How much milk does your toddler need?

She’s moving on from bottles or breastfeeding, but your toddler still needs a good supply of milk. Is yours getting enough?

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Beyond 12 months, solid foods have replaced milk as your toddler’s main source of nutrition. She still needs about 12 oz of milk a day (around 350ml) to provide calories and nutrients like calcium; this can come from drinks of milk or milk equivalents, such as cheese, yoghurt and so on. Experts warn against giving excessive amounts of milk, as this can hinder iron absorption.

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Dropping milk feeds

Toddlers may still have milk feeds in the morning and evening, but how much she has and when will vary according to her own thirst and appetite. If you’re still breastfeeding, morning and evening feeds tend to be more convenient, especially if you’re back at work, and will give your toddler a lot of comfort, especially at bedtime.

If you’re giving your toddler cow’s milk or formula, this should be from a cup instead of a bottle. Bottle-feeding allows milk to pool around your baby’s teeth, which can cause cavities, so aim to switch to a trainer cup or a proper open cup at around 12 months.

When to give milk

To avoid your toddler filling up on milk rather than solids, it’s best to offer it after a meal or with a morning or afternoon snack, rather than with or just before a meal. If you’re trying to drop a feed during the day, offer a milk-based dessert like yoghurt or rice pudding at the end of a meal to fill your toddler up.

Once your baby is 12 months old, she no longer needs a bedtime milk feed, but dropping this feed can take a bit of work, as it’s often a part of her sleep routine. Make sure you have a good, calming bedtime routine in place if you want to drop this feed, offering a cup of milk or a milky supper like porridge instead of a bottle or breastfeed.

The right kinds of milk

From 12 months, your baby can have full-fat cow’s milk instead of formula or breastmilk – although if you’re happy to carry on breastfeeding, there’s no need to stop. Full-fat cow’s milk contains lots of essential nutrients including protein, calcium, magnesium and vitamins B12 and B2 as well as vitamins A and D. These vitamins come from the fat in milk; semi-skimmed and skimmed milk will not provide the equivalent goodness, so don’t give these to your toddler.

Your 12-month-old should be getting enough iron and other nutrients from her solid meals, but if you are concerned about her diet – perhaps if she’s a particularly fussy eater – you may want to continue to give her formula or follow-on formula. Your health visitor can give you more information about when this might be recommended.

What if your child won’t drink milk?

Your toddler can get plenty of calcium from other sources, without having milk as a drink. Cheese and yogurts are good sources of calcium, and you can make sure there’s plenty of milk in dishes that include white sauces, such as lasagne and cauliflower cheese. Most children enjoy finger foods such as sticks of cheese too, so include these at snack time.

Your toddler’s typical daily meal plan

Breakfast: cereal with milk, fruit. Cup of milk
Mid-morning: snack and drink of water
Lunch: savoury finger food, fruit, milk-based dessert. Drink of water or diluted juice
Mid-afternoon: snack and cup of milk
Tea: cooked savoury main course, apple crumble. Cup of milk

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Children vary enormously, so use this information only as a guide. If you have any concerns about your child’s diet or milk intake, talk to your health visitor or doctor.

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