How to Help Your Child Enjoy Milk
Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which all growing kids need. But some children just don't like milk, and putting loads of sugar and artificial flavors in it is not a healthy alternative. While you should never force your child to drink milk, it is possible to make milk more interesting or tasty for them.
Getting Creative About Serving Milk
Try small amounts at first.Toddlers especially may not want a full 8-oz glass (237 mL) of milk, and that’s OK. If your child refuses to drink milk, try starting them off with a small amount like 1 to 3 oz (30 to 89 mL). If that works, slowly work your way up to a larger portion such as 6 to 8 oz (177 to 237 mL). Even if they only take a sip, they may decide they like it and want more later.
Give your child choices (but not too many).Toddlers like having choices to make. By giving them the ability to make some decisions about what they eat and drink, you can spark more interest in their food.
- Try making milk the beverage of choice while offering several different flavors. You could offer a choice of plain white milk, chocolate milk, or strawberry milk.
- Let your child pick out their milk at the grocery store.
Make the serving appealing.The best way to do that is to serve the milk in a cup that your child likes. Whether in their favorite cup or one with a fun straw, finding ways to make your child more focused on the cup itself than what’s in the cup can make them less likely to refuse milk.
Try serving milk or yogurt smoothies to get your child interested in milk.You can buy these at the grocery store or make them at home.
- If your child likes these smoothies, you can then try slowly weaning them off onto plain milk.
Let your child pour their own milk at meals.This will give them more ownership over their meal, and they may be more likely to want to drink the milk.
Take your child to a creamery to visit cows.Doing so may make your child more interested in where milk comes from.
Serving Alternatives To Milk
Try non-dairy varieties of milk.Soy, almond, coconut, and rice milk are fortified with certain nutrients to make the benefits comparable to milk.
Use other forms of dairy.If your child simply doesn’t like the taste of milk, they can get plenty of calcium and vitamin D from other dairy products.
- Try using low-fat or fat-free individually-wrapped string cheese as a snack.
- Yogurt and even pudding will also work.
- Ice cream and frozen yogurt make great calcium-rich treats in moderation.
Serve vegetables that are high in calcium and vitamin D.Milk’s nutrients are also present in broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, and bok choy. By making these nutrients part of every meal, you can make sure that your child is getting proper nutrition even if they don’t like milk.
- Sometimes it can be tough to get picky eaters to eat foods that provide necessary nutrients. Sweet potato is usually a very kid-friendly food, and you may have more luck serving it to your child if they don't like broccoli or spinach.
Set a good example.Young children often take cues about what to eat or drink from their parents. Whatever you decide to serve your children, there is a greater likelihood that they will eat or drink it if you do so as well.
Understanding When (Or If) To Introduce Milk
Don’t serve your child regular milk if they are lactose intolerant.Lactose is a sugar found in dairy that some people cannot digest. Lactose intolerance generally causes digestive problems such as bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.
- Lactose is not present in soy, almond, coconut, and rice milk. Most grocery stores also sell lactose-free cow’s milk.
- Lactose intolerance is most common among people of Asian, African, or Native American heritage, but can happen to anyone.
- Lactose intolerance usually develops during the teen or adult years, but it can present in children as young as two.
- While it is very rare for babies to be born lactose intolerant, some babies born prematurely may show temporary signs of lactose intolerance.
Don’t serve your child milk if they have a dairy allergy.Parents often conflate lactose intolerance with being allergic to dairy, but the two are very different. While dairy allergies can also cause digestive problems, other reactions include wheezing, vomiting, and hives. In extreme cases, dairy allergies can be fatal.
- Dairy allergies are more common among very young children. These allergies are often temporary.
- It is possible for children with no allergy to cow’s milk to suffer from an allergy to sheep’s milk.
- If your child is allergic to cow’s milk, they are more likely to be allergic to goat’s milk.
Don’t introduce cow’s milk to your child’s diet before they turn one.Cow’s milk is the most popular form of milk, but even lactose tolerant babies younger than one won’t digest it well. Breast milk or formula is better for infants.
- Try reading age-appropriate books with your child about good nutrition and the importance of drinking milk.
- Try sprinkling grated cheese, like parmesan, over food to provide your child with additional calcium.
Video: What should I do if my child won't drink milk?
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