Which milk is best — soy, rice, almond, or reindeer?

I’m still nursing my 18 month daughter because she can still be a picky eater at times. She’s not fond of milk and when she drinks it shes gets yellow diarrhea. She was at the Dr the other day with really bad eczema and the doctor thinks she may have a milk protein allergy. I want my daughter to get her nutrition requirements, so can you recommend a “milk” substitute? There are so many out there. I’m not sure what to buy and I’m getting SO many opinions from friends. Soy? Almond? Rice? So confusing. Thanks!
Lauren Mearns

Which Milk is Best

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Allergies to the proteins in cow’s milk are not uncommon at 18 months old. Thankfully, most kids that age will outgrow them. In the meantime, breast milk is, of course, the best milk. Beyond this, kids don’t necessarily need milk at all: though they do need good sources of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and fat (as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic acid, and Ribloflavin – also found in cow’s milk). Cow’s milk just happens to be a very convenient way to get them all.

Of the other milk’s out there, such as soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, or other mammal milks, such as goat milk, they all can be found with plenty of calcium and vitamin D and fat – 3 of the biggies. So the biggest consideration is usually protein. Almond milk and rice milk are often very low in protein (1 gram per 8 ounces – unlike milk which is 1 gram per ounce or 8 grams per 8 ounces).

If your toddler’s getting plenty of protein, or protein-fortified milk, then those milks are fine. At 18 months you want kids to get at least 13 grams of protein per day. That’s easy with soy milk and not hard with oat milk. Other mammal milks are good bundles of nutrients, but of those commonly available in the US, if a child is allergic to one she is usually allergic to the other (mare’s milk, camel’s milk, and reindeer milk could be great choices, if available).

I like soy milk from whole soy beans (and I think choosing whole soy beans, in moderation – say 16 ounces a day – is the answer to the soy controversy. I hope that gets you started!

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Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.