Natrel Baboo Toddler Milk Awakens my Inner Lactivist

I write about breastfeeding much less than I used to, probably because I’m not doing it anymore myself. Since my son Jacob weaned nearly a year ago, I don’t spend as much time thinking about it as when it was part of my daily reality. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve turned in my lactivist card. Occasionally, I still encounter something that makes my inner breastfeeding mama stand up and take notice. This happened to me recently when I was walking through my local grocery store, and I came across a new product on the shelves called Natrel Baboo.

Natrel Baboo is a dairy product that claims to be specifically designed for toddlers aged 12-24 months. It’s supposedly easier for toddlers to digest than cow’s milk. It’s sold in tetra paks and ultra high temperature pasteurized, so while it says that it contains fresh milk and no preservatives, it does not require refrigeration. The idea is that Natrel Baboo will somehow ease the weaning process for a toddler, helping them to transition more easily from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk. Right now it’s 30 cents off at the Thrifty Foods near my house, so … score?

Baboo from Natrel

Like I said, the product caught my eye, so I had to check it out more closely. Specifically, I wanted to see what was in this stuff, anyway. But before I got to the ingredients, I got to the marketing message on the back. This sentence extolling Natrel Baboo’s virtues caught my eye:

It is easy to digest because its milk protein closely matches breast milk.

Do you want to know how to irritate a lactivist? Claim that a product which lists “reconstituted ultrafiltered milk permeate” as the first ingredient closely matches breast milk. That really gets our goat. It’s simply not possible to manufacture something that closely matches breast milk. Formula companies do their very best to try, and I commend their efforts to ensure that babies who aren’t exclusively breastfed are receiving the best possible nutrition. But those same formula companies are excluded from making these sorts of claims under the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Natrel Baboo can get away with it, because it is intended for toddlers, who are not covered under the code.

A milk product I saw at the grocery store

There’s something else on the label that really raised my lactivist hackles, and it was this:

Important notice: Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding infants in the first six months of life and is recommended for as long as possible during infancy.

(The italics are mine.)

Natrel Baboo is sold here in Canada, but its makers seem to be unaware that the Canadian Pediatric society recommends that breastfeeding continue up to age two and beyond. That statement clearly implies that at some point during infancy breastfeeding is just going to become impossible. Or, failing that, it suggests that breastfeeding should not continue outside of infancy. I believe that it’s up to every mother and child to set their own breastfeeding schedule. This is not some sort of contest to see who can go on the longest. But many nursing pairs happily continue through toddlerhood, and even into the preschool years. That is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s better than fine – although it means fewer customers for Natrel Baboo, so it’s no surprise they’re not lauding the benefits of nursing during the second year of life, let alone the third or fourth.

Still, most toddlers aren’t breastfeeding here in North America. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that your toddler is already weaned, or never really got started with breastfeeding in the first place. Does that mean that Natrel Baboo is the superior choice? There’s simply no clear evidence to support that claim. Nutritionists and dieticians who worked with Natrel say it has added benefits over whole cow’s milk, but I read an article quoting at least one independent nutritionist who disagrees. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that toddlers who aren’t breastfeeding drink whole cow’s milk or follow-up formula from 12-18 months of age, and whole cow’s milk from 18-24 months of age. All of this seems to suggest that the product is likely unnecessary.

The big difference for Natrel Baboo is the cost – it’s quite a lot more expensive than whole cow’s milk. I’m calling marketing spin. I believe the company is trying to create a need where none exists. Frankly, that ticks my inner lactivist off big time.

Clearly, I’m not a fan of Natrel Baboo, although I do have to admit it comes in a very pretty package. I wonder what you think. Would you buy this for your kids? Why or why not?

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  1. Uh, no. No way no how would I buy this for my 16 month old. For one thing she has no problems digesting cow’s (or goat or almond or coconut or soy) milk. For another, she’s still breastfeeding twice a day. But mainly this just screams of a marketing scam preying on some kind of guilt ? maybe? Any product, especially food, that’s trying so blatantly to create demand where no supply is needed just plain ticks me off. NO THANK YOU!
    eva’s last post … Happy Birthday Emily!My Profile

  2. No way! I’m really tired of the obsession with feeding kids milk anyway. I’m still breastfeeding my toddler (just turned 19 months a few days ago) and I get quite a few odd looks from people. The daycare keeps hinting about her transitioning from pumped breastmilk to milk in a sippy cup, but she’s not a huge fan of milk and I don’t really understand why the cow’s milk is better than what I pump. Grrr….

