Rice Milk for Babies and Toddlers – Is It a Healthier Alternative?
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Many mothers wonder if there is a good alternative to the formula that can be given to their babies. Some children find cow’s milk indigestible. Certain other children are allergic to cow’s milk. In such cases, mothers struggle with what to mix into their baby’s morning cereal or what to give them with their evening snack. Some parents make do with almond or soy milk, but there are still others who could be allergic to nuts and soy. In this article, we discuss rice milk as a vegan, lactose-free option for your children. Read on to understand about rice milk for babies and toddlers, and benefits and risks associated with it.
What Is Rice Milk?
Rice milk is made from grains of rice. It is obtained by running rice through a mill and then using diffusion to remove the granules after pressing. The other option is to use rice flour with protein from brown rice. Rice milk has a naturally sweet taste that comes from the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars. Rice milk mainly constitutes of carbohydrates as rice does too. Rice milk for a toddler with milk allergy has been found to be a safe and welcome alternative. However, rice milk is not recommended for babies under one year.
Nutritional Facts of Rice Milk
Rice milk has the highest amount of carbohydrates, sugars, and calories as compared to any other kind of milk (apart from cow’s milk). Each cup of rice milk contains the following nutritional value:
|Product||Calories||Sugars||Total Carbohydrates||Protein||Total Fat|
|Unsweetened Rice milk||120||10 g||22 g||0 g||2 g|
Is Rice Milk Safe for Infants and Toddlers?
While rice milk may be a safe option for children with allergies, it is not a healthy recommendation for infants who should be fed with breastmilk or formula. That being said, rice milk is NOT recommended for babies under one year. Rice milk is one of the few kinds of milk that is not likely to cause allergies. However, it is not a source of calcium or Vitamin B12 as it is plant-based milk. Parents who do not have any other milk options for their toddlers should definitely opt for rice milk while the recommendation by experts is to alternate it with better sources of fat and nutrition.
Benefits of Giving Rice Milk to Your Child
Here are some known benefits of rice milk:
- Rice milk is the least allergenic alternative because it is lactose-free and doesn’t contain the risk of nuts. Rice milk for a toddler with a milk allergy is a safe option, and it lets you continue with some form of milk in your child’s diet.
- It is sweeter than other milk alternatives because of its sugar content.
- It can be fortified easily with vitamins and calcium.
- It is a vegan source of milk.
- It has absolutely no cholesterol and is one of the best options for non-fatty milk.
- It is a wonderful remedy to treat diarrhoea, because children with diarrhoea cannot be given dairy products. Rice milk for diarrhoea is a safe food that can be easily digested by your baby.
Possible Risks of Giving Rice Milk to Babies and Toddlers
Although rice milk is a non-allergenic type of milk, it has a few potential risks too.
- Rice milk has no protein and is not the ideal replacement for cow’s milk. Kids usually get a healthy dose of protein with their daily glass of cow’s milk, which they may miss out on with rice milk.
- Rice as produce contains inorganic arsenic. While it is not a cause of concern in older children and adults, rice milk with arsenic content can cause damage to your baby’s brain development. Brown rice, especially, contains more arsenic compared to white rice.
- Rice milk usually contains salt, water, oil, and rice. It has no nutrition like iron or trace minerals.
- Children (mostly under the age of 2) require full fat in their milk, but rice milk has no fat content.
- As it is high in carbohydrates and sugars, it cannot be used for children with juvenile diabetes.
- No alternate source of milk is recommended for infants below 12 months of age, especially rice milk, as it is of very little nutritional value and can lead to potentially irreparable nutritional deficiencies.
How to Make Rice Milk?
Rice milk can be used for many purposes, like in smoothies, cereals, for cooking, baking, and drinking. Here is an easy method for preparing rice milk for babies at home. This recipe yields eight cups of rice milk. You can fortify this drink at home by mixing calcium powder, or other supplements as you like.
What You Will Need
- Cooked brown rice- 1 cup
- Water- 4 cups
- Honey- 1 tablespoon
- Flavouring; eg: vanilla- ½ tsp
- Pinch of salt
How to Prepare?
- Cook the brown rice with a pinch of salt as per instructions on the package.
- Mix the cooked brown rice and all the water with flavouring and sweetener.
- Blend it on a high setting until the water looks white.
- Strain well, using a muslin cloth or a fine sieve to separate the grains.
- Store it in the refrigerator for future use.
Other Cow Milk Alternatives That Are Safe for Children
There are several alternatives to dairy milk which can be used safely for older children. Some of them are:
1. Almond Milk
Almond milk is made from ground almonds mixed with water. Almond milk is a good source of vitamin A, albeit a poor source of calcium and protein. It is lactose-free and low in calories.
2. Soy Milk
Soy milk is sourced from soya beans. Like other plant-based milk, it is not a good source of Vitamin B12. It does, however, contain proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It is free of cholesterol and is very low in saturated fats.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, made from coconut cream and water, is a wonderful source of fats, carbohydrates and calories. It is a good option for children with nut allergies as well.
4. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is derived from hemp seeds, which produce marijuana. It had a few good benefits like being a good source of protein and vitamins. It is also a wonderful source of Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids.
5. Oat Milk
Creamy and naturally sweet, oat milk is high in fibre and offers a wholesome option for children. It’s often enriched with nutrients, making it a valuable addition to their diet.
A Word of Caution
- These alternative kinds of milk do not have the proper amount of nutrients needed to sustain healthy growth.
- Consult your doctor before introducing these kinds of milk to your baby, and do not give it to a baby less than 12 months of age.
- Rice milk is quite low in protein and fat, and it should not replace cow’s milk and, most importantly, breast milk. Toddlers can have rice milk occasionally.
- Although store-bought rice milk contains essential vitamins and is generally suitable for lactose-intolerant children, especially those avoiding dairy, it’s crucial not to assume the role of a self-appointed nutritionist or physician. Always seek guidance from medical professionals.
1. Is It Safe to Give Rice Milk to Lactose Intolerant Babies?
Yes, since rice milk for infants can least likely type of milk to cause allergies. However, it is not as healthy as breast milk or formula.
2. Is Rice-Based Formula Good for Babies?
The rice milk formula for babies isn’t ideal due to potential nutritional deficiencies. Consult a paediatrician for appropriate feeding choices tailored to your baby’s needs and health requirements.
A parent knows instinctively what is best for their baby. However, if you are unable to give your baby cow’s milk due to allergies, discuss your options with your baby’s paediatrician before you start him off on a substitute like rice milk.
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2. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs; healthychildren.org; https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/milk-allergy-foods-and-ingredients-to-avoid.aspx
3. Rice milk and arsenic content – is it suitable for infants?; homeopathyonline.org.uk; https://homeopathyonline.org.uk/8-2/rice-milk-and-arsenic-content-is-it-suitable-for-infants/
4. Rice milk; fdc.nal.usda.gov; https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1097552/nutrients
5. Suitable milks for children with cows’ milk allergy or intolerance; infantandtoddlerforum.org; https://infantandtoddlerforum.org/media/upload/pdf-downloads/suitable-milks-for-cows-milk-allergy_1.pdf