After the first year of a little one's life, an infant graduates to being a toddler. At this time, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it is safe to give children cow's milk for the first time. Before then, their digestive systems would have been too immature to process the milk and the proteins found in cow's milk weren't balanced enough for their tiny bodies. But just because one can start their little one on cow's milk, does that mean they should?
When most of us were kids ourselves, we were always taught that cow's milk is essential for building healthy bones and growing up to be big and strong. But it was not until recently that scientists began conducting studies to analyze how cow's milk really affects the human body.
Some parents greeted their findings with an eye roll while others jumped at the chance to look for milk alternatives. Today, there are plenty of alternatives on the market that can replace the use of dairy milk, but for many parents, the reasons behind why so many are choosing milk alternatives in the first place, are still a little vague. So whether it's keeping up with the trends that's important, or just gathering extra information on child nutrition, here are 10 alternatives to cow's milk, and 10 reasons–backed by science–why kids need them.
20 The Most Popular Plant Milk
Almond milk is the most popular "plant milk" in the United States, according to Medical News Today, and there's a reason for that. Almond milk is low in fat and naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
It is a great alternative if you notice your little one has developed a dairy intolerance; and since most almond milks on the market are now enriched with calcium, almond milk has now become a great source for "strong bones."
However, like most things, there are a few downsides. Although almond milk has lots of vitamins A, D and E, nonenriched almond milk is relatively low in protein and calcium, compared to cow milk or breast milk. But, since the average toddler diet has various sources of protein, it should balance itself out.
19 This Milk Grows On Trees
The arrival of cashew milk in grocery stores across The United States is a relatively new phenomenon that left many vegan parents jumping for joy – or at least jumping in their cars to head to their closest grocery store.
Many moms dote about their toddlers love of cashew milk and its creamy taste, compared to other plant milks. Cashew milk naturally contains 4 grams of protein per serving and 8 percent of the daily value for iron, which is great for little ones.
But for those with a family history of allergies, cashews are tree-nuts, one of the most common allergens for children, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.
But for families with no known allergy history, go nuts!
18 Say Baaa-Bye
The Australian brand of toddler formula known as Bübs is none other than goat's milk. The organic formula is packed with grains and superfoods and free of GMOs and pesticides, but if you can not go down under just to get some formula for your dearest, let's talk goats milk in general.
According to American pediatrician Dr. Sears, goats milk contains less lactose as well as fewer allergic proteins and is more similar to human milk. It is more easily digestible and contains 13 percent more calcium than cows milk.
Goats milk is becoming easier and easier to find in U.S. milk isles, although it is already a very popular alternative to cows milk in many other countries. With all the benefits parents may soon say Baaa-bye to cows milk.
17 The Meatiest Milk
Looking for a rich and creamy not so nutty cow's milk alternative for your toddler? Look no further than coconut milk.
Despite the FDA classification, coconuts are actually fruits, not nuts, from the cherry family, which is great for nut-allergic kids.
Coconut milk is high in lauric acid, which helps protect against infections and bacteria, according to Healthline. Coconut milk is also a good source of niacin, iron, and copper. Don't forget its nice coconut flavor.
Just be wary of the stuff that comes in a can, canned coconut milk is extremely high in saturated fat, making it the meatiest milk alternative. It is much better to just make your own.
16 The Missing Element
When you break down the elements of cow's milk there are a few key things inside and eliminating a few factors could make cows milk more desirable, or at least that's what a few companies around the world are trying with A-2 toddler milk, a traditional cows milk alternative.
Cows milk contains A-1 and A2 beta casein proteins. Casein makes up about 80 percent of total protein in cow's milk. But US News reports that A-1 beta casein may be the inflammatory agent that makes for an upset tummy in humans who drink milk.
Insert A2 milk.
While more research is needed, the A2 company says that of all moms who have tried their product, 90 percent say their children have shown a difference in enjoying milk within one week of switching.
15 The Least Allergenic
There are a few things you should keep in mind if you are considering rice milk for your little one. Rice milk is the least allergenic milk on the market according to Healthline; it is low in fat and contains no lactose or cholesterol.
