Does My Toddler NEED Cow’s Milk?

does my toddler need cows milk via

Does my toddler NEED milk??

Many parents are asking this question so I thought what better time to post information about this topic. Your baby is turning one and you may be thinking it’s time to transition him to Cows Milk because that’s what “you do” when they turn one. Well I am here to tell you that from what I learned as an integrative health coach and after reading many articles and also taking a look at the nutrition information of Cow’s milk, I have come to this conclusion: No, your toddler does not NEED milk, however Cow’s milk is really just a convenient source of calcium, protein, fats, and vitamin D.

Some kids are sensitive to dairy or don’t like it and some people just don’t want to include dairy in their diet for various reasons. So I decided to take a look at some alternatives. I have compared a few popular types of milk using popular brands that you find at the grocery store as well as a goats milk and I even included some info for those who don’t want to do ANY kind of milk and would rather get their nutrients through foods. If you are nursing and want to continue to nurse you may continue that as well and not offer any kind of milk ( I did that with my first son until 23 months) and will likely do the same with my second. If you would like to wean your child off of breastmilk or formula at age one and offer some kind of milk or milk subsitute that is your choice as well. As with most things out there, there will be pros and cons to each of these milks (I won’t go into all that here, but definitely dig into some of the links below and do your own research). Hopefully this article can help you figure out what will be best for YOUR family.

*Please Note: I am not promoting the brands I used for comparison. These were just used as a base for comparison due to them being readily available and popular at the market. These are the ones I used: Organic Horizon whole milk with omega 3, Blue Diamond Original almond milk and So Delicious Unsweetened coconut milk,  Rice Dream Rice Milk (4 popular  brands found at many stores), and then I found info for Summerhill goats milk (found at trader joes) to compare as well.

This is what I found:

If you are looking for a convenient way to get all of those into your toddler then Cow’s Milk would be your choice. However with all the dairy allergies and sensitivities out there as well as a myriad of other issues concerning cows milk it may not be the best choice for your family. You can look into goats milk, alternative  milks and even think about excluding all “milks” as well.  If you are vegan, dairy sensitive or just want to go completely dairy free then choose your favorite non dairy milk and supplement with real whole foods to get the needed nutrients your body needs. You can also choose not to do ANY of the milks and get nutrients through real whole foods as well. There are options for everyone. There are suggestions below. You do not have to drink Cows milk just because it is what the government recommends, but you can consume it if you like it and do fine with it! The best advice I can give you is listen to YOUR body! And look for signs from your toddler that the milk he or she is ingesting (or any food for that matter) is actually working well for their body.

Signs you or your toddler are sensitive to dairy:

1. Tummy troubles.

Digestive upset is one of the most obvious signs that your child has a food sensitivity. Many babies and kids experience digestive symptoms, but this doesn’t mean it’s “normal.” Tummy aches, gassiness, constipation, and diarrhea can all be signs that your child has a food sensitivity, and doing a trial run of a dairy-free diet can give you some important insight into whether this may be the cause.

2. Eczema.

This dry, itchy rash is common in babies and children, and is caused by an underlying immune system dysfunction. Cow’s dairy is the most common food allergen for children who suffer from eczema, and removing dairy from your child’s diet can dramatically reduce the severity of the rash, and sometimes even clear up completely.

3. Asthma.

Asthma has the same underlying dysfunction as eczema. Dairy is mucus-forming, and the increased mucus production can contribute to the inflammation and mucus already present in kids with asthma. The additional inflammation and mucus may block airways even more, and worsen the symptoms of asthma.

4. Snotty nose.

It’s completely normal, and even healthy for kids to get the occasional cold. But when your child constantly has a snotty nose, even when they’re not sick, you should start to think about why. Since dairy is very mucus-forming, this can be a telling sign that your child has a dairy sensitivity. Reducing or eliminating dairy can therefore help clear up the stuffiness.

Food sensitivities aren’t always the cause of these health conditions, but they can be a huge contributing factor, and addressing them can make your child feel a whole lot better. It’s also important to remember that every child is different, so not all kids with these symptoms have a dairy sensitivity, and not all kids with a dairy sensitivity have these common symptoms, but it can be a good place to start.

Seek the help of a registered health professional like a naturopathic doctor,  integrative nutrition health coach, dietician, or nutritionist if you need guidance on removing dairy, or are looking for other strategies to help address these concerns.


On a side note: You can try Raw Milk, which is unpasteurized milk straight from the source. They say even those who are lactose intolerant may do well with raw milk. You can purchase Raw Cows Milk or Raw Goats Milk from your local farmer or specialty foods store or health foods market. A lot of people worry about raw milk, but if you get it from a reliable source it is safe and delicious and even many say superior to the pasteurized milks sold today. Read more about raw milk and find out where you can get some here. And read this great article written by Food Renegade as to what kind of milk you should buy.

