Children and Milk

When you have a child, you think back on how things might, or might not be, different.  And when it comes to giving your child milk, it’s something that is both the same and different.  How can that be?

How is it the same?  Things haven’t changed in the years since you were a child in that children under the age of one year should not be given cow’s milk, or soy milk for that matter.  Babies, those under one year of age, require the nutrients that are found in breast milk or formula, if the child isn’t nursing.  Not only that, but the child’s stomach and intestines aren’t sufficiently developed to handle the digestion of these products and it can lead to significant distress for the infant.  The rule of thumb is that a child should be able to drink and digest regular milk after reaching the first birthday.  Remember  however, that you have to still take care and monitor how your child does with the new food to assure that there’s no allergy.

And how is it different?  First, there are now alternatives to regular cow’s milk, specifically soymilk and almond milk.  Neither soy nor almond milks have lactose, which is a sugar in cow’s milk that can cause real intestinal distress for a child, let alone an adult.  Each of these alternatives has its own nutritional profile and some might decide that it’s better than cow’s milk.  The flip side is that soy and almond milks don’t have the calcium content of regular milk and calcium is important for a growing child.

If you do decide to feed your child regular milk, the second difference is the question of whole milk versus lowfat or skim milk.  Most are unaware that toddlers do need the extra fat content of whole milk until two or three years of age in order to assist with additional development of the body and brain; this need diminishes after that time and it can be replaced with a lower fat content milk.  The reality is that many children receive a high fat diet and the whole milk fat content then only adds calories from fat with no added benefit to the older toddler.

If you take anything away from this, it’s the simple notion that your infant doesn’t get regular milk.  Because it’s a mistake that you don’t want to make.

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