After the age of 1, your toddler's need for milk decreases dramatically. In fact, too much milk may leave her prone to iron-deficiency anemia and possibly obesity. Find out what kind of milk is appropriate for your child and how much she needs to fulfill her daily vitamin D and calcium requirements.

Milk does a body good. Yes it does. It's chockfull of protein, fat, calcium and vitamin D. However, once your tot turns 1, the amount of milk she needs is actually quite less than you might think. This holds true both for breastfeeding and formula feeding babies.

How much?

Now that your baby is a toddler, milk is meant to be enjoyed with a meal, not be the meal. This is quite a big transition and often parents still assume that their child needs a cup or bottle full of milk upwards of 4 to 5 times per day.

The reality is that toddlers should not consume more than 24 ounces of milk per day.

The reality is that toddlers should not consume more than 24 ounces of milk per day. Ideally, 1- to 2-year-olds should have no more than 16 ounces per day (2 cups) and 3-year-olds around 8 to 12 ounces (1 to 1-1/2 cups). This provides your toddler with his necessary daily dose of calcium and part of his daily vitamin D requirement.

Yogurts, cheeses, fortified juices (no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day) and cereals are also great sources of calcium and vitamin D.

The rest of your child's hydration should be in the form of good, old-fashioned water.

Too much of a good thing

So, what's the harm in too much milk? Toddlers who consume more than 24 ounces of milk a day are likely consuming less protein, fiber and iron-rich foods they need to grow and thrive. This can put them at risk for such conditions as constipation, iron-deficiency anemia, obesity, and/or poor weight gain depending on the rest of their dietary habits.

We want toddlers to eat food, not drink the majority of their calories. Now is the time to reign in their calories consumed by liquids.

Toddlers who consume more than 24 ounces of milk a day are likely consuming less protein, fiber and iron-rich foods they need to grow and thrive.

What, how and when?

Introducing whole milk after the age of 1 in a sippy cup is ideal. Starting with whole milk is great for toddlers without a milk protein allergy and for those not predisposed to obesity or heart disease. However, if your child is at risk for obesity, going straight to 2 percent milk, instead of whole milk, is a viable option.

Additionally, after the age of 2, it's best for the whole family to transition to 1 percent or skim milk.

A word about the bottle

It's quite normal for bottle feeding babies to resist giving up their beloved bottle of milk. It's comforting and they just may scoff at a cup full of milk. Take it slow and just remember they only need (at the most) 3 servings of milk per day.

Full disclosure

My own toddlers held on tight to their bottles until 18-23 months old. They loved snuggling with me in the morning and before bed with their bottle of milk. I figured if I was breastfeeding, we would still be doing that. So, I allowed it and we weaned gradually.

Try swapping one serving with a cup instead and gradually wean your babe off that bottle. The most important thing to keep in mind is to never let them fall asleep with their bottle. This can cause horrible cavities in those brand new emerging teeth (bottle caries). Always brush those baby teeth before bed.

One caveat to the sippy cup and bottle dilemma: Toddlers do not need to be toting a bottle full of milk or anything else all day. Carry water for them instead. Make sure milk (whether in a cup or a bottle) is only during set mealtimes.

Dr. Mom's Bottom Line^ After the age of 1, milk is merely a beverage meant to be enjoyed alongside their real meal. In this case, there really is too much of a good thing and we want our toddlers to eat more iron and protein-rich foods.

More on your toddler and nutrition

Breastfeeding toddlers: Why extended nursing works
OTC Medicines and your child
Back to school with healthy habits

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Monica Beyer September 06, 2012
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Hopefully none will suffice .. my toddler is allergic to cow's milk!