    • I read that article – and the Urban Moms review, too. It honestly just confirmed my beliefs that it’s marketing spin, not necessity. If your family likes it, cool beans. My family consumes lots of foods simply because we enjoy them. But there’s no hard evidence that it’s actually better for your kids.

      It also grates on me that they’re marketing products to doctors. I realize this happens, but I’m not comfortable with the ethical implications. Ideally doctors shouldn’t be making recommendations based on spin, they should be making them based on research. In any case, in spite of what Natrel Baboo says, I wouldn’t see a product in the store and then call up my doctor to chat about it. I’m pretty sure that kind of thing would only annoy my doctor. Can you imagine? “Hey, Doc, so I saw this milk thing and some new yogurt with fancy probiotics and I heard about chia bread, what are your thoughts?” Maybe as someone who believes that she can make her own decisions, I’m not understanding the value I would get as a medical consumer receiving the thumbs-up from my doctor on Natrel Baboo.

  3. Not a chance I would buy this for my kids. It’s all marketing – playing on the fears and conscience of good mothers.

  4. Um, no. Even if I had a baby who, for whatever reason couldn’t nurse directly, or even drink pumped milk.. this is pure spin, and I could not support it.
    Katie B.’s last post … Letter to My Littles: December 2011/Year-End Wrap-UpMy Profile

  5. Not a chance would I buy this, however when I had my first child at 23 (way young) I was an inexperienced mother and did not have the confidence that I have now. I might just have believed in the marketing which is what they count on and that makes me mad. If you are able, breastfeeding is beautiful and healthy and should be encouraged and supported as long as possible. Confession……….I miss it.

  6. No, I wouldn’t buy it. Stephanie will nurse until she’s at least 2, like her siblings did… and after that she can wean when she’s ready. Her dad and Roland are lactose intolerant… her dad drinks goat’s milk which is easier to digest than cow’s milk, too. Roland doesn’t like goat’s milk, so he has soy milk… it’s a little too processed for my liking but he only has it on his cereal. My point is, there’s enough other options around that I probably won’t make cow’s milk a regular part of Stephanie’s diet, ever.

  7. Gross. This is fake food as far as I’m concerned. I’d take my chances with cow’s milk if my son wasn’t nursing, but I hate that less educated mothers might buy in to a product like this, especially in a cute little package. I yell at my TV when a product is compared to breast milk.

  8. Not a chance. Looks gross IMHO.
    We moved to Europe 8 months ago and EVERYONE talks about the need for toddler milk and formula. There are ads for it on tv and in magazines. The message is that your picky toddler isn’t getting what they need from the meals you serve them. Argh. So annoying.
    Of course, the breastfeeding rates on my little island are abysmal 🙁 I finally saw a few moms nursing in public. It was a LL league meeting!

  9. It’s the corporate way, spin, create some artificial product they endlessly seek to alter in unnatural ways. Breastfeeding is an individual call from the do to the length, but my gosh, I am so sick of what parents face when children start consuming products that come to us by way of corporations. We need purity laws for our food, in the same way Germany has a purity law for its beer and ale.
    nelle’s last post … vitamin waterMy Profile

  10. Nope. It’s opportunistic and sleazy. Both my kids self-weaned at a little after a year and went happily to milk (it was Eve’s main source of nutrition for a few months – her bones must have been like titanium).
    allison’s last post … Today is the day after Eve’s ninth birthdayMy Profile

  11. i dont plan on buying this though the idea of it being able to b ok out of the fridge both make me interested more in the product and wonder how good it actually is. as we travel to our home town 3hrs away to be able to bring this for the week or days we r there intrest me but i am leary on this product.

  12. It’s been a long time since my kids nursed and since then they’ve been drinking plain milk. I wouldn’t drink this myself or buy it for my child! It’s great to see so much awareness now about these bogus marketing claims. I’m so grateful that you wrote this article and that there is this grass roots mom and health focused approach to health. Marketing can be sneaky and it’s up to all of us to raise awareness.

