This is a common question from new parents. Should you give your child dairy cow milk or soy milk? My answer is neither, since both can cause health problems. Toddlers and children do not need any type of milk after they are weaned from breast milk.
“Drink milk; it’s nature’s most perfect food”. The dairy industry has been promoting this message for decades. Is milk really a perfect food for toddlers and children? If you are talking about human breastmilk, then the answer is yes. When it comes to dairy milk – it’s perfect for calves, but not for humans.
Cow milk contains protein and calcium, but much of the nutritional value is depleted during processing. The biggest problem with milk is that it is pasteurized. Pasteurization kills vitamins, enzymes, and good bacteria, it makes milk indigestible, and it interferes with calcium absorption. Children also need the fat in milk to absorb the calcium, so homogenized or low-fat milk is not a good idea. Another issue is that today’s dairy cows do not eat the right foods to make healthy milk. In addition, pesticides, antibiotics, and bovine growth hormone are abundant in milk, unless it’s organic.
Cow milk is associated with all kinds of health problems, including allergies, anemia, diabetes, and cancer. So milk is not the best place to get protein or calcium, with one exception. Raw cow milk from pastured cows that eat green grass can be a good choice since it has not been affected by pasteurization or heavy processing, and pastured cows make healthy milk. Unfortunately, raw milk is very difficult to come by in most areas.
Many children are allergic to milk and dairy products. Some symptoms to look for include chronic nasal and sinus congestion, asthma, and frequent ear infections. Stomach aches and gas can also be caused by milk. If your child has any of these problems, try stopping all dairy products for a month. Then if symptoms improve, try reintroducing milk and see what happens.
What about soy milk? We’ve been taught (by the soy industry of course) that soy is a health food. It is not, and soy can be quite harmful if fed in large amounts to young children. This article outlines some of the detrimental effects of feeding soy to children:
Read Soy Alert
A common question I hear from parents is what type of milk is the best alternative to dairy milk? This question shows how deeply ingrained the message is that milk is vitally important to our health. It’s not milk that’s important; it’s protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals and all these nutrients can be found in other foods. Children don’t need any type of milk after they’ve weaned from breastmilk. They do need healthy whole foods. They need protein foods such as naturally-raised meats and eggs and they need healthy fats.
The best non-dairy sources of calcium are dark green vegetables and sesame seeds (tahini). Or if your child is not eating enough of these foods, then a chewable or liquid form of calcium citrate is a good idea. A good supplement is Childlife Calcium & Magnesium Liquid. I also like Flora Floradix Kinder Love Children’s Multivitamin because it is a whole food supplement.
At Healthy Child we have tons of articles on food and nutrition for children. You can access this information on the Healthy Child blog.
I don’t recommend soy or rice milk or any type of milk for kids after weaning (unless it’s raw milk). After weaning, the best drink is pure, filtered water.