Can I give my baby soya-based infant formula?

You shouldn't give your baby soya-based infant formula unless your GP or health visitor advises you to. Breastfeeding or giving them another type of formula is nearly always a better choice.

For the first six months, it's best to give your baby only breast milk or infant formula. Breastfeeding is recommended because breast milk provides all the nutrients that a baby needs for healthy development during this time.

There is no health benefit in giving soya-based infant formula to a healthy baby.

Soya-based infant formula

Soya-based infant formula was originally developed for babies who can't have infant formula based on cows' milk because, for example, they have a milk allergy.

Other types of formula that are more suitable for these babies are now available. Your GP or health visitor can give you advice.

Occasionally your GP or health visitor might recommend soya-based infant formula, for example:

  • if your baby can't or won't drink other types of formula
  • if you want your baby to have a vegan diet and you're not breastfeeding

Soya and phytoestrogens

Some people are concerned that giving babies soya-based infant formula could affect the development of their reproductive organs. This is because soya contains phytoestrogens, compounds that are found naturally in some plants.

As their name suggests, the chemical structure of phytoestrogens is similar to the female sex hormone oestrogen. It’s likely that they could affect babies’ reproductive development. This is of particular concern in babies who drink only soya-based infant formula. Babies’ lower body weight means that they take in much higher amounts of phytoestrogens than adults and older children who eat soya products as part of a mixed diet.

If you give your baby soya-based infant formula, talk to your GP or health visitor about changing to a different formula.

Soya-based infant formula and babies’ teeth

Soya-based infant formula contains glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose is more harmful to babies’ and small children’s teeth than the lactose in infant formula made with cows' milk.

Any food or drink containing sugars should not have contact with your baby’s teeth too often or for too long. Use a trainer cup for your baby’s drinks as soon as they can drink this way.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

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Page last reviewed: 18/06/2013

Next review due: 17/06/2015