Beyond Breastfeeding: Milk for a Toddler’s Diet

Despite the benefits of breastfeeding, there will come a time when weaning or offering other types of milk to our toddler happens.

When our kids turned one year old, we celebrated their milestones with birthday cakes and the unlocking of new foods (read: more adult foods) in their diets. It was pretty much “YAY! Let’s explore and get more adventurous with their meals!”

As they transitioned to toddlerhood, the frequency of milk intake reduced as their diets included more solids. The bulk of their nutritional intake came from their meals and being the foodie I am, this mama is pretty particular about what the kids eat. After all, we are what we eat, and the first years of a child’s life play a pivotal role in determining the child’s adult life. It is also reassuring to know that the importance of eating the right nutrition is supported by medical experts too.

breastfeeding mum interview The Straits Times

Breastfeeding an active toddler can be challenging at times!

Besides breastmilk and formula milk, toddlers can drink fresh milk too

Besides fresh food, milk for our kids consists of four types: breastmilk, formula milk powder, fresh milk and UHT milk.

At age one, both Vera and Leroy had a taste of full cream fresh milk.

Fresh milk can be served straight from the fridge or warmed up. Just add cereal in a bowl for a quick, easy and healthy breakfast! Or simply slurp it up in a sippy cup and enjoy it with bread. Browse this list of breakfast ideas for busy parents or the recipes shared by the Health Promotion Board for more healthy inspiration to help you save time yet eat healthily, mums and dads!

Discussions and comparisons on the nutritional value of formula milk powder in Singapore versus the fresh milk at our local supermarkets were rampant. Which is the best milk for toddlers? Would our children be losing out on nutrients if we replaced milk powder with fresh milk? Oh, and let’s not forget the stress breastfeeding mums go through – where offering formula milk puts mums on a guilt trip!

Eventually, UHT milk entered our milk affair with Vera. UHT means Ultra-high Temperature, as the product has been treated at a high-temperature of135 degree Celsius for a few seconds to achieve effective sterilization. With its ability to stay fresh at room temperature, it became the practical choice when heading out. Our diaper bag is definitely much lighter and more compact with UHT milk too!

milk and cereal breakfast for toddlers singapore

Oh, the mess with fresh milk at breakfast! Looks like someone washed his hands in there.

Second-time parents: Milking our experience

Now with our second child, we pretty much used the same tried-and-tested methods that worked for us previously.

As a full-time working mum, pumping breastmilk continues when I’m at work. Leroy nurses when he wakes (oh, wait. He gets all-night buffet actually!) and drinks full cream fresh milk in the morning when he sees his sister enjoying hers!

Is milk essential in a toddler’s diet?

Which leads us to the crucial question – is milk really necessary for toddlers?

Our local Health Promotion Board suggests that milk is one of many sources of nutrition for children, and plays a complementary role in their diet after they’re one year old. This is on the assumption that the toddler, is eating and growing well and has at least 3 meals in a day.

children drinking fresh milk singapore

Bottoms up! Vera and Leroy enjoying their fresh milk at breakfast, while I reach out for my coffee. LOL!

Milk offers a wealth of benefits for growing children and is rich in proteins, calcium, vitamins and minerals to support healthy development. Besides milk, cheese, yogurt and tofu are great sources of calcium and proteins too.

Just as it is for adults, parents need to remember that excess nourishment is passed out from the child’s body. Overtaxing the little one’s systems are also not such a good idea. At the same time, we need to be mindful that children whose milk intake exceeds the recommended amount can end up with constipation, fussy eating habits and excessive weight gain.

The bottom line: Just like other foods or drinks, offer milk in moderation and ensure that your toddler’s main diet comprises of healthy foods.

Here are some tips on choosing fresh milk for your toddler:

  • Choose full cream fresh milk as active toddlers need plenty of energy
  • Read the labels and look out for “100% fresh milk”
  • Your child’s tastebuds usually takes precedence – don’t fret if your toddler rejects a certain type of milk or a certain brand. Try another one.

While experts advise that as long as children consume balanced diets, all is well, and milk for kids is secondary. The most important thing is to know your child and understand if he or she is eating well. If your toddler is a picky eater, losing weight, not meeting milestones or is not growing well, do seek medical advice from the doctor.

Ways to serve fluids to your one-year-old

As you can see, when it comes to having cereal with milk in a bowl, things can get pretty messy :P Fret not, if you think this looks like a one-way ticket to Messy Land. Things can be managed, so breathe easy, mums and dads!

Besides a bowl or open cup, the transition from milk bottle to sippy cup or a straw bottle are commonly practised first as they are more manageable for children to handle. Once they are more confident drinking from the latter two and parents observe lesser spillage, gradually introduce an open cup.

Whether you’re planning to wean your child from the bottle, or would like to introduce the sippy cup so your child can drink water, milk or juice any time of the day, it can be easily done with some practice. Here’s how:

  • Choose an appropriately-sized sippy cup or a straw bottle.
  • Ensure that the mouthpieces and straw components can be washed and replaced when needed.
  • Demonstrate to your child how the sippy cup or straw bottle is used. Personally, I felt that it was pretty instinctive for Vera to figure it out; but Leroy took some time to get used to it. Not to worry, just keep introducing the sippy cup or straw bottle at meal times, or any time of the day to let your child familiarise with it.

As with introduction to solids or potty training, it is natural that children take time to figure things out. Parenting is where our patience is often put to test, yet we often get WOW-ed by the surprises our kids spring on us!

For expert advice on baby nutrition and how to breastfeed successfully, visit www.healthhub.sg/earlynutrition for more information.

This article is also published on theAsianparent.

Are you planning to start your child on fresh milk or UHT milk? Do share with us your thoughts on your milk choices too!

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