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  • Post last modified:January 12, 2021

Mom’s Question:

My daughter turned 1 about a week ago. We took her off formula because she barely wants to drink it anyway, but she’s lactose intolerant so she can only drink a certain type of cow’s milk… The problem is she REFUSES to drink any sort of milk and I’m not too sure what I can do.

Is this okay because I was told it’s very important from age 1-2 that milk be a big part of their diet?

Samantha H

Baby Helpline:

What to Do When Toddler Refuses Formula And Cow’s Milk

I understand your concern since most of us have been taught that cow’s milk is very important for our kids to grow healthy, strong bones. Cow’s milk contains a lot of calcium, which is good for the bones and the milk is often also fortified with Vitamin D, which is actually very important for both our bone health and overall health.

However, the benefits of cow’s milk are disputed. Research published in 2011 (see below for references) concluded that cow’s milk should not be given at all to children under the age of 1 year and only in modest amounts to toddlers. The researchers had found that cow’s milk may lead to iron deficiency, dehydration, and even obesity; the latter due to its high protein content.

Yet other studies conclude that cow’s milk has no adverse effects after 12 months old, and should be considered an important part of a toddler’s diet. Not easy to know what to think or do as a parent!

One way is to go behind the recommendations and see what is actually in the milk that is so important. And what we find is mainly calcium, vitamin D, and calories. And all this can we get to our children in other ways too!

For calcium, you can look for calcium-fortified orange juice or give her some steamed broccoli. Since your girl is now one year old, you can also give her collard greens, which are high in calcium.

Vitamin D – maybe even more important than calcium, can easily be added to her diet through a vitamin supplement or even better, time spent outside.

As for the calories, a great way to make sure a toddler gets the energy she needs is to add some butter or oil to her foods. Fat is very important for your baby’s development, including the brain. Read about why and how to add fat to baby food here.

Finally, it is entirely possible to get some milk into your daughter either with her approval or without her knowing. :-) Can your girl tolerate any lactose at all, through for example cheese (which has almost no lactose at all, but certainly calcium)?

Or could she be interested in eating lactose-free yogurt? Maybe you could tempt her by making a smoothie and season the milk with some strawberries and a tiny bit of cocoa powder? Use your imagination! This is actually a great way to make a young toddler continue with the formula too. Read about ideas for formula (or milk) shakes in this thread.

So you see, if you experiment a bit, I’m sure you can find ways to help your daughter get her calcium, vitamin D, and calories even if she refuses regular milk.

Good luck!

Research references

Ziegler EE., Consumption of cow’s milk as a cause of iron deficiency in infants and toddlers, Nutr Rev. 2011 Nov;69 Suppl 1:S37-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00431.x.
Agostoni C, Turck D., Is cow’s milk harmful to a child’s health?, J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2011 Dec;53(6):594-600.


Nov 23, 2014Lactose Intolerance

by: Colleenboys

Both of my boys have been Lactose Intolerant since birth. They drink Lactaid whole milk with Calcium. Usually, children with lactose intolerance can digest other forms of calcium such as yogurt, tuna, broccoli, pinto beans and when they are a bit older oranges. Cheese and ice cream have a high content of lactose like milk does so I substitute with Lactaid cheese and lactose-free ice cream (Breyers). Sometimes it is really a process of elimination and it takes a few days to see how they react to specific foods. Good Luck.

Nov 23, 2014Try this…

by: Anonymous

Try making strawberry-flavored or chocolate-flavored lactose-free milk. Yes, there’s going to be sugar in there but if that’s the only way shes going to drink milk, so be it! Also, pediasure might be something you might want to try.

Dec 12, 2014baby refuses to drink milk from a bottle

by: Anonymous

My baby is one year old. He used to drink his milk daily from the bottle but nowadays he refuses to have his milk, so please tell me what should I do so that he can have his milk..or tell me some other ways for my baby boy..

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