My 19 month old son doesn't drink milk. I promise it is not my lack of effort or a willfull act of neglect. Weaning off breastmilk and on to a different milk after he turned 1 was something I very clearly overanalyzed.
When I took my son in for his 9-month check-up with his pediatrician, in preparation for his first birthday I had a laundry list of questions about milk. We don't eat or drink much dairy at home, so I wasn't convinced I wanted to put him on traditional cow's milk after he was weaned. The pediatrician was comfortable with this, and told me that any type of milk alternative is fine--as long as he was getting a balanced diet of real food.
I got to work analyzing the nutritional content on every type of milk I could get my hands on. Cow, Goat, Almond, Soy, Hemp, Flax, Hazelnut, Oat...I am pretty sure food scientists have figured a way to milk every nut, seed, and grain imaginable.
I quickly discovered two interesting things.
- The nutritional profile is entirely different for every type of milk. And even within a specific type, such as Almond Milk, each brand has very different nutritional content.
- Besides the cow and goat milk, these drinks were not actually milk. They were white beverages we call milk.
So when I returned to the pediatrician at the 1 year appointment, I brought my findings to him. Besides politely ignoring my craziness, he said he wasn't concerned with what specific nutritional content the
white beverage milk had. The doctor said he had no preference on type of milk, or even what I should be looking for in a product.
So I continued to nurse and started to introduce breastmilk in a cup. He refused to drink it. He had been drinking out water out of an open cup for months, and took bottles just fine. But when it came time to drink milk out of a cup--No thank you, Ma'am.
I.was.so.confused. Why would he refuse the breastmilk out of a cup? Surely he likes it. He'd been surviving on it for long enough. Maybe it was the cup.
This brought me to sampling every sippy cup on the market. Still nothing.
So I went ahead and gave him the milk alternative I selected. Nope. Didn't want it. I also mixed it half and half with breastmilk with no luck. Then I tried cow's milk. Nothing. I offered every milk I could find in every cup I could find without success. The kid just did not want to drink milk.
As I weaned him off nursing I suspected he would have a growing appetite for the milk in a cup. He did not. This brought me to the realization that nursing was really more for comfort than nutrition at this age. At 14 months he didn't need the breastmilk-- but he liked the comfort of nursing. Although breastmilk continues to support health and development well past the age of 1, he didn't need the breastmilk at this age because he was getting a well-rounded diet of food.
That is the goal, right? By age 1, babies should be working towards transitioning off a milk-based diet and onto a solid food-based diet. There should not be a 1:1 exchange of formula/breastmilk for other milks.
The American in me said that my kid needed to be drinking big glasses of a white beverage with his meals. But the reality is that milk is a supplemental source of nutrition. It is recommended that young children drink it to fulfill assumed nutritional deficits they have in their diets--because we all know it can be difficult to get them to eat a well-rounded diet.
I am lucky that my son eats really well. As a result, he has never sought out the extra nutrition that milk offers. He gets what he needs from his food, and he drinks water to stay hydrated. It took me sometime to realize this, but I am finally at peace with it. I let him take the lead on letting me know what his body needs.
Today, at 19 months, he drinks anywhere between a 0 to 2 ounces of cow's milk (Organic, Batch Pasteurized) each day. I offer it to him with breakfast and sometimes he will take some. Other times he will not. I don't push it, but I make it available.
This experience got me thinking--maybe not all kids need milk? And on the flip side--maybe some kids that don't eat a balanced diet are relying too heavily on milk past the age of 1.