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As per the ‘old-school’ way of parenting, giving cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk to toddlers is common, especially in India. Whenever a mother decides to wean her baby off breast milk, she is usually suggested to introduce cow’s milk as the main drink to her toddler, and for good reasons, of course. Milk is known to strengthen the bones and teeth in children and is a very nutritious drink. But many new parents today consider giving milk alternatives to their kids for various reasons. And medical reasons might make milk alternatives necessary, however, the worry of balanced nutrition is pretty real in parents’ minds. Not every milk alternative can provide the same nutrition that a child can get from cow’s milk, but if you have to give milk alternatives to your child for one reason or the other, find out what milk alternatives would be the best.
When to Give Milk Alternatives to Your Child
Doctors usually suggest milk alternatives for toddlers with allergies or lactose intolerance. Kids who are allergic to milk proteins or are lactose intolerant may have trouble synthesizing the nutrition present in the milk, and can even face various side effects. In these cases, parents may have no choice but to give milk alternatives to their toddlers.
Best Milk Alternatives for Toddlers
Today, you will find a range of options in milk alternatives to choose from and it can be difficult for you to decide which would be the best for your child. Each alternative has some benefits to offer over traditional milk, but they are not a complete solution and might fall short in different ways. We have suggested some milk alternatives for toddlers (with their pros and cons to help you make an informed choice), which you can consider after checking with your child’s paediatrician.
1. Rice Milk
This type of milk is a popular milk that is derived from the grains of rice.
For children who suffer from numerous allergies and are susceptible to reactions from different types of milk, rice milk is the safest option in that regard. There are extremely rare chances of any child developing any allergy towards rice milk. Furthermore, the majorly neutral taste that it has allows it to be used in various preparation as well.
Rice milk doesn’t have any particular taste as such and hence kids may throw tantrums when rice milk is offered to them. At the same time, when compared with the same quantities of other milk alternatives, rice milk has a far larger amount of carbohydrates but quite a low amount of fat and proteins.
2. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is a popular option in India. Coconut milk is acquired from grating and pulping a matured coconuts.
Coconut milk is a great choice for kids who suffer from traditional milk allergies. This creamy milk is rich in calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
While coconut milk is rich in fats and other vitamins, the proportion of proteins and calcium in its constitution is not as much as it should be, when compared with the traditional milk. This can put kids at a risk of deficiency, which makes it necessary to complement the intake of coconut milk with other sources that provide the missing elements.
3. Almond Milk
The ease of preparation of almond milk is the greatest advantage it brings. If you want to give it to your child, you should give homemade almond milk.
Since the only source of nutrition in this milk is from almonds, there is a huge gap when it comes to satisfying the daily requirement of proteins and even saturated fats. While many commercial milk brands fortify their products with these elements, it becomes essential to complement them via other sources in the child’s diet.
4. Soy Milk
Soy milk is one of the highest-selling and popular alternatives to traditional milk. Soybeans are soaked and ground together, then boiled and filtered to obtain the milk.
The popularity of this milk has made it the go-to choice for many people, and its ease of availability makes it easy to give it to your child at any point in time. The constitution of this milk is quite close to that of the traditional milk from the cow, which is why many families opt for using this milk in other preparation items as well.
Soy allergies are not unheard of, and if your child suffers from it as well, this milk will obviously be a bad choice. Although many brands fortify their soy milk products with calcium and Vitamin D, the amount of fortification may not be enough for your kid. Checking the value on the label should help you ascertain what’s right for your child.
5. Lactose-Free Milk
By introducing an enzyme in traditional milk that helps break down that protein, lactose-free milk is obtained easily.
There is barely any difference between cow’s milk and the lactose-free equivalent of it. The nutritional constitution is identical, and the taste is usually a tad sweeter than the original.
Many commercial brands market their milk products as “lactose-free” but make use of plant-based sources or other elements for the actual milk. Furthermore, this milk is not useful for children who are allergic to other elements present in the milk or are lactose-intolerant.
How to Decide Which Is the Best Milk Alternative for Toddlers
When deciding the right type of milk alternative for your little one, here are some factors you should keep in your mind.
- The nutritional requirement based on his age
- The typical diet of the child
- Financial choice of opting for fortified milk
Choosing among different milk alternatives for babies or toddlers should be governed by the very reason why you are opting for one. It is best to go with a choice that is as close as possible to the cow’s milk. The best option would be consulting a nutritionist or doctor for the same and making the right choice for your child.
Also Read: How to Make your Child Drink Milk?