Soy-Based Formulas for Babies: Are They Safe?


By: Suzanne Renee' - Updated December 19, 2023 - 10 Minute Read

Soy-Based Formulas for Babies | The Milky Box

We believe finding the best alternative or supplement to breast milk begins with the safest ingredients. Today we will closely examine an increasingly popular replacement for cow’s milk formula: soy formulas.


Soy formulas have been used in the US to reduce colic, prevent allergies, or comfort digestive worries. However, parents are only sometimes aware of the risks or concerns associated.


In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about soy baby formulas.

Is Soy Bad or Good?

Dr. Eric Berg, DC, eloquently states that soy has many hidden dangers. He states, “...personally in a million years. I would never give a baby soy-based formula”.

 

When added to baby formulas, soy becomes an anti-nutrient, blocking essential proteins and minerals and putting your baby’s health at risk. 

Phytic Acid

Phytic Acid Molecule | The Milky Box

Phytic acid prevents the absorption of zinc, iron, calcium, and other vital minerals.

 

A unique natural substance in plant seeds’ outer layer, phytic acid, has received considerable attention.

 

Soybeans have an incredibly excessive amounts of phytic acid and are unusually resistant to breaking down in an infant’s system. 

Excessive amounts of phytic acid with daily soy intake can cause a reduced rate of growth. It is more severe in infants as it causes a delay in the development of the brain and nervous system.

 

Scientists found a strong correlation between the phytate content in formula and poor growth, even when the diets were supplemented with zinc.

 

Unfortunately, US formula companies do not consider zinc content when using soy in baby formulas.

Amounts of Zinc in Baby Formulas Chart | The Milky Box

Phytoestrogens (Plant Estrogens) or Isoflavones

The most significant danger of soy for infants is the phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) found in all organic, conventional, or GMO forms of this ingredient.

 

Phytoestrogens are potent human endocrine activators, binding efficiently to the estrogen receptors in females and males.

 

According to Swiss Federal Health Service calculations, soy infant formula provides the hormonal equivalent of three to five birth control pills per day

Similarity of Isoflavones to Estrogens Molecules | The Milky Box

Although phytoestrogens are not identical to human estrogens, they are close enough to cause significant hormone disruption, adversely affecting the infant’s developing body and brain.

 

Research shows that soy formula contains up to 4,500 times the phytoestrogens found in cow’s milk-based formula or breast milk.

 

The high amount of this compound in soy acts like estrogen in the developing bodies, lowering testosterone levels for boys and leading to early sexual reproduction development in girls. 

Genistein

A National Instituteof Environmental Health Sciences study found that "soy protein" contains excessive amounts of genistein, an estrogen-like compound. Like other estrogen-mimicking chemicals in the environment, genistein can alter the body’s endocrine system and potentially interfere with normal hormonal development.”

 

This chemical, in particular, can harm girls more than boys.

 

A study from the NIH has shown a connection between soy formula given in infancy leads to menstrual pain in adulthood. 

Soy Allergy

One of the most apparent reasons to avoid soy-based baby formula is if your child is allergic or intolerant to soy proteins.


Soy is among infants’ most common allergens, so feeding soy-based formula to your child should always be done with caution. You may quickly notice soy allergy symptoms after feeding your child soy milk formula.


While less severe, soy intolerance symptoms can be highly uncomfortable for a little one.

Familes should avoid soy-based baby formula, whether your child has a soy allergy or soy intolerance. 

Soy Allergy Vs Soy Intolerance Graphic | The Milky Box

Premature Baby Formula

Studies have shown that premature infants fed soy formula are far more likely to develop osteopenia, indicating weaker bones.


This is due to the high presence of aluminum in soy-based products. Aluminum is a toxic heavy metal that, when ingested, can affect the bone and central nervous system.


This is particularly detrimental for preterm babies who are underweight or have experienced renal failure.


Even with supplemental calcium and vitamin D, radiographic evidence of significant osteopenia was present in 32% of 125 preterm infants fed soy protein-based formula.

Heavy Metals in Baby Formula

Soy-based infant formulas test fifty times higher for aluminumthan breast milk. That is not a number to be proud of.

 

The scary truth. Food manufacturers produce soy by acid washing in aluminum tanks. Acid + metal equals leaching, some of which adheres to the soy mixture and ends up in the myriad of soy products, including US soy formulas. 