But rice milk contains practically no protein at all, which is not good for toddlers who do not like meat since milk is often their main protein source. Unlike other milk alternatives, it is best to buy a fortified brand that will contain added Vitamins A, D, B, calcium, and iron. As always consult your child's pediatrician before starting anything new.
14 The First Alternative
When people first started talking milk alternatives, soy milk was the first to show up on the market, according to David Friedman, a clinical nutritionist, board-certified alternative medical practitioner.
“It provides an option for those who are allergic to dairy, are lactose intolerant or just aren’t crazy about the taste of dairy milk," says Friedman. “Soy is low in fat, rich in protein and offers healthy B-complex vitamins.”
Soy milk low in saturated fat, which is great for toddlers, but parents beware of the sugar content in certain brands of milk. If you’re trying to keep your sugar consumption down, reach for unsweetened soy milk.
13 "The Best Alternative"
Known by nutritionists, lactation counselors, and pediatricians as "the best milk," breastmilk has a number of benefits including longer immunity from ear infections and upper respiratory infections. It's packed with protein, calcium, fat, vitamin A, and other nutrients,
Breast milk also boosts brain development– even after your little one celebrates his or her first birthday, says lactation counselor Robin Elise Weiss. And the best part, it is free.
If you are a bit weirded out by breastfeeding a toddler who can walk, run, and chew his or her own food. Consider pumping and then serving the milk to your little one in a sippy cup or glass since breastmilk is still milk after all.
12 The Seed Milk
Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, which also produces the popular plant.
But not to worry, drinking this nutrient-rich milk will not alter your little one's mental state, especially since hemp products, namely hemp milk, come from a different part of the same plant, according to Medical Jane.
And for a dairy alternative has all those strong bone elements moms are looking for, hemp milk is a great choice. “One 8-ounce glass of hemp milk gives you a whopping 45 percent of your recommended daily amount of calcium,” clinical nutritionist David Friedman says. It’s also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and it's easy to make at home.
11 The Quaker Way
One needn't be a quaker to enjoy the added value of the awesomely robust cow's milk alternative, oat milk, which provides some serious benefits.
From boosting immunity to tacking on the protein fiber, ensuring a healthy heart, and being a great source of strength and energy from natural plant proteins, oat milk even improves the overall health of your child’s skin and hair.
Oat milk is low in fat and provides the daily calcium requirement for your toddler. Plus it has that oaty flavor that kids love. And the best part is that it can be made at home using 1 cup of oats at a time. What is not to like?
10 Reason For Alternative: Tough On Tummies, Old And Young
The truth is, when it comes to cow's milk it does not matter how old you are, digesting it can be really hard on the human stomach. The U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates that 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose.
This reduced ability results in nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. But that wasn't always the case as milk used to be full of healthy gut bacteria.
Now it’s pasteurized, which means the good bacteria is heated up and burned off and when that happens, bad proteins take over, making pasteurized milk more challenging to digest.
9 Reason For Alternative: Protein Overload
One of the main reasons many parents give cows milk to their children is for the added protein the milk provides for their little one's diet. But it is rarely discussed how the protein levels in cows milk can actually be too high for a human baby and could overload a baby's kidneys resulting in serious health problems.
Common reactions of introducing too much cow's milk protein in toddlers include eczema, vomiting, upset stomach, respiratory problems, and rashes. Most websites promoting cow's milk indicate that children who have a protein allergy will usually outgrow it by age 16 with continued exposure to cows milk.
Who wouldn't want 16 years of rashes, stomach issues, and breathing problems?
8 Reason For Alternative: Ever Hear of Buttermilk?
Cows milk contains butterfat which is a highly saturated fat. And animal saturated fats is one of the main contributors to heart disease. Butterfat also does not provide the appropriate amounts or balance of essential fatty acids the way some milk alternatives like hemp and flax do.
A single serving of whole milk can contain more than 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. If your child drinks three servings of whole milk, he or she will already be at 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance—even before eating any food.
