The time has come: Your child is not an infant anymore (sigh) and you’ve been waiting to get the green light to include milk in their diet at 12 months. Cue the happy dance because, hey, it’s an easy go-to drink that’s a lot less expensive than formula. Now that this milestone has been achieved, the buffet of beverages is open. So how much milk should your child be drinking daily?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following.
- Ages12 to 24 months: 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) of whole milk per day
- Ages 2 to 5 years: drink 2 to 2 1/2 cups (16 to 20 ounces) of low fat or skim milk per day.
Whole milk is recommended for kids 2 and under because of the calcium, fat, and protein found in it, which are beneficial during this time of rapid growth and development. Additionally, fortified milk serves up extra vitamin D — which, combined with calcium, helps build strong, healthy bones in children. Boys and girls over the age of 5 should still include lowfat or skim milk as part of a healthy diet.
But what if your child doesn’t like to drink milk?
If milk is a no-go, other protein- and calcium-rich dairy products can replace cow’s milk in a healthy diet. These include yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and nondairy milk, such as oat and almond.
Can there be too much of a good thing?
There are potential drawbacks of too much milk. A tummy full of milk can reduce your child’s appetite, preventing them from being interested in food during mealtime. Too much calcium and casein (a milk protein) can block absorption of iron, causing iron deficiency anemia.
So to find the happy medium, watch your child’s milk consumption and offer water between meals. And of course if your child experiences difficulties when consuming milk and other dairy products — such as cramps, bloating, gas, or diarrhea — discuss this with your pediatrician. Your doctor can recommend alternatives to make sure your child gets the vitamin D and calcium they need to grow healthy and strong.