Nutrition Guide for Your Toddlers

Milk Matters

Milk is an important part of a young child's diet because it provides calcium and vitamin D to help build strong bones. Young children require 700 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D (which aids in calcium absorption) every day.

The need for calcium is satisfied if your child gets both servings daily recommended dairy foods every day, but this amount provides less than half of the vitamin D needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a vitamin D supplementation of 400 IU per day if a child drinks less than one liter (about 4 cups) of milk per day.

In general , children 12 to 24 months of age should drink a full liter of milk a day to receive the dairy fats they require for normal brain growth and development. If overweight or obesity is a concern, or if there is a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or heart disease, talk to your doctor to see if the reduced fat milk (2%) is adequate. After 2 years of age, most children can switch to low fat (1%) or fat free milk. Your doctor will help you decide what type of milk to give to your young child.

Some children may initially refuse cow's milk because they do not have the familiar taste of breast milk or formula. If your child is at least 12 months old and has this difficulty, mix whole milk with some formula or breast milk. Adjust the mixture gradually over time, until it is 100% cow's milk.

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Young children should receive 7 milligrams of iron daily. After 12 months of age, they are at risk for iron deficiency because they no longer drink iron-fortified formula and may not be eating iron-fortified infant cereal or enough iron-containing foods to make up the difference.

Cow's milk is low in iron. Drinking too much cow's milk can put a child at risk of developing iron deficiency. Young children who drink a lot of cow's milk may be less hungry and are likely to eat less iron-rich foods. Milk decreases the absorption of iron and can also irritate the lining of the intestine, causing small bleeding and gradual loss of iron in the stool.

Iron deficiency can affect growth and can lead to learning problems and behavioral. And it can progress to anemia (a reduced number of red blood cells in the body). Iron is needed to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough iron and red blood cells, body tissues and organs get less oxygen and do not work well.

To help prevent iron deficiency:

Limit intake of your child's milk to about 0.45-0.68 liters per day. Serve more iron-rich foods (meat, poultry, fish, enriched grains, legumes, tofu). > When serving iron-rich foods, include foods that contain vitamin C (tomatoes, broccoli, oranges and strawberries) that improve iron absorption in the body. Continue serving iron-fortified cereal until your child is between 18 and 24 months old.

  • Adam Floyd