If regulating fats in your child's diet is of primary importance, you'd better consider an alternative.
7 Reason For Alternative: Healthy Skin Now And Later
Ah, the ever ending quest for clear skin. It can be a little strange to imagine having to worry about your toddler battling acne, but several studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health have revealed that children who drank cow’s milk had more acne than those who didn’t.
Even in children who did not immediately show skin problems, many children who grew up drinking milk have illustrated signs of skin issues when they became older.
Because dairy cows are now injected with hormones to make them larger and produce more milk, skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, dry flaky skin, and rashes have been linked to drinking milk in toddlers.
6 Reason For Alternative: What Calcium?
Ready to turn an old misconception on its head? Despite the hype, cow’s milk actually is not the great source of calcium everyone thinks it is.
Yes, really. Milk was once taken directly from the cow and consumed unpasteurized or raw. The pasteurization and homogenization processes that are now standard for milk processing increase the acid in drinking milk.
And in order to neutralize those acids, the human body needs calcium. So every glass of milk we drink actually takes calcium from our bones, according to Peta. Studies show that those who drink the most cow’s milk have higher fracture rates than those who drink little to no milk.
5 Reason For Alternative: Weight Gain
Cows milk and formula with a cow's milk base are linked to weight gain in children a study.
"Researchers report that infants fed cow milk formula gained more weight more quickly than infants fed protein hydrolysate formulas, which are also known as hypoallergenic formulas meant for babies that have problems digesting certain proteins," reports WebMD.
In an additional study of more than 12,000 children showed that the more milk they drank, the more weight they gained—and skim and 1 percent milk actually appeared to lead to more weight gain than drinking 2 percent or whole milk.
4 Reason For Alternative: Kids Aren't Cows
As obvious as it may sound, cow's milk is meant for baby calves. And since humans are not cows... why should they drink cow milk? Besides humans and companion animals who are fed by humans–think cats, dogs, etc.– no species drinks the milk of another species.
Cow’s milk is made for to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months—sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old, which explains the extreme amount of protein, mineral content, and essential fatty acids that are all necessary for baby calves to grow into strong adult cows, not humans.
3 Reason For Alternative: Get Off My Lawn!
In an effort to keep the grazing grasses green for dairy cows, many farmers lay down ample pesticides to ward off annoying grass-eating pests and animals. As a result, dairy cows are often exposed to these harmful pesticides by ingesting the grass and then introducing the pesticides into their milk.
Then when that milk is processed for humans many of those pesticides still remain, meaning that your little ones are drinking pesticides. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the pesticides in milk may be killing brain cells in toddlers and leading to Parkinson's disease. If you are set on drinking milk from a cow, consider drinking raw milk from grass-fed cows, he suggests.
2 Reason For Alternative: Open To Illness
When your little one comes down with the common cold or bacterial infection the common response for most parents is to seek an antibiotic.
If your toddler drinks cow's milk on a normal basis his or her immune system may already be resistant to those antibiotics that the doctor ordered.
Since the cow where he or she gets milk are pumped with antibiotics to prevent disease, those very same antibiotics are transferred into the milk. So when your little one drinks it, it will lessen the effects of any other antibiotics he or she may need, the result is a disrupted gut health and a weakened immune system.
1 Reason For Alternative: Nutrient Deficient
Our number one reason to consider a cow's milk alternative is simple, cow's milk just is not as healthy as people say. It lacks some serious nutrients.
As it turns out, cow's milk is deficient in iron–which could result in iron deficiency anemia if your little one does not maintain a balanced diet–copper, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. With all the things lacking in cows milk it is no wonder parents are running to the market to swap out whatever dairy they have at home.
But if your family falls into the minority of the population who has no problems digesting milk, great. If not, Got Milk? Maybe not anymore.
References: Peta.org, Medicalnewstoday.com, Healthline.com, American Academy of Pediatrics, AskDr.Sears.com, Romper, interview with a certified lactation counselor, Robin Elise Weiss, and Medicaljane.com.