Published: May 2023

Journal: Nutrition Reviews

Authors: Richter APC, Grummon AH, Falbe J, Taillie LS, Wallace DD, Lazard AJ, Golden SD, Conklin JL, Hall MG

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Toddler milk is an ultra-processed beverage consisting primarily of powdered milk, caloric sweeteners, and vegetable oil. Pediatric health authorities do not support the use of toddler milk, and emerging evidence suggests that toddler-milk marketing practices may mislead consumers. However, studies have not synthesized the extent of toddler-milk marketing practices or how these practices affect parents’ decisions about whether to serve toddler milk. This review aimed to summarize the literature about toddler milk to identify what is known about: (1) parents’ toddler-milk purchasing and feeding behaviors, (2) toddler-milk marketing, and (3) how marketing practices influence parents’ beliefs and perceptions about toddler milk. Five types of findings emerged: (1) consumption and feeding behaviors, (2) demographic correlates of toddler-milk purchasing and consumption, (3) misperceptions and beliefs, (4) increased sales, and (5) increased marketing and responses to marketing. The included articles suggested that toddler-milk sales are growing rapidly worldwide. Findings also revealed that toddler-milk packages (eg, labels, branding) resemble infant formula packages and that toddler-milk marketing practices may indirectly advertise infant formula. Purchasing, serving, and consumption of toddler milk were higher in Black and Hispanic populations than in non-Hispanic White populations, and parents with higher educational attainment and income were more likely to offer toddler milk to their children. Findings suggest a need for policies to prevent cross-marketing of toddler milk and infant formula, reduce provision of toddler milk to infants and toddlers, and prevent caregivers from being misled about toddler-milk healthfulness.

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