This article briefly covers the topic of milk for babies and toddlers, and is based on current dietary guidelines within Australia. Babies and toddlers are experiencing rapid periods of growth in the first two years of life, hence the specific guidelines.
Before sharing the information I want to briefly share that I've been a mum who HAD to explore alternatives to cow's milk after breastfeeding due to one of my children having cow's milk protein intolerance (CMPI). While we were able to successfully reintroduce dairy to their diet (from 3 years old), I wholeheartedly understand how confusing and stressful it can be to navigate at the beginning. I hope the following information supports you to feel confident at meal times AND confident to reach out for support when needed.
FOR BABIES UNDER 12 MONTHS
Breastmilk and/or formula are the only suitable milk options and are the primary source of nutrition. There are special hypoallergenic formulas suitable for infants through to 2 years who are not breastfed and can not tolerate cow’s milk formula. Some need to be prescribed and a doctor or dietician should be consulted.
Dairy products can be introduced via food in small amounts (for example, small amounts of ghee, butter, yogurt, cheese and cow's milk within meals). Current allergy recommendations are to introduce allergens (including dairy) before 12 months.
FROM 1-2 YEARS OLD
Breastfeeding can continue for as long as a mother and child feel comfortable.
Most nutritional guidelines recommend transitioning to cow’s milk if/when you no longer wish to breastfeed. Formula fed babes may transition to cow’s milk from 12 months or continue to consume formula (capped at 500ml per day to ensure other nutrients via food are consumed). Full fat dairy should be used until 2 years of age.
This is also an ideal time to begin the transition from bottle to cup.
A dairy free diet may be necessary for some children, for example in cases of confirmed allergies, intolerances or religious reasons. It is important to seek guidance from a professional if you are reducing or eliminating any of the key nutrients from your child’s diet, especially for babies and toddlers. This is because there are key nutrients provided by each recommended food group that you will need to get elsewhere. A nutritionist or dietician can support you by conducting a dietary analysis and provide ideas to make sure your little one continues to meet their nutrient requirements.
If not cow's milk, what else?
From 12 months there are a few more options:
- Breastfeeding can continue for as long as a mother and child feel comfortable.
- Special hypoallergenic formula may be continued (under medical guidance).
- Fortified soy milk may be offered. Calcium should be 120mg/100ml.
- Fortified rice milk (or alternatives including oat, pea etc) may be offered under the supervision of your child’s doctor, nutritionist or dietician. This is because they are usually low in energy, protein and other nutrients. They should be full fat and fortified with calcium, with protein and B12 provided via other sources.
- 'Dairy and/or their alternatives' can be provided via meals/snacks. This can be really comforting to know if your child refuses to transition to cow’s milk (like my first born did!). In this instance the aim is to provide the recommended servings of ‘dairy and/or their alternatives’ each day, based on the child's age. So for example, if your toddler is having yogurt and a slice of cheese OR a cup of fortified soy milk in cereal and fortified soy yogurt each day, then they are likely meeting their requirements. If you choose this option it is important that you regularly review your child’s diet with a nutritionist or dietician to ensure nutrients are adequate.
FROM 2 YEARS OLD
It’s important to continue to aim to meet the recommended servings of ‘dairy or alternatives’ per day, whether you continue to offer breastmilk, milk in a cup or you focus on dairy and/or their alternatives via food (meals and snacks). The recommended servings for children aged 1-6 years are listed out in our updated Meal Time Success programs.
HOW TO SEEK SUPPORT
If you are navigating an allergy, intolerance or require assistance on this topic, please seek support from a nutritionist, dietician or paediatrician with sound food knowledge. If you are unsure of the support available in your local area you can speak to your GP who will be able to refer you to the appropriate professional. Seeking support and/or guidance, even if you feel confident in this area, ensures you are not missing any key nutrients and removes any 'second-guessing'.
If you need to reach out to our HNK nutritionist for a nutritional analysis please email via support@hernourishedkids - please note this is not a suitable option for diagnosed medical conditions.
This article is for inspiration and educational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or dietician first before making any changes to your or your child’s diet or physical activity. The ideas, information and suggestions in this guide are purely those of the author and are not substitutes for consulting with your personal health care provider. The author will not accept responsibility for any action, or claim, resulting from the use of information contained in this guide. We are all unique, what may work for one individual may not for another. Consulting with an expert can help you customise recommendations. If you are worried about your child’s nutritional intake, health or wellbeing please consult with your chosen health care provider.