s milk: Infants.” MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine, July 10 2015. Web.
  • “Infant formulas: Overview.” MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine, May 11 2015. Web.
  • “Information concerning the use and marketing of follow-up formula.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, July 17 2013. Web.
  • “Why Formula Instead of Cow’s Milk?” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.

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