Expert Q&A

Milk avoidance: Causes, cures and substitutions

My one year old daughter will not drink milk and I am concerned she is not getting enough protein and calcium. Is there something else I can give her in place of milk?

The first question you need to address is whether your daughter won’t or can’t drink milk. She may have a milk sensitivity that makes it hard for her to digest large amounts of milk at one time. If she has had discomfort after drinking a large amount of milk, she may be averse to trying it again. If you suspect your daughter has a milk sensitivity, seek advice from your doctor before giving milk up completely. Milk sensitivity can often be managed easily by giving her smaller, more frequent portions of milk.

If your daughter just won’t even try milk, she may be experiencing neophobia, or a fear of new foods. This is common in toddlers, and they usually outgrow it if it is handled correctly. Continue to offer milk, but do not engage in a power struggle or show disappointment when she refuses it. Just remove the food after a reasonable length of time but continue to offer the same food regularly, as children may require five to ten exposures to a new food before accepting it.

Figuring out why your daughter is refusing milk should be priority, but in the meantime you are justified in your concern for her protein and calcium needs. An average one-year-old needs about 500 milligrams of calcium and 16 grams of protein. Other dairy products are the best substitute for milk because they are similarly high in protein and calcium. One cup of whole milk yogurt provides 275 milligrams calcium and 8 grams of protein. One ounce of cheddar cheese contains 200 milligrams calcium and 7 grams of protein. Using these sources, it should be easy to meet your daughter’s needs. For extra calcium you may use calcium-fortified juices, but do not depend on these to meet a large portion of her needs because excessive fruit juice consumption is linked to childhood obesity.

Erica Lesperance, RD, LD
Contributing Expert

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