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Introducing milk to your child’s diet… here’s everything you need to know!



If you’re ready to ditch the breast pump or pricey formula, you’re right on schedule. But the question is, how much and which kind of milk for toddlers should you choose?


How much milk does my toddler need?


Toddlers need at least 1 ½ serves of dairy foods per day for good nutrition.  A serve of dairy is equal to:

  • 1 cup (250mls) of milk or calcium-fortified soy milk
  • 200g of yoghurt or custard
  • 2 slices (40g) of cheese


Monitor the milk intake, too much milk can fill them up and make them less hungry for food. This can make meal times difficult. It can also mean that toddlers miss out on important nutrients such as iron.


The right milk for your child


When we were growing up, milk was ‘milk’. Today the dairy section of any supermarket is layered with – regular milk, organic milk, low-fat or skim milk, A2, lactose-free, omega-3 boosted, calcium and vitamin D boosted, or do you go dairy free and opt for soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk or even quinoa milk.Sure it’s confusing!


To try to help, let us talk you through each of these types of milk. For further advice speak with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can give you specific advice for your child.



Regular full cream milk 


This is milk that has only been pasteurised (to kill most of the bacteria present. There are a few microbes that can survive the pasteurisation process) and homogenised (to disperse the fat globules throughout the milk for smooth consistency and to stop the milk from separating).


Full cream milk is recommended for children from 12 months until at least 2 years.Young children need the extra kilojoules found in whole milk and the fat carries nutrients including vitamins A and D. If your child eats cheese regularly s/he is getting these nutrients in a more concentrated form there. So for most kids from age 2, you can use a lower fat milk if that’s what the rest of the family are using.


Light/lite/low fat milk


These are milks with about half of the cream removed before homogenization. While this reduces the kilojoules but you still get all of the protein and calcium. Actually, a little more calcium as once the cream is removed more of the other milk components are present. You do, however, lose the fat-soluble nutrients, so you need to ensure your child is getting them elsewhere if you choose this milk.


Skim milk


Skim Milk is a little lower on energy (about half that of full cream milk) but still delivers all of the protein and calcium. It’s just the same as us skimming the cream off the top as kids. It also has a very different taste to full cream which some kids might prefer and vice versa. If your child is overweight or is a great eater and has many other sources of healthy fat and fat-soluble nutrients, then skim milk is an option to consider from age 5.


In case you child is lactose intolerant, here are five milk alternatives that check off all the boxes and taste great:



Lactose-Free Milk

Lactose-free milk contains an enzyme that the body lacks to help breakdown the lactose in milk.If your child is lactose intolerant and doesn’t have an allergy to milk protein, lactose-free milk may be the best solution. This type of milk is almost indistinguishable from “regular” milk and contains the same amount of fat, protein, carbohydrate and calorie content.


Soy Milk


Soy milk’s nutrition profile closely resembles that of cow’s milk. Most brands also fortify their milk with calcium and vitamin D, making it an excellent alternative to regular milk.


Almond Milk


Recently, almond milk has become a very popular alternative to milk. It’s creamy, tasty and low in calories. However, almond milk is lower in protein and saturated fat than cow’s milk. Just like soy milk, most brands are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.


Coconut Milk


Rich and creamy, coconut milk contains 30 percent of your daily value of vitamin D and 50 percent of your daily value of vitamin B12. It also provides as much saturated fat as whole cow’s milk (which is important for children under 2). However, it doesn’t quite hit the mark as far as calcium or protein per cup, so these nutrients will have to be made up in other areas of the diet.


Rice Milk


This option has a neutral taste, but it’s higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat than milk. The one benefit of rice milk is that it’s very non-allergenic. If your child has a lot of dietary allergies, this can be an acceptable alternative.


*For the most part, you can use these alternatives the same way you would use regular milk. You can drink them straight, pour them over cereal or add them to smoothies.


The right milk for your child

Milk contains several important nutrients;

  • Fat: Fat is essential for many functions in the body including but not limited to storage and provision of energy, production of hormones, protection, warmth and provision of fat soluble vitamins.
  • Carbohydrates: They provide the body with energy required for most functions. The form of carbohydrate present in milk is called lactose.
  • Protein: They have an active role in building immunity by creating antibodies, and conducting bodily processes, which culminate in building and repair of all tissues. It helps strengthen muscles and bones.
  • Vitamin A: Strengthens eye muscles and vision, helps in tooth and bone development and maintaining healthy skin. It keeps deficiency diseases like night blindness at bay.
  • Vitamin B12: Helps in the normal functioning of brain and nervous system, formation of red blood cells. Also helps in maintaining a healthy heart, curing sleeping disorders, diabetes and mental disorders.
  • Vitamin B6: Contributes in the formation of red blood cells, metabolism of carbohydrates, healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system, and liver detoxification.
  • Riboflavin (B2): Helps in iron absorption thereby keeping anemia at bay. Also helps in recycling body’s own antioxidants, which eliminate free radicals from the body.Learn to know more about antioxidant rich foods.
  • Niacin (B3): Maintains heart health, lowers bad cholesterol; also helps keep the nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes healthy.
  • Thiamine (B1): Helps in maintaining digestive health.
  • Vitamin K: It helps in clotting of blood.
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): Strengthens bones and joints, helps in maintaining heart health. Also helps in smooth brain function by helping in the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Folate: Prevents anaemia and helps in development of a healthy foetus.
  • Vitamin D: Improves absorption of calcium by the body. It regulates minerals like calcium and phosphorous in the body and prevents autoimmune diseases. Also helps in maintaining normal blood pressure and heart health.
  • Calcium: Helps in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and healthy teeth.
  • Magnesium: It aids in bone and teeth health, conversion of food into energy and tissue formation.
  • Phosphorus: Strengthens bones and keeps teeth healthy. It improves kidney health as well.
  • Potassium: Aids in maintenance of proper blood pressure and ensures a healthy heart.
  • Zinc: Helps in building immunity in the body, growth and repair of cells, wound healing, metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Selenium: It helps in normal functioning of the thyroid gland, also factors in the correct functioning of the immune system, due to its antioxidant effect.
  • Choline: It is an important nutrient, which helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.


Yes there will be happy milk drinking days and days where getting the little one to drink one glass full of milk can become a hair pulling activity,don’t fret.And don’t force. Think of some interesting ways of making milk time fun – Coloured straws, add in a dash of drinking chocolate,get you hands on some cool milk drinking glasses or add in a dash of their favourite fruit.It’s sure to get them asking for more!