Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

Written by Larissa Stanley, a volunteer at Calgary Family Nutrition. For more information, you can see her bio here

When your young child is newly diagnosed with a cow’s milk allergy, it can be hard to know what to replace cow’s milk with. Today I will share with you some of the recommendations for choosing milk alternatives for your toddler.

If you are breastfeeding, you will likely need to take out dairy products from your diet. Talk to your healthcare provider for guidance on how to do this and maintain a healthy diet.

Health Canada recommends children should stay on breastmilk or formula until they are 2.

If your baby is formula fed, there are three options for store-bought formula to choose from:

  1. Soy. Some babies that are allergic to milk will also be allergic to Soy.
  2. Extensively Hydrolyzed. These formulas have broken down milk proteins so that a reaction from your child is less likely.  
  3. Amino acid-based formulas. These formulas are used for a small population of babies that don’t tolerate soy or hydrolyzed formulas.

Talk to your healthcare provider about which formula is right for your baby.

You may remember me mentioning in a previous post about the important nutrients that are supplied from dairy products: protein, fat, vitamin D, and calcium.  Breastmilk and store-bought formula are great choices to replace this as they provide most of these nutrients.

When transitioning from breastmilk or formula to milk, remember that when your child has a cow’s milk allergy, they can often be allergic to other animal milks, such as goat or sheep’s milk.  

Plant based beverages

If your child is still allergic to cow’s milk at age 2 and you want to transition to a plant-based beverage, there are a few things to consider. Plant-based beverages include soy, hemp, almond, cashew, and coconut. They are often called “milks” but have different nutrient profiles than cow’s milk. Walking down the aisle of plant-based beverages can be quite overwhelming, there are so many options!

Consider the following things when choosing the plant-based beverage that works best for your family.

When looking for high protein and fat options, consider the comparison of different plant-based beverages and 3.25% cow’s milk.

Fortified soy-beverage is the only plant-based beverage that is similar to cow’s milk in protein content. For the other options, it is important to remember that because of the low protein and fat content they are not suitable to solely replace to cow’s milk.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use other plant-based beverages. However, if you choose lower fat and protein plant-based beverages, these nutrients need to be increased through other food in your child’s diet. The next two posts will provide ideas on how to maximize the nutrients your child is getting from non-dairy sources.

For more insight on making dairy-free choices and choosing a cow’s milk replacement for your child, book a consultation with Calgary Family Nutrition today.

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