  13. I saw that product recently and was totally grossed out. Actually, I was planning on writing about it- you beat me too it. 🙂 I didnt think about it at all from a Lactivist perspective- though you make some good points. I thought about it from the perspective that I hate it when companies market processed food as healthy and ‘natural’ when actually natural products exist out there that are way better. The marketing really bothered me- he name “natrel’… Uggh. Why would I feed my toddler fake food? Yuck!

    No, I would never buy that for my kid.
    Kathleen’s last post … Thoughts on Public EducationMy Profile

  14. After reading your post yesterday, I saw a TV ad for this product on Food Network Canada at the bank today – and thought what a nice ad, with sunlit windows and cute toddlers. Then at the end I realized that it was promoting the very same product you just wrote about on your blog. Very clever marketing, I must say.

    Nice ad or not, I have no need or intention to be purchasing this product.

  15. No, I would not buy this product, because it’s too new and I do not want to test it on my child. But I think it was made for someone like myself. My son is 14 month now and he is happily drinking 3.8% organic whole milk (10.25$ for 4 litres). He started refusing infant formula at 11 month and now he is in love with “real” dairy (any form and shape), but refuses vegetables… In any form and shape. Since he is my first child, and i am all paranoid that he misses out on all nutrients he could have received from breastmilk (he was formula fed since birth), I started looking into “nutritional supplement” formula (which is $20 a can). Well, it’s too sweet and all watery. He did not like it one bit, and I was sort of happy, because I’m already sick and tired from all the mess and stress involving safe handling, preparation and storage of formula. Now, there is Baboo – no mess, no stress, no mixing, water boiling/cooling, ect. Just pour 1 cup in a morning and world becomes bright and shiny.. I am sure my son would have loved it, especially for creamy taste, but I decided to

  16. I have been seeing TV ads for this crap all the damn time lately. My fear is that people will think that it is as good as breastmilk and maybe wean early (12m) and give their toddler this instead.
    Jen’s last post … Green Mommy GuiltMy Profile

  17. Anyone that thinks anything other than breastmilk is the best thing for a baby needs their head checked. I don’t think this product is claiming it’s better or telling mothers to feed this to their babies instead of breastmilk. I think that idea of having some kind of special milk for toddlers moving onto cows milk is a great idea. I mean just the fact that we drink cows milk in general is a little odd if you ask me. We are the only mammals that drink another mammals milk! And cows milk is known to be hard on our systems, especially a toddlers system. So if there is something out there that can help ease my little one onto cow’s milk I don’t see this as a bad thing. My only concern is that it is fairly new but I would think that Canada has very strict standards, especially when it comes to our childrens foods.

  18. I don’t like the underlying assumption that our toddlers need to be transitioned onto cow milk, like it’s a foregone conclusion that cow milk is a necessary and substantial part of one’s diet. When my son weaned he just drank more water and less breastmilk. He eats a varied diet, supplemented with D Drops, and is not missing out by not being served cupfuls of milk with each meal. Sure, he gets milk on his cereal, and he eats yogurt and cheese, but I just think this obsession in North America with giving kids copious quantities of milk with each meal is weird and unnecessary.

  19. I have to say I am upset by this product on many levels. One because nothing is close to breast milk. I will be nursing my daughter (who is now almost 10 months) until she is at least 2, if not longer. The real reason for my reaction to this product is that when I was a baby and was nursing, I called my mothers breast milk “baboos” (pronounced bay – boo). I am extremely curious to know where they got their name, as I think im probably not the only one that used this name…. hmm….

  20. Grant Smith says:

    Where do I begin… First off, pasteurized milk is terrible for everyone as it does not have the living enzymes required to aide digestion of lactose. Second, this stuff is shelf stable which indicates a high level of processing. Third, the product in question is being pushed by a heavy marketing campaign by a mega-corporation which has one interest, profit. Might as well feed little Ruteger some McNuggets and a glass of Baboo to wash it down. For crying out loud folks, how far gone are we?

    • Unpasteurized milk may also have harmful bacteria in it however, which may actually make your child seriously ill or possibly worse. Also UHT milk has been around for at least 25 years and is safe to drink and is shelf stable because of high heat not preservatives. I do agree that some nutritional content is lost in the heating of the milk but I believe that the benefits of pasteurization outweigh the risks, unless you milk your own cows and see every handling step.

