All babies need milk to grow, which is why all mammals create milk for their young. It helps the growth and development, especially during the first year of life. Vitamins, minerals, antibodies, enzymes and more transfer from the mother to their child.
Parents have two choices for the first year of life – breast milk or formula. When a child turns one year old, parents can introduce cow’s milk. But, what about almond milk? There are a lot of families that don’t drink cow’s milk at all, for one reason or another. They question whether they can use almond milk as a substitute instead of buying cow’s milk just for their toddler.
What is Almond Milk?
Almond milk is a non-dairy form of milk, known as a plant milk, created from almonds. It has a creamy taste with a smooth, creamy texture. There is no lactose in the milk, making it a favorite substitute for those with an intolerance to cow’s milk. Those who prefer to have a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle may also opt for almond milk.
Are Babies Able to Drink Almond Milk?
Babies under the age of one shouldn’t be given almond milk. After their first birthday, parents are free to introduce almond milk, but there are some important considerations you need to think about before handing them a cup of it.
Under One is Not for Alternatives
The recommendations for an infant’s nutrition is very clear. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the World Health Organization, advocate for parents to breastfeed their children. Breast milk is all that your baby, under the age of six months old, needs to develop and grow. Before this age, there is no reason to give a child water, juice or any foods.
After the age of six months, parents are free to introduce solid foods. However, they should not replace breastfeeding. It is a complement to the breast milk, which is the primary source of vitamins and nutrients throughout the first year of life.
Mothers should breastfeed their children for a minimum of 12 months. However, the World Health Organization encourages mothers to keep breastfeeding until two years old, at a minimum. The benefits of breast milk don’t stop just because a child reaches a certain age. Providing your baby with vitamins while they get through the picky toddler age can be very helpful.
Formula is an acceptable replacement if the mother is unable to breastfeed. Formula manufacturers create their formula to replicate breast milk as closely as possible. While it doesn’t provide all of the benefits, your child will grow and develop properly while eating formula.
Why Can Babies Only Have Those Two Options?
Old timers gave cow’s milk, even goat’s milk, much earlier than when we do today. Today, we know that children shouldn’t consume any other forms of milk until they reach one year old. Any other type of milk, including almond milk, won’t provide the nutrients, vitamins and essentials fats for your baby to grow and reach developmental milestones. Breast milk and formula are the only two food sources that guarantee the growth of your child throughout the first year of life.
Before the age of 12 months, your child’s body isn’t able to properly digest cow’s milk. It contains high levels of protein and minerals that can damage a baby’s kidneys. The early introduction could lead to iron deficiency anemia because it can irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Plus, the milk lacks the correct amount of iron, Vitamin C, and other crucial vitamins.
Don’t Give Almond Milk to Babies Under One Year Old
While might seems harmless once in a blue moon, babies aren’t meant to digest almond milk. It definitely should not be given take. While almond milk has some potential benefits, it doesn’t provide all of the nourishment your child needs to grow. They need healthy fats for their brain and bone development. Almond milk doesn’t have these levels of healthy fats to help them grow.
Do Toddlers Need Milk?
One year old is the typical age for weaning babies off of formula. Breastfed babies should continue to nurse. Cow’s milk contains protein, calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. Giving your child two servings of milk each day ensures they have the proper amount of calcium.
A child could drink too much milk. He shouldn’t drink cow’s milk all day. The ideal amount is 16 to 24 ounces per day. A toddler who is still breastfeeding doesn’t NEED to drink cow’s milk. However, it is another supply of protein and calcium.
Some children refuse to touch cow’s milk. In those situations, the parents need to give the toddler adequate access to other calcium-rich foods like cheese and yogurt.
Almond Milk vs. Cow Milk
Each of the choices has advantages and disadvantages. If your child is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy, almond milk is a clear choice. If your child doesn’t have those issues, there are some factors about each type of milk to consider.
- When compared to cow’s milk, almond milk doesn’t have as much protein and calcium. Both of these nutrients are needed. Most toddlers consume enough protein, but the calcium levels still are too small without the right type of milk. Luckily, you can find commercial almond milk fortified with calcium.
- Some brands of almond milk continue sugar, which is not safe for toddlers.
- Almond milk is lower in calorie, making it a good choice for older children.
Giving Almond Milk After First Birthday
Once your baby has their first birthday, your doctor will encourage you to switch your child to whole milk if you are using formula. If you are breastfeeding, your pediatrician will likely urge you to introduce cow’s milk as an alternative throughout the day. Breastfeeding is best if continued to two years old, at least.
Calcium will help your child in his next developmentally stage. It is a rich source of calcium, leading to healthy bones and teeth. It also regulates blood clotting and muscle control. Cow’s milk is one of the few sources of natural Vitamin D that helps the body absorb calcium. Plus, it provides carbohydrates for energy throughout the day.
