Hi Dr. Tanya,
I am wondering what type of milk to feed my 7 month old son when he turns 12 months. He is currently still on formula. My husband and I drink soymilk or almond milk, and prefer to feed the baby what we drink. Does he need cow’s milk, or can he get the same nutritional benefits from calcium enriched soy or almond milk?
Hi Toby. Thanks for your question. Parents often ask me what is the best milk for their toddler once they are done breast feeding or formula feeding, after age 1. I recommend that children over 1 year drink whole or 2% cow’s milk. After 2 years of age, non fat or 1% is recommended. Milk provides a powerful nutritional package of nine essential nutrients—calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins D, A, B12, riboflavin and niacin—that helps build strong bones and keep children healthy. For children who are allergic to cow’s milk or for vegan families looking for an alternative to cow’s milk, soy milk is an acceptable nutritional equivalent. Make sure to shake your soy milk well so such additives end up in the first cup of the carton as well as the last. Don’t forget that calcium can also be found dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, chickpeas, and calcium-fortified products, although it can be tough to get enough Calcium and Vitamin D from foods alone. Almond milk, rice milk and other milk alternatives may be fine for older kids or adults who want a milk substitute for cereal or coffee. However, they do not contain enough protein for a growing toddler. Almond and rice milk usually have only 1 gram of protein per serving compared with 9 grams per serving in cow milk or soy milk. It is also important to make sure that such milk equivalents are fortified with the same calcium and Vitamin D as cow’s milk.