  21. I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding as well. My son is 18 months and is still breastfeeding, but my milk supply has dropped. I still continue to nurse before naps and bedtime, but it’s obvious that there isn’t much milk anymore. He does not like formula, and has some milk intolerance. He is ok with the Natrel Lactose-Free, but it does not come in 3%. Dairyland lactose-free milk gives him diarrhea. Regular milk definitely gives him bloating, gas, diarrhea, and it used to make him throw up. Goat’s milk caused an even larger reaction.

    We decided to try this milk because the soy/rice/almond milk he’s been drinking has not been providing enough fats, and his weight has been suffering (very little weight gain in the last 6 months). Obviously every child will react differently, but this milk has been doing well for him. It’s causing a little bit of gas, but nothing that seems to bother him.

    We’ll probably try this for a few weeks to see how it goes. Most likely we will rotate the milk with other soy products. (We try not to overload him with any one food).

    The marketing of it is not great, but I don’t pay much attention to that stuff anyway and can make my own educated decisions!

  22. Great article! I agree with you. I’m a registered dietitian and just came across this in my practice. I don’t think I suppot this. It’s: A) unnecessary. Introduction of cheese and yogurt is encouraged at 9 months of age, thus there should be no problem digesting protein in cows milk at 12 months. Sometimes, the transition to cows milk has to happen at a slower pace. However, if a child is breastfeeding on demand every day, there isn’t even need for cows milk (ie they continue to receive calcium, protein, fat from breast milk). B) Baboo is also quite a bit lower in calcium and vitamin D compared to cows milk (and breast fed children remain on a vit D supplement anyway).

    Yup, I’m not “buying” it – literally and figuratively!

    Yours Truly,
    RD (BSc Nutr)

  23. I have to say that I was very leery about this product at first… but I love it! My son has never been willing to drink anything aside from breastmilk and the odd sip of water. In fact, up until he tried baboo, he wouldn’t even drink from a bottle at all! He has always been sensitive to dairy products so I thought i’d test it out for a few days and see how things went – no reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I still breast feed almost as much as I always have and plan to keep breastfeeding until he decides he is done. But this product has been a lifesaver for me! I finally am able to go out for more than a few hours without worrying that he will go hungry. Eventually I will switch it out for cows milk, but for now its really handy!

  24. Just to go against the grain, yes..I do buy this for my baby. I had to go back to work and am using it as a transition. She is 16 months and I’ve tried formula as a supplement and it tastes disgusting. The iron in it, in trying to find the benefits of using formula vs baboo and can’t seem to find a comparison.
    I’d like to use formula just because of the added vitamins..anyone with a suggestion of a formula that tastes better?
    I’ve tried good start stage 2??

  25. no harm what is the scam and why it is better then cows milk which is pupmed full of steriods and un natreal things

  26. Yes, I bought this to try for my ten month old son. I have never been able to pump more than an ounce per hour and I have to go back to work in two months. I want to breast feed as long as possible, but when I am away during the day, I worry about fluids, as he does not take water or diluted juices. He got terrible stomach pains from whole milk- if this product does what it claims, I would be so relieved, as I am not sure what else I would give him when I am away. I did not want to do formula. I think it depends on your situation. If this doesn’t work, I am going to try goat’s milk.

  27. Wow, do I feel bad for thinking about giving this product to my girl after reading this ! Thank you to everyone for posting in this thread but especially to those who admitted to using (and liking) the product. (I noticed no one wrote they had used it and didn’t like it. It would be interesting to hear from them.)
    I came across this blog and thread as I was doing research on this product. My friend bought the tetra paks when she babysat my girl and gave me the leftovers. My little one is 13 months old and self-weaning herself (unfortunately) from my breast. She also drinks formula. I have been trying to introduce cow’s milk to her but she doesn’t like the taste…the baboo however she drinks. While I totally agree that it’s a marketing thing, it’s a matter of taste for my daughter. I hope the use of this “transition milk” won’t last long (it IS expensive) and she will be drinking cow’s milk (or goat’s milk) within a few weeks or months at the latest.
    I would absolutely LOVE to keep breastfeeding her but nature and/or baby has other plans for us. She’s taken the baboo in her nightime bottle now for a couple of nights. We’ll try a bottle of cow’s milk tonight and see if she’ll take it.
    PS. We lived in the Caribbean for several months before my daughter was born and UHT milk has a very large presence in grocery stores there where refrigeration is not very reliable living on a boat. It was my sole source of calcium. So I have no worries about giving it to my daughter for a little while…besides, it’s not forever.

