Is Cow's Milk Necessary For Toddlers?

By Debbi Donovan, Board Certified Lactation Consultant and retired La Leche League Leader. For over a decade, Debbi counseled and taught classes to couples during the childbearing years, in addition to attending births as a professional labor assistant.


My one-year-old son is 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?


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 cow's 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. Because your baby has already exhibited signs of allergy, I would not recommend the addition of any dairy products to your baby's diet at this time. Soy [and other nut] products are 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 several months, this may be a red flag, indicating the possibility of a nutritional deficiency, otherwise, everything is as it should be.

A healthy and varied diet of nutrient dense foods, in addition to breastmilk, provides your baby with everything he needs. Best wishes!


Related Reading: 

The Baby Bond [book]

The Baby Bond [website]

The China Study [book]

The Deadly Influence of Formula in America

Don't Drink Your Milk [book]

The Downside to Feeding Your Child Cow's Milk

Dr. Sears on Cow's Milk

Should Children Drink Cow's Milk?

Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow's Milk and Your Health [book]

Image from Health 101


  1. Finally an article about the truths of COW milk. Thank you for this! I hope the entire world reads it!! It's time for people to get educated on the truths of cow dairy.

  2. Yeh dairy is pretty tough on people's systems. My kids, once they are finished with mommy milk, they self wean, get fortified rice or coconut milk due to dairy and soy allergies.:) Plus we try very hard to use food to get the nutrients they need so we don't have to use extra supplements etc. We have seen a nutritionist who helped a lot!

  3. So, the doctor recommended cow's milk, which has hormones and antibiotics in it OR soy formula which soy is a GMO and especially terrible for boys. Way to go, Doc! As a pediatric medical assistant, I can tell you that doctors and nurses receive very little (0-4hours), if any, nutritional training. Refer to Dr. Mercola's website for more nutritional info; he's a doctor who is trained in nutrition. As well as Mark's Daily Apple.

  4. My son was breastfed for 14 months. I became ill and the doctor suggested I wean him and supplement with whole milk. He has been having tummy problems and extremely hard bowel movements since, to the point where we would physically have to help him pass it. I switched to Baboo and that seemed to help him a little, however I recently tried Goat's milk and the change in him was a big relief. He seemed much happier and is stool has started to soften. Would this be a good alternative to cow's milk and what could be the reason for his hard bowel movements?

    1. Cow's milk is very constipating (especially for a toddler) and is not designed in composition for the human body to easily digest. So it certainly was likely this change that led to problems. However, even when cow's milk is not introduced, babies who are not getting human milk often have trouble with constipation. Human milk is the perfect regulator - so when there is a good deal of it in the diet, babies rarely have problems with constipation. When a child weans, constipation sometimes is the result until the body regulates itself (or is old enough that an ample amount of vegetables are consumed in the place of human milk).

      One thing that some mothers have done in situations like this is to use donor milk - has chapters in each state and many nations around the world where mothers donate to each other. This is a free, healthy way to get little ones what they need when they cannot otherwise nurse.

      Goat's milk is one of the mammalian milks most close to human milk in composition - so this is likely why you saw a relief when you used this instead of cow's milk.

      Hope you and he are both better soon. :)

    2. p.s. The book listed above called "The Baby Bond" is excellent on this very subject (cow's milk and digestion and tummy troubles).

  5. My second daughter is intolerant to cows milk protein, so I've gone dairy free in order to continue feeding her. She's six months now, and I'm seeing a dietician to talk about weaning her. She is starting solds and is not taking well to soya products, but can just about cope with them if I eat them. They said she will probably grow out of it between 6 months - 4 years, but when should I try her on dairy products? any advice?
    I fed my first daughter until she was 2y 3m, and hope to do the same with my second, but hope that she'll grow out of it by then, so I can start eating dairy again!

  6. This makes me feel so much better! I have had the same question as this parent, and I went through the same experience with my pediatrition, and my son has the same allergies, except he also has a soy allergy...therefore I wanted to continue breastfeeding and he loves it, as do I! So happy to read this. It has given me a big piece of mind even though I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing by continuing breast feeding!!!

  7. I'm having a similar problem. My son is on the small size. He's 31.5" And 21 pounds at eighteen months. He still nurses around the clock as well as eating a variety of solid foods. His peditricianpediatrician wants us to wean so he will drink more cows milk even though he nurses 12+ times a day on top of drinking ten ounces of cows milk. She acts like i'm starving my child and has even said "Your milk must not have fat anymore..." What are the chances of this actually happening and how can I prove to her that weaning is not the answer?

    1. Anon - your question has been shared with the PP FB community so you are able to hear from a wider number of individuals on this. It appears that your pediatrician is not trained in lactation science as these statements are far from fact-based.

      Direct thread to your question:



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