Is it safe for babies to be fed soy infant formula?
If a baby cannot be breast-fed and has an allergy or intolerance to cows milk, there are formulae available for cows milk protein intolerance and for lactose intolerance.
Where a vegetarian formula is required, a soy-based infant formula may be used.
Questions are being asked about the high levels of the plant 'oestrogens', known as phytoestrogens, being consumed by babies drinking soy formulae.
Unlike adults, for whom soy is a small part of the diet, infant formulae represents either all or a substantial part of the diet for the first year of life.
While isolated cases of goitre have been reported (quickly resolved when the infant stops taking the formula), there is no clear scientific evidence that soy formula has an adverse effect on infants, and infants using soy-based formulae have normal growth and development.
However, caution is the watchword. For now, the Ministry of Health recommends parents only use soy-based infant formula under the direction of their doctor or health practitioner.