    • My point in writing this post was simply about how Natrel is marketing this product. I’m not in any way saying that you should not buy it, if it works for your family. I simply feel that Natrel should be up front about the fact that there’s no research that actually says the product is necessary or superior to other alternatives. I was taking aim at them as a company, engaged in what I feel are dubious marketing practices, not their customers. FYI, I sometimes buy their lactose-free half-and-half to make ice cream for my lactose intolerant husband.

      So, please don’t feel bad. Do what works for your family.

  28. Bought his for my 16 month old for our camping trip purely for convenience…It comes in great tetra packs that don’t need refridgeration , otherwise she is doing well on cow’s milk…

  29. I had free coupons for this and when my doctor said we should start our little guy on cows milk I thought maybe I would give this a shot, since it would be free. Once I noticed it was NOT in the coolers I grabbed a litre of homo milk and knew this product was not for my family!

  30. My wife had to go back to work so after a year of breastfeeding we haf to find an alternative turns out our son was lactose as well which was a another dilemma. Burning the skin on his bum diarrhea gas no fun. I too saw baboo and decided to give it a try. It worked great no problem and now my son is two and they have the 2+ dha milk which we switched him to with no problems. We seriously tried so many kinds of milk even lactose free milk and still Natrel baboo was the only milk yhe worked for us

  31. I just gave this too my 10 month old because he wasn’t interested in homo milk he wanted juice all the time after we gave him pedialite while he was sick so I just bought baboo and he loves it so might use it for a few weeks and try homo again … Wish me luck

  32. I too was skeptical at first, I have an 11 month old daughter who’s been strickly breastfeed. I am going away and have been trying to wean her so someone else can care for her. I’ve tried everything, milk, formula and nothing worked. She seemed to always break out in red hives. I decided to try this and she loved it, I’m glad I was able to find something she atleast liked and didn’t have a reaction to. I plan on continuing to breastfeed her nightly and like someone else mentioned I can barely pump 3 oz so to be able to save enough for the whole time I’ll be away would be hard to do, this will allow me to pump for her night feedings and have her drink Baboo during the day. This was a lifesavor for me. I will continue to do both until or if I can get her on regular milk later on. I believe everyone has their own stories and reasons and isn’t for everyone, I do appreciate the post. Thanks 🙂

  33. Yes because its the only milk my son would drink. Compared to the refrigerated cow’s milk, I must admit Natrel Baboo taste better.

  34. Probably tastes better because they put cherry juice in it.

  35. It’s a UHT dairy product and thus has a distinct taste and texture which even as a grown up adult I really like. Unfortunately because of idiots like Lianne Phillipson-Webb stupid comments this product has now been discontinued and vanisged off the store shelves like other shelf -safe dairy beverages.
    I wonder if she was waged to unleash her attack on this product because it was taking the market away from a rival company with which she clandestinely works.

  36. I think your a little offended for nothing. Who cares what they claim, its probably people like you who made them discontinue. My son would not take formula or cows milk. I wasn’t producing enough milk so I would mix this stuff with my breast milk and he drank it, it was a lifesaver. Sometimes gave it to him alone. He was very picky and it worked now I am having another son in April and will not have the option to mix it if needed. Thanks to people like you who can’t just leave some stuff alone.

    • I am sorry that they discontinued a product you enjoy, however I would like to point out that there’s no way my blog post impacted their decision about whether to sell it or not. Natrel, like all companies, makes their decisions based on whether or not people buy their products. In this case, the issue must have been that not enough people bought it. And my point has never been that people shouldn’t buy it – it’s that a company shouldn’t make false marketing claims.

      As for who cares what claims a company makes – the answer is the Government of Canada. They regulate the claims that companies may make about their products, including products like Natrel Baboo. Here’s what they have to say about nutrition for babies and toddlers aged 6-24 months:

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  1. […] in February I wrote about Natrel Baboo, a product that caused me rather a lot of aggravation one day in the grocery store. Right around […]

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