When Vee was about 14 months old, I decided to start weaning him off breastmilk — the perfect and best milk for human beings. The main reason is that his regular suckling day AND night is doing too well in child-spacing. I hope to have a second baby by the end of next year so that their age gap is within three years and while I am still in my twenties.
Weaning off breastmilk means I need to search for an alternative milk drink for him, amongst the HUGE variety of milk available in the market. The options: formula milk (brands A to Z), whole (fresh) milk (brands A to Z), whole organic milk and goat’s milk. Gosh… no wonder this post took four afternoons to complete and after several shopping trips. Since all mothers would need to go through a similar thought process when weaning the toddler off breastmilk or after he outgrows infant formula, this article shall share with you the findings from my exploration.
1. How Much Milk to Drink?
Vee was fed latching on exclusively (except for the odd occasion) on demand, so I have no idea how much milk he drinks.
- His paediatrician mentioned 500 to 600ml of dairy products per day is sufficient after one year old, mainly for the calcium.
- Calcium intake recommended in the U.S. for children 1-3 years old: 500mg per day (Source: AAP Policy)
- 240ml of milk or 240mg of yoghurt provides about 300mg of calcium (Source: AAP Policy)
- “Unless advised otherwise by your baby’s doctor, limit your toddler’s cow milk intake to no more than 24 ounces a day.” and “excessive milk consumption is a common cause of iron deficiency anemia in toddlers” (Source: AskDrSears.com)
My conclusion: Vee needs about 500 to 600ml(or mg) of milk and/or yoghurt per day.
2. Whole Milk or Formula?
I read the labels of formula milk (both organic and non-organic versions) in the supermarkets and realised that I was still not comfortable with feeding Vee highly-processed food regularly. In Malaysia, the ingredients of the brands of milk powder I surveyed are listed in Bahasa Melayu, which I do not understand. I could only guess what some of the ingredients are. However, as whole milk is not fortified with vitamins and minerals, I am concerned if it would provide sufficient nutrition for Vee.
- Whole milk is fine, but do not switch in a hurry (Refer to the last paragraph in this article from AskDrSears.com)
- “we do not recommend follow-up formulas that contain corn syrup. They are nutritionally unwise and unnecessary.” (Source: AskDrSears.com)
- Our home-visit nurse suggests supplementing whole milk with a multi-vitamin to ensure that Vee receives all the necessary nutrients.
My conclusion: Choose whole milk and/or yoghurt and supplement with a multi-vitamin
3. Milk from Cows, Goats or What?
Some mothers have mentioned that they feed their toddlers with goat’s milk or soy milk. Since Vee is allergic to soy, it is not an option for him. After more Googling around, I found others who opt for oatmilk and rice milk (these are essentially health beverages, not really milk per se.)
- Goat’s milk may be easier to digest and less allergenic than cow’s milk. (Source: AskDrSears.com)
- “milk alternative beverages not containing appropriate quantities of protein and/or vitamins and minerals for toddlers should carry a warning label as to their inappropriateness for this age group. (Source: Severe Nutritional Deficiencies in Toddlers Resulting From Health Food Milk Alternatives, PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 4 April 2001, p. e46)
My conclusion: Choose cow’s milk, which is widely available
4. Organic or Non-Organic?
Through my pregnancy and breastfeeding months, I have been on a largely vegetarian diet, eating mostly home-cooked meals using organic ingredients where possible. Since Vee started eating semi-solid foods at 6.5 months, I try to prepare his meals with organic ingredients as far as possible. My main objective is to protect his health by avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically-modified organisms (GMO). Now that he is going to drink milk produced by an animal other his Mummy, I hope that the animal is fed on a healthy diet too.
My conclusion: Choose whole organic milk or yoghurt
5. Cows: Pastured (Grass-Fed) or Confined (Grain-Fed)?
Just when I thought I had considered enough factors, I read about parents who were opposed to drinking milk from grain and corn-fed cows. In nature, cows are supposed to feed on fresh grass, instead of grains. Even organic milk may come from cows who are confined and fed on organic corn most of the time. (Read the relevant USDA organic standards here.) My preference is for food as close to nature as possible, so even organic milk needs to be chosen carefully.
My conclusion: Choose milk or yoghurt from grass-fed cows
6. Regular Pasteurised or UHT Milk?
Ever wondered why some milk are kept in the refrigerator while some are stored in room temperature for up to 6 months?
High Temperature Short Time (HTST) or Flash Pasteurisation: The liquid moves in a controlled, continuous flow while subjected to temperatures of 71.5 °C (160 °F) to 74 °C (165 °F), for about 15 to 30 seconds.(Source: Wikipedia)
Ultra High Temperature (UHT) Processing: partial sterilization of food by heating it for a short time, around 1–2 seconds, at a temperature exceeding 135°C (275°F), which is the temperature required to kill spores in milk. (Source: Wikipedia)
Regular pasteurised milk usually costs more than UHT milk, so I explored if the former had significant nutritional value (or if UHT milk is good enough).
- “A study by Carbonaro (2000) supports these findings with the conclusion that the in vitro digestibility of proteins in UHT treated milk was significantly impaired compared to pasteurized milk. AlKanhal (2001) concluded that this reduction in nutritional quality might be significant for children who are solely dependent on this type of milk in their diet.” (Source: The Effect of Heat Treatment on the Nutritional Value of Milk, Erin Gillis, September 1, 2005)
- “Current research indicates that HTST pasteurized milk maintains more nutritional integrity than UHT milk, and for this reason HTST pasteurized milk is recommended for those who have the capability to purchase and store the product in accordance with food safety guidelines.” (Source: The Effect of Heat Treatment on the Nutritional Value of Milk, Erin Gillis, September 1, 2005)
My conclusion: Choose regular pasteurised milk
FINALLY, I have decided on the ideal alternative milk for Vee:
- Regular pasteurised whole organic milk from grass-fed cows and/or
- homemade yoghurt made from organic milk from grass-fed cows
- 500 to 600ml (or mg) per day
- plus a multi-vitamin
Stay tune for Part 2, where a few brands of shortlisted milk / yoghurt would be compared.
Poll: What is your toddler’s favourite milk (or dairy product)?
Next reading: Which Milk is Better? (Part 2) – Comparison review of 6 milk and yoghurt products for toddlers