Cow milk isn't the only option these days.

Formula vs. Milk for Toddlers

by Brooke Julia

Your little one is getting older and you're both ready for to transition away from breast milk or baby formula. Keep in mind that pediatrics don't recommend giving milk to your child before one year of age because young tummies don't digest it very well before then. But once your tyke reaches the magical age you can safely give him milk. You can also choose toddler formula, a somewhat new option on the shelves.

1. Cow Milk

Whole milk delivers healthy fat, protein, calcium and vitamin D, says KC Kids Doc. Lighter versions of milk certainly have less fat, but your little one's body won't be able to absorb and use the protein, calcium or vitamin D without the fat. Even if a skim milk is fortified with additional vitamins, they do your child no good. Experts recommend limited whole milk to 16 ounces a day, says The Kids Dr., because milk should be treated like a drink, not like a major source of nutrition. As a matter of fact, for most children milk isn't even a necessary diet element at all.

2. Toddler Formula

Toddler formula is a fortified drink for children 9 months an older, says Enfamil, much like Ensure is a vitamin-rich drink for adults whose diets are lacking. Toddler formula does offer DHA, iron, antioxidants and a multitude of vitamins. It's a good choice if your young one doesn't eat enough to get adequate nutrition or has a less-than desirable diet. Once again, if your child is getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, toddler formula shouldn't be necessary, says The Kids Dr.

3. Plant-Based Milks

Plant-based milk comes from soy, nuts or grains. Soy is the most widely available, says KC Kids Doc, and provides as much protein as cow's milk though not the same calcium unless fortified. Choose organic options, as soy crops are heavily treated with pesticides. Nut milks are another option. Of all of them, almond milk is the most nutritious. Grain milks from fermented flour or grain offer the benefits of fiber but little else. Rice milk is low-fat and good for those with lactose allergies but offers little nutrition. Hemp is considered nutrient-rich but is expensive and, because of its recent availability, studies on it are limited.

4. Goat and Fermented Milk

Fermented milk is created when kefir grains are added to milk. The combinations of the bacteria and yeast in kefir turn the milk into a yogurt-like product that are claimed to have anti-cancer and gastroentestinal benefits, says KC Kids Doc. Another anti-cow alternative is goat's milk, but its protein composition is so similar to cow's milk that it isn't an a safe option for a child who is lactose intolerant. It also has no iron, vitamin B12 or folate.

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