Milk Allergy Question ~ What Dairy-Free Milk For A One-Year-Old?


Original Post 7-23-13


Reader Question

What kind of milk do I give my one-year-old?


My Experience

I had this same pressing question when Miles turned one. Our pediatrician told us that milk is not as important as our culture makes it out to be and that dairy milk is really fattening. He suggested we get our calcium from leafy vegetables and our fats from oils, avocados, and beans. And shockingly, this was a mainstream pediatrician, not a holistic doctor.

However, seven years in hindsight, I do think that Miles probably needed more calcium because he now has somewhat weak teeth.  

The good news is that there are calcium fortified "milks" out there like soy, almond, and coconut. If I had it to do again, I WOULD make sure that Miles got 2-3 glasses of these alternative milks each day for the calcium. I am now trying to implement those habits. Better late than never, I hope.  




Options for Dairy-Free Milk

As for the "milk" of our choice, we did rice at first. It was a little thin for cooking and people often mentioned arsenic issues.

Then we moved to soy but didn't really love the taste. I also started hearing about how boys shouldn't have a lot of soy because of hormonal affects.  

Eventually we moved onto almond milk after testing showed we had no tree nut allergy. However, later Miles reacted to cashew at age 7 even though he drinks almond milk everyday. So our allergist told us to continue with almond milk as long as he doesn't have a problem with it. Of course we stay away from cashew milk.  

Another option is coconut milk. We are not big fans of the taste. But some people love it.

There are also now other alternatives on the market like hemp milk and flax milk. I haven't tried these, and would love to hear if you have.

While there are upsides and downsides to all these options, some would recommend mixing it up regularly between various milks that are safe for you.  

Still others have recommended supplementing things like protein powders and vitamin drops into the milks if there's something you think is lacking. Our doctor told us that vitamin D was required for the absorption of calcium. So I now use one drop of Vitamin D in a glass of calcium-fortified almond milk each day for my kids.



Pay Attention to Sugar Content

No matter what "milk" you use, I do not recommend getting your child used to "sweetened" milk. I made this mistake. Once I realized this, I moved to unsweetened almond original and unsweetened almond vanilla. I'm fortunate that my boys made the transition off of the sugary stuff. I suggest leaving out the sugar from the start. 


Milk Allergy Moms Weigh In 

See the comments in this post. There's a wealth of information below that's much more than I could personally share on this topic. And feel free to leave your own experience and suggestions, too! We're in this together.


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77 comments:

Meredith said...

I have just been through all of this with my now 17 month old. He has a dairy allergy (as well as other food allergies). I was hesitant to do soy milk as well so we started him on unsweetened almond milk. I think he probably drinks about 1 cup/day. I try to get him to drink more but I remember my first born (without dairy allergies) didn't drink the 2-3 servings/day either at this point. I do supplement (at the suggestion of a dietician we consulted with) and give him calcium because I found it was very difficult to get him to eat other sources of dietary calcium (what 1 year old will eat broccoli or kale?). It's been a steep learning curve with this dairy free living we've been doing for the past 4 months but I finally feel like we're on the right path. My son and I really enjoy the Silk brand of unsweetened almond milk the best. It's fortified with Vitamin D too and not all almond milks on the market are. Also, I wanted to mention that the dietician said that although soy milk does have negative "buzz" around it lately it is the only alternative milk that has enough fat and protein for young children. Almond and rice milk are very low in fat and protein but are good calcium sources. We compensate by giving my son either a tsp of flax seed oil or an omega 3 supplement to get him the ~5 extra grams of fat in his daily diet. This dietician also suggested trying hemp milk as it's full of omegas but neither of us could tolerate it's grassy/herbaceous taste. It's definitely an acquired taste! Thanks for posting about this topic--it's one near and dear to our hearts at the moment.

Nicole said...


My son has rice milk in custard and porridge, we use soy milk for other cereals and in cooking (baking and things like mashed potato), soy yoghurt as well as soy formula. I am aware of issues with soy milk and boys but my son is also allergic to almonds (quite badly) and we have very little choice in relation to full fat non-dairy milks. Especially as my son has always been on the skinny side. Anyway, that's what we do

Toni said...

My son was Nutramigen until age 7! 24 oz per day! And soy milk in cooking only! He was loaded up on vitamins and loved Nurtamigen!

Kaui said...

Our daughter take soy. I still breastfeed her, she's only 13months old. But I give her soy in a sippy cup or her bottle. We've been trying to get her completely on her sippy or bottle, just no longer breastfeeding but THAT has been a war I've been losing LOL She seems to be doing fine with the soy milk. I've heard it produces too much estrogen or something?? I'm still learning about milk allergies & it's substitutes.

Molly said...