If you have spoken to your pediatrician, parents can introduce almond milk instead of cow’s milk after the first birthday. It is essential to take more time formulating your child’s diet plan. You have to ensure your child consumes proper levels of healthy fats, vitamins, and other nutrients that they would’ve received from whole milk.
Almond milk isn’t a bad choice for your toddler. It does have some great minerals and vitamins, like Vitamin A, E, and D, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, iron, fiber, zinc and calcium!
So, your primary concern if you opt for almond milk instead is to ensure your child gets more protein and calcium. At this age, your child is eating a variety of foods. Chances are they are consuming a healthy level of protein each day.
Calcium is a different story. Most toddlers don’t get enough calcium each day. It is important for you to pick a calcium fortified brand of almond milk to make sure it is an acceptable substitute.
- Recently, an 11-month-old baby in Spain developed scurvy. This disease is rare in most developed nations, caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C. The doctors discovered that the child consumed ONLY almond milk, with no other solid foods. The lack of vitamins caused a femur break and scurvy. Creating a balanced diet plan is essential if you decide to offer almond milk.
Milk Allergy vs. Milk Intolerance
The main reason parents look to almond milk as an alternative is that they think their child has a milk allergy or is lactose intolerance. Speaking to your doctor is the best plan to determine if your child is lactose intolerant.
There are some distinct differences. With a food allergy, your body views the milk protein as an invader. To protect your system, your body creates histamines, leading to the typical symptoms we associate with an allergy.
Lactose intolerant is entirely different. The digestive system is unable to digest the milk protein, lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. The milk protein is the common issue, but they are quite different.
What About an Allergic Reaction?
One common concern about using almond milk instead of cow’s milk is the risk of an allergic reaction. Almonds are a nut, and millions of people have allergies to different nuts.
The American Academy of Asthma, Allergies and Immunology no longer recommends waiting past six months to introduce nuts to your child. There is no evidence that adding foods later in life prevents the creation of an allergy. In fact, there is some evidence that waiting to introduce foods can cause an allergy, rather than the other way around.
Nuts allergies are very common; it is the most common allergy-causing food. If you are allergic to nuts, you can experience a variety of symptoms.
- Itchy skin rashes
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery eyes
- Coughing or wheezing
- Stuffy nose
In severe cases, your child may experience a symptom called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening reaction that leads to the swelling or closing of the throat and blood pressure rapidly dropping. Call 911 immediately if you believe your child is experiencing anaphylaxis.
Nut allergies are hereditary, but they aren’t always. If your family has a history of nut allergies, your doctor may tell you that introducing almond milk isn’t a good idea until the baby is older. This approach is the same for all food allergies. If there is a history, avoid until your doctor recommends giving it to your child.
Important Considerations When Feeding Almond Milk to Your Baby
Almond milk is an acceptable substitute for cow’s milk in most situations. There are some things you should pay attention to when giving it your child.
- Calcium: We keep discussing calcium, but it truly is that important for your toddler. Calcium is required for bone growth until calcium content is built up (the age of 30 years old). A lack of calcium can lead to low bone mass, bone fractures, and osteoporosis. Always select a calcium fortified brand and avoid ones with added sugar or sweetener.
- Protein: Everyone needs protein in their diet. Make sure that you provide your baby with meat options. Other options include peanut butter, cottage cheese, black beans and avocado.
- Too Much Energy: Toddlers are a natural bundle of energy. Sometimes, it feels like they never stop moving. Almond milk gives your child included energy to keep him active. Don’t give it to your baby before bed; that plan will backfire.
- Healthy Fats: Your child needs healthy fats for their brain development. Whole milk has high levels of fats, but almond milk is lacking. You need to add some other sources such as coconut oil, grass fed butter, chicken or beef stock, olive oil or avocados. Try cooking your child’s meals in a different oil to ensure they get all of the fatty goodness they require.
How to Transition to Almond Milk
You switch to almond milk just like you would switch to cow’s milk – gradually. This approach is the most successful. First, you would give your child ¾ formula and ¼ almond milk in their bottle or cup. Keep this mixture for a week while your baby adjusts. Watch for reactions!
The following week, feed your baby ½ formula or breast milk and ½ almond milk. Keep this mixture for another week. On the third week, give your child ¼ formula and ¾ almond milk. Do this for one more week. On the fourth week, you will give a full bottle of almond milk.
Putting it Together
If your child is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy, giving your child almond milk after they turn one year old is an okay choice. Parents need to develop a well-balanced diet plan to make sure their baby gets all of the essential nutrients they miss out on if they don’t drink cow’s milk. Almond milk is a delicious and healthy option for toddlers.