Baby to Toddler

A full year of life for babies means that it is time for some big transitions. At this age, babies are typically cruising around on the furniture, standing with stability, and taking a few unassisted steps. They also start developing their verbal skills more noticeably, become more aware and engaged in their surroundings, and making their demands and opinions known.

At the one year mark is also when changes occur in eating habits. Solid food becomes more of a nutritional necessity than eating “just for fun,” as our toddlers start relying less on formula or breastmilk. Pediatricians recommend transitioning from bottles to sippy cups, to prevent tooth decay and cavities. They also suggest switching to cow’s milk, which is a suitable nutritional supplement to their diet at this age.

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk is typically recommended due to its high caloric and nutrient content. It’s true that cow’s milk contains high levels of calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, and protein, all which are essential for a growing child. However, there are many negative health effects associated with drinking cow’s milk.

Dairy cows are often given growth hormones to promote higher levels of milk production and antibiotics to keep the cows from getting sick. These substances are transferred into the milk that is consumed, and studies show that these likely have detrimental effects for normal child developmental, as well as links to some cancers. There is also evidence that children who drink 3+ servings of milk per day are likely to be taller, but also obese and overweight. This is due to the high levels of saturated fat present in whole milk (4.6 g per cup). Filling up on milk can also discourage children from eat a variety of healthy foods, creating more picky eaters and healthy problems in the long run.

Aside from these health reasons, many people (65% of the population) are lactose intolerant, meaning their bodies are not able to comfortably digest the sugar found in cow’s milk. This is a clear indication that cow’s milk is made for baby cow consumption, not for humans. The inhumane treatment of dairy cows is also a compelling reason to avoid dairy. The female cows have their calves taken away immediately after birth and are hooked up to milking machines multiple times a day. They are killed after only a few years because their bodies wear out from the constant pregnancy and lactation. This is the sad reality of the conditions that many cows live in in order to provide the high demand of milk for humans.  


Non-Dairy Milk

After the one year mark, children are able to get all the nutrition they need from eating a variety of foods. However, many parents choose to ease the transition and ensure adequate nutrition through the supplementation of milk. As a vegan, I had no intentions of giving my son cow’s milk after he stopped drinking formula, but I did want to complement his food intake with a nutritious beverage. Many non-vegan parents also choose to avoid cow’s milk due to health or allergy reasons.

There are so many non-dairy milk options available, so I tried to do as much research as possible. Opinions about which would be the best option for a growing toddler vary widely. Some non-dairy milk have higher levels of protein while others have a higher caloric content. This is a summary of the nutrition information that I found, and how vegan milk compares to the milk produced by animals. 

As you can see, many of the milk alternatives have comparable nutritional content. The best way for your child to obtain the nutrients he/she needs is through eating a healthy and varied assortment of foods. However, non-dairy milk can also be a great source of nutrition during this transition period. You can use this chart to determine what type of milk would be the best choice for your child’s specific needs.

Want a FREE Vegan Pantry & Fridge Checklist? Get it in my Resource Library!

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  1. This is so great. I was adamant that I wouldn’t give my son cows milk. Then he turned a year and had no interest in food and wanted to be 95% breast fed so I went with it.
    He’s 22 months old now and eats a good, varied diet and whilst we still breastfeed 3 times a day I also buy a variety of non dairy milks (but not soy as I don’t give him that!)

    I’ll be using this info when/if he ever weans!

    • Wow, breastfeeding for 22 months! Kudos to you! Your son may not even need a supplemental milk since he’s almost two and eating a varied diet. Thanks for reading!

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  5. Thank you for your hard work in pulling this together and sharing it. There are so many opinions from doctors and nurses. I just want my kiddos biome in her tummy and her overall health and development help her in the long run. She has refused coconut, oat, and almond milk. I give her the unsweetened and have added a little honey and still no luck. She has an intolerance at 4 yrs, and as parents that have intolerance I knew not to force giving her cows milk. It isn’t beneficial if it makes you sick. I think we will try cashew milk. If anyone has tips on how to get them to drink non dairy milks, please share. Thank you again Katie! 💓


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