Making the most of milk

At about 10 to seven every night, she stops whatever she is doing, walks to the kitchen, points at the fridge, and chants…

My youngest daughter is a milk addict.

At about 10 to seven every night, she stops whatever she is doing, walks to the kitchen, points at the fridge, and chants, “mah, mah, mah” until someone comes to deliver her milk.

Somehow, milk time is part of her biological clock.

In fact, to Ayla, “Mama” does not refer to myself, her mother, but any adult who will heat her up some delicious, fatty milk. She then proceeds to chug the milk, say “all done,” throw the bottle on the floor, and is ready for bed. We brush her teeth, put her in her crib and she is ready to sleep. No songs, no stories, just milk.

As a dietitian, I think milk is a great source of vitamin D, calcium and protein for my child, but also worry that it may displace other solid foods. What are the recommendations for infants and milk?

Homogenized (3.25 per cent) cow’s milk can be introduced at nine to 12 months, once a child is eating a variety of iron-rich foods like fortified infant cereal, meat and meat alternatives.

Introducing milk too early can be hard on the gut and may displace some of these important iron-rich foods.

Limit cow’s milk to no more than 750 ml (three cups) a day. Too much cow’s milk has been identified as the most common risk factor for severe anemia in young children. It is often the culprit in children who do not want to eat solid foods.

Pasteurized, full-fat goat milk may also be used, but choose one fortified with vitamin D and folic acid.

If your child has an allergy to milk proteins, they will likely be allergic to both cow and goat milk.

In this case, a soy-based infant formula should be used.

Plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, rice, almond or coconut milks are not appropriate for children under the age of two.

They do not provide adequate fat, protein or calories as a main milk source.

Unflavoured, full-fat, fortified soy milk can be offered occasionally as a complementary food, in addition to breast milk or cow milk as the main milk source.

Using an open cup is one strategy to reduce milk consumption.

Drinking from cups also decreases the time the tooth enamel is exposed to sugary liquids, preventing tooth decay.

This is why it is not recommended to give milk in a bottle to bed.