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Right milk for your kid

There are several reasons why a mother’s milk is considered to be the safest and healthiest option for a baby. The developing immune system of the baby can not only easily digest mother’s breast milk, but it is also an ultimate source of nutrition for the child.

However, there are many situations where breastfeeding is not possible. It becomes rather crucial for parents to explore alternative milk options. They have to make sure they are choosing the best solution that ensures all the needs of the child’s body.

The key to choosing the best among the milk options depends on making an informed decision about keeping the child’s needs in mind.

In today’s article, the focus is on how to choose among the relevant milk options.

The relation between bones and milk: how much milk is enough for the child?

250ml of milk is equivalent to 250mg of calcium which makes it quite clear why milk and bones happen to have a strong connection between them. Milk is considered to be one of the strongest and concentrated sources of calcium. So, giving the right amount of milk to a child is very important.

If the child is more than one year old, 1 cup of milk is sufficient. Furthermore, if they are more than two years old, start giving them 2 cups a day keeping their diet in mind.

One must make sure they are not over-filling the kid’s stomach with milk and that they have enough space to eat other food items.

Drinking milk regularly can ensure the following:

  • Strong bones
  • Safety against bone disorders
  • Weight maintenance

A child must receive the right milk for healthy bones. Consider consulting a pediatric orthopaedic doctor to check the bone health of your child.

So without any further ado, let’s start with the biggest dilemma of all times.

Cow’s milk or buffalo milk, which one is better for the baby?

When it comes to discussing alternatives to breast milk; one of the most common questions parents raise is whether to feed cow milk or buffalo milk. They also want to know when is the correct time to introduce this milk in the child’s life.

Since babies have a relatively weak digestive system that is developing they might find it difficult to digest animal milk before the age of 1. Even after the age of 1, one should consult a paediatrician and then introduce animal milk in small quantities gradually. So once the child crosses the first milestone of his/her life, it is an excellent time to introduce any new baby formula.

As far as the cow milk and buffalo milk are concerned, several things need to be considered before making the right choice for a child.

  • Easy to digest– When looking for a formula that a baby can easily digest then hands down cow’s milk is better than buffalo’s milk. Due to lesser fat and protein content in it. Buffalo’s milk has nearly 11% more protein content in it which can be difficult for the baby to digest.
  • Calorific values– Buffalo’s milk has more calories and has a higher amount of calcium as well. Calcium is good for bones, especially for infants who are growing. Thus, buffalo’s milk has more benefits and can be more enriching for the child, especially if the child is weak.
  • Better water content- the constituency of cow’s milk has more water in it, which can keep your baby both hydrated and well-fed.

After considering both the types of milk along with the needs of the baby, one will be able to make the right judgment.

How to choose the correct baby formula?

Correct baby formula for milk

Many parents want to know some quick and easy tips for choosing the correct baby formula for their child. While it can be difficult to jot down exact rules that apply in every situation; there are some basic guidelines which can help, and they are:

Notice the digestive reaction– the best way to introduce an alternative source of milk is via small quantities. After inculcating these small quantities in a child’s diet, make sure to keep track of the child’s digestive system. This will help one ensure that they do not have any allergic reaction or possibly any other issue with the milk.

Choose a formula to rely on– Switching formulas often is not the best option. Parents should go for a brand and formula that they can continue without hesitation. Changing baby formula often is not suitable for the baby’s health and may lead to digestive issues.

Brand and price are not a sign of quality– Most of the parents want to give the best to the child. They believe that an expensive brand is equivalent to the best in quality which is a hoax. The price of the brand has nothing to do with quality. Instead, choosing the one that suits the child’s needs is the best parameter for it. Cutting a huge hole in the pocket will not necessarily make it the best option for a kid.

Consult your paediatrician– Many parents do not consult their paediatrician while taking such decisions which is not the best thing to do. A paediatrician knows what is best for the child and can help parents choose from several options that are out there.

Do not alter anything– While preparing the baby formula; one must stick to the instructions. Follow the rules. Do not make any changes that are not stated by an expert or mentioned on the box.

What if the child is lactose intolerant?

Let us start by understanding that lactose intolerance and milk allergy are not the same things even though they are often used interchangeably by parents.

Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to absorb any food product that has lactose (a type of sugar) in it. A child could be born with this problem or eventually develop it at a later stage in life. In the majority of cases, infants are not born with this problem; they develop it after the age of 3.

Diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal cramps, bloating, and pain in the stomach are some common symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Alternatives for lactose-intolerant children

Soy milk- It is a great source of protein and calcium. One must be aware of the benefits of soy products which is why choosing soy milk for the kid can be beneficial.

But studies show how 40% of children who are allergic to cow’s milk are also allergic to soy milk. Furthermore, soy milk also contains phytoestrogens which may not be the best options for males. Soy milk might not be as nutritious as cow’s milk. One needs to ensure that the other bodily demands of the child are satisfied with a balanced diet.

Almond milk– Another great alternative is almond milk, which has calcium inside. It is important to note that as compared to animal milk almond milk has relatively lesser benefits. However, it is safe for anyone who cannot consume lactose in their diet.

Almond milk has less protein content (lesser than 1gm per cup) which is why one must make up for the child’s protein consumption. Also, do not give milk extracted from nuts like cashews and almonds to a kid if they have a nut allergy.

Rice milk- Rice milk is another good alternative for vegan children. Rice milk contains a low amount of proteins, calories and fat. They might not be sufficient, especially for young ones who require them. Furthermore, there are a lot of doubts about arsenic contents in rice milk, so one needs to make sure about its quantity.

Coconut milk– Another dairy-free option that is readily available in the market is coconut milk. It has similar fat content to that of a cow’s milk and contains vitamin B12. The only drawback is the low-calorie count which has to be made up for eventually.

Basic rules while choosing the right milk

  1. Start with whole-fat milk if the child is underweight and above 1 year old.
  2. Start with low-fat milk if the child has turned 2, has gained excessive weight or is experiencing constipation.

Deciphering the labels

While it can be difficult to understand what is written on the labels of baby formula boxes, a good trick would be to look for the following:

  • Easy to digest protein
  • Added whey protein
  • Lactose is the primary carbohydrate
  • A fat blend modelled after the composition and structure of breast milk fats
  • Added omega-3 fatty acids

Fussy eaters

Do not panic if the child is refusing to drink milk. Like adults, even children get accustomed to things at a slow pace. So, there is a high chance that the child too will get used to it gradually.

If one is having a hard time convincing the toddler to drink milk, try enhancing its taste with added flavours or give them milk with cereal. Even making milkshakes for children above the age of 2 is a great way to get them habituated to drinking milk.

Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Pediatric Orthopedist and Sports Medicine specialist​

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