Milk provides important nutrients for a child’s healthy growth and development so it’s important to know about the different types available . Limit cow's milk and its alternatives to no more than 3 cups (750 mL) per day for children 9 to 24 months old.
How they compare
• Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs for the first 6 months. It has the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals for growing babies and contains antibodies that help protect babies against infections. It’s the easiest milk for baby to digest and changes as baby grows to meet their needs. Breastmilk can continue to be offered until age 2 years and beyond along with complementary foods started at about 6 months of age. Give babies and toddlers a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day if exclusively or partially breastfed. Store-bought infant formula is the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk prior to 9 months.
• Pasteurized cow’s milk is a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin D (which is added in by law). It can vary by fat content from skim or fat-free up to 3.25% fat. At 9-12 months, if baby is eating iron-rich foods, pasteurized whole (3.25%) cow’s milk can be offered in an open cup. Lower fat milk can be given to children over age two years. Choose unsweetened milk over flavoured milks to avoid added sugar.
• Pasteurized goat’s milk is also a great source of protein and calcium and an acceptable alternative to cow’s milk when it is not tolerated. Offer pasteurized whole goat milk if it is fortified with vitamin D and folic acid.
• Fortified soy beverage is another good source of protein and has added calcium, vitamin D and sometimes vitamin B12 for children over 2 years of age. Choose unsweetened varieties to avoid added sugar.
• Grain, nut and seed beverages like almond, cashew, hemp, coconut, oat and rice are low in protein compared to milk and have varying levels of other added vitamins and minerals like calcium. They are not recommended for young children as they do not provide sufficient nutrition and research shows they can have a negative impact on the growth and health of children.
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