Breastfeeding: Is milk necessary for nursing toddler?

My one-year-old son is still nursing. At his one year checkup the pediatrician said he should be drinking whole milk. We reminded him that our son is allergic to dairy and he suggested a soy formula. I told him I was still nursing but he said there was no way to know how much breastmilk he was taking in. I don't want to feed my son artificial baby milk. Is it necessary for a child who is still nursing to drink supplemental cow's milk or soy milk?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Dear Adrianne,

Congratulation on continuing to nurse your baby! If your baby still breastfeeds regularly, and is expanding his interest in solid foods, he does not require any additional milk (cow's milk or soy.) Your milk remains absolutely perfect for your baby as long as you continue to nurse.

Adding healthy foods such as broccoli, spinach, kale, apricots, figs, beans and chick peas to your baby's diet will help to assure that your baby meets his daily calcium requirements. It is highly unlikely that your nursing toddler would suffer from calcium deficiency even without the addition of these calcium-rich foods.

Many societies throughout the world remain very healthy without ever drinking milk once weaned from the breast. Remember that milk is species specific. Cow's milk is intended for baby cows, who grow much faster than human babies and have very different nutritional needs. Since your baby has already exhibited signs of allergy I would not recommend the addition of dairy products to your baby's diet at this time. Soy is also highly allergic, particularly for babies who have already shown a sensitivity to cow's milk.

Just as you did not know the exact amount of your milk that your baby was taking in his first year of life, you do not need to know the precise amount now. In the first year you watched your baby's output and pattern of weight gain, growth and development. This assured you that your baby was receiving the amount of your milk needed for optimal health.

If your baby's Pediatrician is still concerned, ask that he schedule more frequent checks of your little one's growth and development throughout his second year of life. If your baby begins to fall to a lower percentile on the growth charts over a period of months, this may be a red flag, indicating the possibility of a nutritional deficiency.

A healthy and varied diet of nutrient dense foods, in addition to continued nursing should provide your baby with everything he needs. Best wishes!


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