Can Babies Have Milk Alternatives?
4 min read
Although weaning is all about the introduction of solid foods, milk (breastmilk or formula) will still be a large part of your baby's diet, especially at the beginning.
We know that milk - how much and what kind - can be a big concern for parents as they get to grips with the weaning journey.
As milk alternatives become more popular and more readily available, it’s no surprise that parents have more questions about milk and whether these alternatives are suitable for babies. We shed a little light on the matter.
Can My Baby Have Milk Alternatives?
The NHS advises that babies should not drink cows’ milk or any other milk alternatives as a main drink before they are at least 12 months old. This is because, before this age, these kinds of milk do not contain the right amount of nutrients and energy for your baby as they grow.
Breastmilk or formula is the best thing for your little one at this age, and any kind of milk alternative cannot be considered a replacement.
For an in-depth look at the nutritional needs of babies throughout the weaning stages, take a look at our nutritionist’s blog:
Milk During Weaning
You can start to introduce small amounts of milk and other dairy products like pasteurised cheese, plain yoghurt or certain milk alternatives from around six months.
Any milk products offered at this age should be used in weaning recipes and cooking rather than becoming a replacement for your little one’s normal breastmilk or formula feeds.
The NHS also states that, from 12 months, you can give your child unsweetened, calcium-fortified milk alternatives as a part of a balanced diet.
Different Milk Alternatives for Babies and Toddlers
If giving your one year old any milk alternatives as a main drink, it is important to choose fortified options as they will provide higher levels of nutrients, similar to the levels that can be found in cows’ milk.
Always look for unsweetened milk alternatives that have been fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 to ensure your little one is getting the nutrients they need.
Not all plant-based milks have the same nutritional value, which is important to remember when giving your baby a balanced diet. If you’re looking for something that is most nutritionally similar to cows’ milk, the following options are often considered the best:
- Soy milk
- Oat milk
- Pea protein milk
Other milk alternatives to offer in small tastes as part of a healthy diet include:
- Coconut milk
- Almond milk
- Hemp milk
If you are thinking of offering your baby any milk alternatives as a main drink, speak to your healthcare professional to ensure your little one’s diet is giving them the correct levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and caloric intake.