Comparing The Milks:

Fats: (Total Fat)

Whole Milk contains 8g

Almond Milk contains 3.5g

Coconut Milk contains 4g

Rice Milk contains 2.5g

Goat Milk 10g


Whole Milk contains 8g

Almond milk contains 1g

Coconut milk contains 0g

Rice Milk contains 1g

Goat Milk contains 9g


Whole Milk 30%

Almond Milk contains 30%

Coconut Milk contains 10%

Rice Milk contains 30%

Goat Milk 35%

Vitamin D:

Whole Milk 30%

Almond milk contains 30%

Coconut milk contains 10%

Rice Milk contains 25%

Goat Milk 0% (Unless fortified)

As I compared the milks here is what I found:

As you can see the cows milk has the convenience factor going on as far as the nutrients go. Goats milk has just as great of nutrients and vitamins as cow’s milk and many dairy sensitive individuals are able to drink it! A key component missing in Goat Milk is Vitamin D (unless it is fortified) so be sure to get that through plenty of sunshine, food, or supplement. Almond and Rice milk are missing the protein and fat. Coconut milk is missing most of it. This is based purely on convenience of the nutrients calcium, protein, fats, and vitamin D, not any other factors. But surely you can get these nutrients in real whole foods as well and don’t “need” to drink any of these milks! In fact, you may be able to better absorb certain nutrients by eating other foods. Did you know that  drinking cows milk can inhibit iron absorption and cause anemia?  See below for some suggestions on real food sources of these nutrients.

Non Dairy Food Sources

  • Good non-dairy sources of protein include organic pasture raised meats, fish (preferably wild-caught), peas & beans (chick peas, lentils, baked beans, etc.), boiled eggs, nut butters such as almond, sunflower etc. (if your child is not allergic).
  • Good non-dairy sources of fats include coconut oil, grass fed butter, olive oil, ghee, flax seed and flax seed oil, walnuts, fish and fish oils, avocado. Adding fats to cooking and baking can work well.
  • Calcium may be derived from many nondairy sources such as white beans, bok choy, almonds, kale, canned salmon, sardines, dried figs, blackstrap molasses, black eyed peas, oranges, turnip greens, sesame seeds, seaweed.
  • Vitamin D can be supplied by sunlight exposure and food sources such as sardines, egg yolk, shitake and button mushrooms, Mackerel , salmon or a supplement. such as cod liver oil or vitamin D3  Source

Important to note: If your child is not nursing regularly and is not allergic to cow’s milk products and you know is not sensitive to dairy, but simply doesn’t like the taste of cow’s milk, you can incorporate milk or other forms of dairy into your child’s diet in other ways. Many children like raw cheese or whole-fat unsweetened yogurt. It does NOT have to come strictly from drinking milk. And in fact some of these other forms such as yogurt, raw cheese, goats cheese, etc are easier to digest then drinking it. You can also put milk (any kind) into various food products: pancakes, waffles, muffins, French toast, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and baked goods if you’d like, but again not absolutely necessary. And it’s important that you don’t overdo it in the dairy category either.

Whatever milk you decide I feel it is important if you purchase Cows milk to purchase at the very minimum Organic. Even better if it is Grassfed and raw or non-homogenized.  Purchasing USDA Organic certifies that cows are not given the synthetic hormone known as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, also known as BGH, recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST). rBGH makes these cows more sickly, causing mastitis (inflammation of the udders, often caused by infection). And it’s not just cows that are getting sick: rBGH has also been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. The additive has been banned in Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the entire European Union — many are calling for a U.S. ban on rBGH, too.

But hormones aren’t the only problem with regular milk: the overuse of antibiotics is rampant among dairy farmers, just like it is on most factory farms. These antibiotics are given routinely to cattle (and many other livestock) and the drugs show up in the milk the cows produce. Pesticides, too, are also present in the feed of dairy cattle, and these too can show up in milk. Organic milk, however, has none of these ingredients, since their use is forbidden in USDA-certified dairy cows, who can only eat certified organic feed.

It is also best to purchase your milk without the ingredient Carrageenan. This is a controversial ingredient that according to the Cornucopia Institute causes “gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors”. It can also cause cancer. You can read more about that here.

The Cornucopia Institute publishes a scorecard on organic milk brands that may be helpful for parents looking to buy organic milk.


**Homemade Milks**

Another excellent option if you would rather ditch the dairy is to make homemade milks. Here are three awesome homemade recipes you can make for your child!

Whatever milk you decide this is good advice: 
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) toddlers should drink no more then 16 to 20 ounces (2 to 2 1/2 cups) of cow’s milk a day.  offer whole milk. Your child needs the fat in his diet! And speak to your doctor about when to start transitioning. It is recommended to not transition your baby to any of these milks as a “drink” until at least a year old.  There are rare cases I have heard of transitioning at 11 months but it’s not recommended. If you are nursing you don’t have to do any of these milks, but you can incorporate them into their diet if you’d like! Speak to your pediatrician or naturopath to find out what is best for your baby. Don’t offer more than 16-20oz of milk (any kind) a day or your child may not have room for the other foods she needs to round out her diet. And in turn can become anemic or deficient in other areas. If your toddler’s still thirsty, offer water. Water us very important in your toddlers diet as well after you wean. Just keep a sippy cup near by and let offer it at meal time. Assuming your child will be drinking 16-20oz of “milk” per day, an average 1-year-old needs to drink roughly 11 to 24 ounces of water per day. No juice. Again, that is one of those unnecessary drinks that fills their small tummies up and doesn’t offer up much in return except lots of sugar and empty calories. Fresh squeezed fruit juices and smoothies are the exception here because that is just real food blended up!

If you are a nursing mom and your baby is super fussy and has tummy issues read this post here about going dairy free for your breastfed baby.

Do you use milk? What kind of milk do you use?

**I will update this post as I find great articles and info to share**

Resources and other great reads:

Great Read: The Untold Story of Milk: Green Pastures, Contented Cows and Raw Dairy Products

Another Great Vitamin D article

Milk Nutrition Info:

Cows Milk:
Almond Milk:
Coconut Milk: Milk:

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