Alternative Milks for Toddlers

photo (34) Rooney is almost 1, and I've been thinking for months how we'll transition her off formula and onto other foods and liquids. I'm still not sure what we'll do.

To give you some background, Eric and I don't drink milk - partly because neither of us like the taste, and also because it doesn't feel quite right to us. When we need milk for recipes, we buy almond milk. But, we are not completely dairy-free -- we eat organic butter, cheese, and ice cream (on occasion).

Still, I know that my dietary needs are not the same as a 1-year-old. Roo's brain and body are still growing at an alarming rate! Of course, I want to make sure she's getting all the nutrients and vitamins she needs. Her health is very important to me, and I know her learning and development depends on what goes into her body.

I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends whole (vitamin D) cow's milk from year 1 to 2. But can I be honest with you and say that I don't always agree with everything the AAP recommends?

From what I can tell, cow's milk is recommended for a child's diet for fat, protein, vitamin D, calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

Did you know that almond milk has more calcium than cow's milk?

And one cup of avocado has more than 3x the fat as one cup of cow's milk?

So there are certainly ways we could get her these nutrients without using cow's milk. We're still undecided which way we'll go, but there are certainly LOTS of options:

  • Goat milk - Less allergenic, more like human body milk and easier to digest than cow's milk.
  • Almond milk - More calcium than cow's milk, but less protein and vitamin B12 than soy milk (although soy milk is not one we are considering).
  • Kefir - A great probiotic, if you can get past the smell.
  • Raw milk - Not sure where this can be purchased?
  • Hemp milk - I'm not even sure what this is, exactly...
  • Coconut milk - I've never had this myself, so it feels weird to offer it to my child.
  • Cow's milk - This is what the AAP recommends. If we go with this option, I will buy organic.

I'm sure there are more. I think there are formulas for toddlers, and of course, breast milk would still be ideal. I kind of wish I would have looked into donated breast milk a long time ago.

If we go with organic cow's milk, I think I will switch her at 18 or 24 months to something else. I suppose we don't actually need to choose one and stick to it. Based on what Roo prefers (taste-wise), we could always rotate through different milks to get different kinds of fats and vitamins in her diet.

Or, does she even need milk? Could we get by with water, smoothies, and juice (by juice I mean the real kind, which would require us purchasing a juicer) for drinks, and lots of avocado and egg in her diet?

I am clearly not an expert. I have so many questions and it has been tricky to find unbiased sources. Honestly, I think we are leaning toward goat milk...mostly because I can't find any information on why NOT to give it to kids, while there are lots of such negative opinions out there on cow's milk and almond milk.

What are your experiences with alternate milks for kids?