If Not Cow Then Which Milk?


You say help, my child has been diagnosed with cows’ milk protein allergy and my toddler will not take a ‘specialist’ milk.  The good news is that a generous variety of alternative ‘drinks’ can be found on supermarket shelves.  Choice is not a problem; but which alternative milk drink to use can be overwhelming.


Every mother wants to make the right choice but ‘trendy options’ can sometimes leave a parent feeling perplexed over the milk debate, torn between the trendy drinks and the more traditionally popular choices. Let’s take a very quick look at your options.


Goat milk

Truths unwrapped, for children with a milk allergy goat or sheep milks are usually not suitable.  The protein found in cows’ and goats’ milk are so similar that an allergy to one would almost certainly cause an allergic reaction to the other.   This is why goats’ milk infant formulas are no longer permitted to be marketed as being suitable for infants with cows’ milk protein allergy.

If not goat, then what?  It really can be down to personal preference but do consider which vitamins and minerals require replacing when cows’ milk can no longer be offered.  The obvious mineral that needs replacing is calcium, but cows’ milk is also a source of vitamins B2 and B12, as well as fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A important for growth and vision.


Soy milk

Soy drinks were the next best thing and are still suitable for children over 12 months of age.  It can be used both as a drink and in recipes to replace cows’ milk. Just remember to ensure that it is not fat reduced for children under the age of 2 years who need the calories and fat soluble vitamins.


For this reason check that any cows’ milk alternative is fortified with calcium and B vitamins with preference given to those without added sugar. 


A word of caution, a small number of children with cows’ milk allergy can also react to soy.  If this is the case, then always seek specialist advice from your paediatrician and dietitian.


Alternative vegetarian milk drinks to soy

Other suitable milk drinks include oat, almond or pea, and recently coconut.  Once again remember to check for calcium and B vitamin fortification.  Some of these milks can also be lower in protein compared to cows’ milk therefore consider offering an extra portion of protein rich foods in the day.  This is especially important for children following a vegetarian milk free diet.

Vegetarian milk drinks without fortification lack vitamin B12 which is derived mainly from animal sources.  If your child is also following a vegetarian diet, then problem solve by (a) always select a milk that is fortified and (b) breakfast cereals fortified with B vitamins to meet requirements.


Rice milk

Finally rice milk is readily available in most supermarkets but is only suitable for children over the age of 4 ½ years.  This is because of the presence of inorganic arsenic.  For further information on this visit FSA’s website Arsenic in Rice.

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