Non-GMO Formula vs Soy Formula

Genetically engineered soy is standard in US baby formulas. GMOs are known to wreak havoc on the body’s microbiome, especially that of a growing baby.

 

The balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut health the immune system, neurological development, endocrine system, digestive function, and more. When genetically modified food is introduced, it can throw off that delicate balance and cause many issues.

 

This is just another reason many parents avoid soy-based baby formula altogether. 

Soy-Based Formula: Worrisome Ingredients

To help families identify soy in baby formula we have listed some of the common ways families will see this ingredient listed on the can or box. 

Soy Oil

It is common to see soy oil listed as vegetable oil even though soy is a bean.

 

Yes, legumes have many health benefits, but that does not make soy beans vegetables.


Unfortunately, this opens another question about the truth in labeling when it comes to US formulas. 

Soy Protein

Families may see this listed as “Soy” or “Organic Soy”. As we have discussed, the issues are trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid, and phytoestrogens found in the soy protein.


You may be interested to know that the industrialized process of producing soy infant formula deactivates many trypsin inhibitors. This can prevent the required development of the brain!

Soy Protein Isolate

Soy protein isolated, used as a binder, is extracted with chemical hexane, an EPA-registered air pollutant, and neurotoxin.

 

Many companies have responded to consumer pressure by only using soy and soy derivatives that are not hexane extracted. Unfortunately, just because a formula is listed as organic does not always mean that hexane extraction wasn't used. 

 Soy Free Formulas 

Looking for a formula to soothe your sensitive baby is not always easy. Families may be tempted to look toward soy ingredients to solve this nutritional need.


Good news! European baby formulas have soy-free options that do not put your little one at risk.

European Baby Formula

Over 90% of American baby formulas contain soy, usually in soy oil. This is different from European baby formulas, which are highly regulated, and the EU's high infant standards.


European formulas have options for the most sensitive digestive systems, and severe lactose allergies.

Hydrolyzed Formulas

European hypoallergenic formula options are available if your baby is sensitive to milk proteins.

 

The extensively hydrolyzed formulas are considered hypoallergenic because the lactose or casein (cow's milk protein) is broken down into smaller pieces that make it easier for the baby to digest.

 

Trusted European baby formulas HiPP HA, and HiPP Comfort go the extra mile to ensure proper nutrition without soy, allergy-causing ingredients, or unwanted additives.


Each scoop of specialized nutrition contains proteins broken down by complete or partial hydrolysis. These protein fragments are much smaller than those in cow milk baby formulas, making them easier to digest and move through an infant’s system quicker, causing less gas, bloating, and pain.

Goat's Milk Formula

If your baby has digestive problems with cow’s milk, goat's milk formula is an alternative. Many studies have highlighted the benefits of goat’s milk formula for babies.


For example, naturally occurring oligosaccharides in goat's milk were studied for their prebiotic and anti-infection properties.These oligosaccharides in goat's milk formula effectively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria (bifidobacterial) and inhibit the ability of harmful bacteria, such as pathogenic E. coli, to attach to human intestinal cells.


According to another study, the growth of babies in goat's milk formula is comparable to the increase in cow's milk formula. This is one less thing for parents to worry about as they choose a different formula. 

Soy-Free Baby Formula Alternatives

The Milky Box carries soy-free European formulas for all infants. We take pride in nutrition that supports our customers' little ones' health today while helping to build a bright tomorrow.

 

Our team of parents and European baby formula experts are here to help you choose the soy free baby formula that will best suit your infant.

 

Our families look forward to offering guidance to your family! 

Disclaimer:


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.


Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.


Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent. Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full time writer of the subject. In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking and going to church.

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Reviewed by Dr. Eric Wood, ND, MA

Dr. Wood is a licensed naturopathic doctor, with a doctorate degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Canada. He received his post-graduation certification in Mind Body Medicine at Harvard University.


With 15 years of experience, Dr. Wood is an Associate Professor of Holistic Nutrition at the American College of Health Sciences in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Wood is an educator, clinician, author, media figure, consultant, and owns his own holistic (naturopathic) medical practice in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Wood is currently researching and drafting books on cancer and pediatrics.


Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Wood loves singing with the Miami Lyric Opera and is an avid musician in South Florida. He also loves spending time with his wife and kids.