Milk Substitutes

My Certain Little Someone turned 1 a couple weeks ago, a milestone we looked forward to with great excitement and anticipation.  I spent all my mental energy in the weeks prior to the party on menu planning, decorations, favors and the like. After the party, though, my thoughts turned to the next big milestone: weaning from formula.

I actually had been breast-feeding my son from the beginning, but around the time we discovered his allergies and my diet changed drastically, my supply began to drop. And drop. And drop some more. Finally, by 9 months, he was getting more of his nutrition from formula than from me, and I decided the diet was not worth the effort for those paltry ounces every day. So, with an admittedly heavy heart, I weaned him from breast milk and he has been on exclusively Nutramigen formula since then.

May I just say that Nutramigen is incredibly expensive! It was an unexpected addition to our budget, and I cannot wait until the day we wave it goodbye! So once my little man turned one, I began to research the options and talk to my allergist and other moms.

There are certainly a lot of non-dairy milk options out there these days. Here are a few:

Goat’s Milk – This is the best alternative for cow’s milk; in fact, in many cultures, it is the preferred milk and some people consider goat’s milk to be nutritionally superior to cow’s milk. It’s generally thought of as easier to digest than cow’s milk. However, many children who are allergic to cow’s milk are also allergic to goat’s milk. I spread just a teeny tiny bit on my Certain Little Someone’s arm, and sure enough, a couple hives popped up a few minutes later. No goat’s milk for him!

Soy Milk – Soy milk is probably the preferred non-dairy milk for the majority of people who avoid cow’s milk, whether they are allergic, vegan or avoiding casein (as in the case of many children with autism or ADD). It has proteins, calcium and essential fatty acids that make cow’s milk a staple of children’s diets, so it is very commonly recommended. In fact, soy milk is my allergist’s recommendation, but we still have to do a skin test and a food challenge to determine if he is allergic to it or not. So far, results have been inconclusive. I am a little concerned about two things: the phytoestrogens in soy milk and the fact that soy is almost always genetically modified. The first is particularly a problem because he is a boy, and the second can be avoided by only purchasing organic soy milk. Also, I have read that soy should be kept in balance in a diet, that having too much can be harmful.

Hemp Milk – This is fairly new on the non-dairy scene, but it’s gaining popularity. Like soy milk, it has the same nutrients that a child would get from cow’s milk, so it’s an excellent replacement. It’s also generally considered to be safer, and some say, tastier, than soy milk. But it’s very new, so not a lot is known about it. I’m definitely keeping it under consideration.

Coconut Milk – Turtle Mountain has created a drink-able coconut milk product that has a similar mouth-feel to whole cow’s milk. It has a good amount of healthy fat, calcium and vitamin D, but it’s lacking in calories and protein. I make coconut yogurt regularly for my Certain Little Someone, and I think coconut milk would make a nice addition to his diet, but only if those dietary holes are filled by something else.

Almond Milk – Many people choose almond milk as their non-dairy product of choice because it tastes the best out of all the options. It does have some protein and calcium, but I don’t think it has enough fat and calories for a growing toddler. Furthermore, while my son is not allergic to almonds yet, he’s definitely very sensitive, so I’m going to continue avoiding nuts and nut products until he’s at least 2.

Rice Milk – I personally don’t feel rice milk is a viable option for a toddler, with all their nutritional needs and growing bodies. It’s mostly carbohydrates, not enough fat, protein or calcium.

Oat Milk, Potato Milk, etc. – It seems like milk can be made out of pretty much anything, but I don’t know much about the other options. If you have information to share, please leave a comment!

My Conclusion:

As it stands right now, I think I’m going to keep my Certain Little Someone on Nutramigen until he’s at least 15 or 18 months. At that point, I’ll probably start slowly switching him over to a combination of milks including soy (if he passes the food challenge), hemp and coconut. In the meantime, I’ll give him a taste of those milks, but I’m not considering them an essential part of his diet yet.

~As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word. I Peter 2:2~

What milk substitute have you chosen for your child?


6 Comments on “Milk Substitutes”

  1. Tanya says:

    Hi, Anne – so sorry to hear about your little one’s intolerances!

    I drink the almond milk in order to be able to nurse our baby girl who has milk and soy intolerances. I started out with rice milk but like the almond milk better for its richer taste.

    I wanted to let you know that I replied over at my blog with a couple more ideas for saving on formula:

    and also posted on saving money on formula @ Amazon:

    Hang in there! This is such a hard thing! But, I’m so thankful that they are realizing more that babies do have these intolerances! Our first doctor with our DS told us it was colic and he would outgrow it. If we had settled for that, he would have screamed for the entire first 9 months of his life!

    • Yes, I much prefer the almond milk myself. That’s mostly what I drank when I was nursing my son, but I eventually quit when he was 9 months because the diet was just too hard for me. My son’s allergies were discovered because he developed terrible eczema when he was about 3 months old. He had always been a fussy baby, but not constantly screaming, either. I would have described him as mildly colicky. I’m not sure if that was connected to the allergies or not, but at any rate, thankfully, we discovered his allergies by the time he was 4 months old. It can be tricky to diagnose for a nursing baby. Thanks for the info on the formula, also!

  2. Teri says:

    So, I just discovered your blog today- that’s why there are so many post from me 🙂

    You are very wise to make sure your son get’s enough fat. My oldest has a dairy allergy and when he was 2 1/2 or so he got uncontrollable diarrhea. Apparently there is something called toddler diarrhea, which is common in vegan toddlers and others with a low fat diet. Because we eat a fairly natural diet which is low in fat and he couldn’t have whole milk, he just didn’t get enough fat. So, it is important to make sure that he is getting enough natural sources of fat. Toddlers and children need natural fat to grow and develop. In fact, my 8 yr old daughter and 10 yr old son still get whole milk dairy products because our diet is naturally low in fat.

  3. Lisa says:

    Since you asked… even though this post is old…

    I make teff milk for my son and give him hemp milk. Because he’s almost 2, I’m not as concerned about fat content, but he loves the hemp milk, so I give him an ounce or so in every bottle of teff milk.

    What is teff milk? Teff is a gluten free grain (you’re probably familiar with it–if not, it is delicious and you should get some!) and I make milk out of it and sweeten it with stevia. Unfortunately, my son refuses to drink water, so I give him a rather watered down teff milk (1/2 cup teff grain to make 3 quarts of milk) during the day. He goes through 3 quarts every 3-4 days! At least it’s easy to make!

    Lately we have been trying feeding him 2 meals a day to give his digestive tract more chance to heal, so I always give him a glass of pure hemp milk before bed, for extra fat and protein.

    Also, for fat, we put oil in his food. This is on the advice of his doctor. Flax seed oil in the first meal, olive oil in the second. I don’t have to worry about forgetting–if I do, he will remind me very strongly! He says “yoiya” over and over until I remember what that means and get him some! It’s quite funny watching him try to talk!

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I’m going to look through all of it as I have time, and I have already subscribed to keep up with future updates. I have posted a few gluten-free recipes on my site, though nothing much that my son could eat (he only has 8 teeth so far, and he doesn’t like a lot of textures yet).

    • I’ve never heard of making milk with teff, but I suppose it can be made from any grain! I don’t even know if I could find teff around here, I may have seen it in the health food store, but at prohibitively expensive prices. That’s a good idea about the oil; I try to incorporate oils and other fatty foods (like avocado and coconut) in his diet for that reason. I tried hemp milk with my son, but he reacted to it, so we use coconut and rice milk. Coconut milk twice a day, rice milk for baking and putting in his cereal (and chocolate rice milk for hot chocolate, which he loves!).

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