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Alternative Milk For Babies And Toddlers: Why Dietitians Do Not Recommend Them

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Alternative milks, including plant-based milks such as almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or rice milk, are generally not recommended as the primary source of nutrition for babies or toddlers.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. Nutritional Composition: Alternative milks, especially homemade versions, may lack essential nutrients that are crucial for the growth and development of babies and toddlers. These milks often have lower protein content compared to cow’s milk or infant formula, which is important for muscle and tissue development.

  2. Lack of Essential Nutrients: Cow’s milk and infant formula are specifically formulated to provide a wide range of essential nutrients for babies and toddlers, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Alternative milks, on the other hand, may not naturally contain these nutrients or have them in adequate amounts. This can result in nutrient deficiencies and hinder proper growth and development.

  3. Potential Allergies or Sensitivities: Babies and toddlers may be more prone to allergies or sensitivities to certain plant-based milks, such as soy or almond milk. These allergies can cause digestive issues, skin rashes, or respiratory problems. It is important to consult with a pediatrician before introducing any alternative milk to a baby or toddler with a history of allergies.
  4. Inadequate Caloric Intake: Babies and toddlers have higher energy needs compared to adults due to their rapid growth. Cow’s milk and infant formula are higher in calories compared to most alternative milks, which can help meet these energy requirements.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding as the ideal source of nutrition for infants up to 1 year of age. For babies who are not breastfed, commercial infant formulas are recommended. After 1 year of age, whole cow’s milk is generally recommended as the main source of milk for toddlers, unless there are specific dietary restrictions or concerns identified by a healthcare professional.

It is important to consult with a registered dietitian for personalized guidance on the appropriate milk or milk alternatives for babies and toddlers.

References & related articles to read:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). Choosing a Milk Substitute for Lactose Intolerance. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choosing-a-Milk-Substitute-for-Your-Lactose-Intolerant-Child.aspx
  • Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. (2016). Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(12), 1970-1980.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020). Feeding and Nutrition: Milk and Milk Alternatives. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/foods-and-drinks/milk.html
  • Kummer, S., & Thielecke, F. (2017). Dairy Products in Infant Nutrition: Where Do We Stand? Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 70(Suppl. 3), 14-23.
  • Norris, J., & Messina, V. (2011). Vegetarian Nutrition for Infants. The Pediatric Clinics of North America, 58(1), 99-111.
  • Vandenplas, Y., De Greef, E., Devreker, T., Veereman-Wauters, G., & Hauser, B. (2019). Dietary Transition in Young Children and the Role of Milk and Other Dairy Products. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 90, 77-85.

These references provide insights into the nutritional considerations and recommendations regarding milk and milk alternatives for infants and young children

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