We give my 2.5yo daughter coconut milk (she's allergic to dairy, soy and all nuts). She's underweight so rice milk doesn't have enough fat and she hated hemp milk. I buy Silk Original Pure Coconut because it has more calcium than So Delicious brand (we started with unsweetened but switched to Original to get the extra calories). She has never been a good eater/drinker so we're lucky if she drinks more than 5-6oz per day so we try to make every oz/calorie count. Sometimes for extra fat, I mix it with canned coconut milk. She always refused bottles so I gave up trying after about 9mo so I wouldn't have to take them away only a few months later. We transitioned straight to sippy cups, and I nursed until 14.5mo.

Ali said...

Our son drinks soy milk. My pediatrician and the pediatric nutritionist that we saw said that soy milk is the substitute of choice but to just to make sure that he gets some extra fat in his diet, since it has only half the fat of whole cow's milk. Almond milk and rice milk have very little protein so is really not a good sub.

In terms of taste, warming up the soymilk makes it taste really sweet, so could be a good transition from breastmilk.

Anonymous said...

When my milk allergic daughter turned 1, we switched her to soy milk (she was not allowed to have tree nuts or peanuts until she was 3). She was on elecare so I was told to put an 1/8th of a teaspoon of soy milk in her formula and double it every other day until she was drinking a serving of soy milk. When she turned 4, we switched her to almond milk.

Sarah said...

Right now I still breastfeed my 14 month old son. I stopped giving him a morning bottle while I am at work, so we tried introducing rice milk with his breakfast. He wasn't a fan. We are now trying almond milk. He will drink that but not consitantly.

Anonymous said...

Our 3 yo has been on Neocate since 1 and i give her a calcium supplement. luckily she does like leafy greens but she's now starting to get picky.

Jen A. said...

We started with rice milk doing 1/2 rice milk and 1/2 breastmilk working up to all rice milk. After reading about the high levels of arsenic in rice milk we tried coconut milk, but DS didn't like it, then we tried almond milk but he threw that up right away, so now he is on oat milk. The sugar content is higher than I would like it to be, but he enjoys it.

Brittney G. said...

I did so much research trying to figure out which alternative milk was the "best" for my dairy allergic son. Our pediatrician finally told us there is no "best" one, that whichever is fine because it shouldn't be a child's main source of nutrition. He did state rice milk was lower in nutrition and mainly sugar and carbs, so we went with almond milk. I'm currently weaning my son at 11 1/2 months and he is LOVING the original almond milk. I do use coconut milk for cooking and baking because I like the taste of it much better!

Maybury-Caruso Stephanie said...

Alimentum formula till age 2. Coconut and almond milk since. We use the so delicious brand. Dropped a brand name only to inform incase people are new to dairy free milks. And yes he will be 6 in December. And yes he is still allergic. Just had yearly IGE levels and skin prick done. It's easier to have whole house dairy free for his safety and so he has a place he can feel safe.

K. Williams McCormick said...

My son drinks sweetened almond milk by silk. The 90 calorie version. That's really the only sugar he gets so I am okay with it. The unsweetened only has 30 calories- for the higher calories, I do the sweetened.

Molly Leahy Gibbens said...

Have you tried coconut milk? That has a decent amount of fat but no protein. My daughter is allergic to dairy, soy and nuts so that's one of our few options (being higher fat than rice milk). She's also skinny so sometimes I mix the canned milk in with the regular carton kind for extra fat.

Lisa said...

So glad I came across this post. My 7 month old son was recently diagnosed with egg and dairy allergies.
I have been wondering about the whole milk thing, and after reading your post I don't want to risk the bad teeth thing.
I have started giving him the occasional soy yoghurt which he loves and I know has calcium. I also try and give him lots of green veges. It's a tough one. But now after reading your post I might consider giving him a calcium supplement as that is the one thing he will be lacking. Thanks!!

Maria said...

We use rice milk my son is allergic to Milk and almond milk

Nikki said...

We've used almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk

Emily V said...

Neocate formula

Maggie F said...

Almond, soy, flax, sunflower, and hemp milks I alternate them. He has no problem drinking them plain but I sometimes add a little vanilla to them or buy the vanilla flavored versions or a lil squirt of Hershey syrup for special occasions. He is two and a half.

kate mayes said...

She was on neocate jr until 18-19 months and now doesn't drink anything but water or the occasional mini juice boxes we give her. Our ped does not feel that we need to supplement with anything if the rest if her diet is well balanced.

Anonymous said...

Soymilk

Dawn B. said...

Maybe someone else has commented re hormones in soy. Educate yourself about this issue and decide if soy is a wise choice for your family. We like coconut and rice. Trying to wean off so much rice though.

Jacqui S said...

Oat milk..

Kristi B said...

My lo refuses all alternatives luckily still breastfeeding.

Ebony C said...

We use rice milk along with a multivitamin. Rice milk u access could lead to low iron levels in your child, which could make him cranky & irritable.

Michole MC said...

Rice milk to drink and in cereals... Almond milk to cook with and use for baking. Rice milk is just too thin for cooking.

melissa said...

My son like vanilla rice milk. My daughter original almond milk. My cousin does goats milk. She says it has a high fat content if you need that or trader joes sells a powder that is low fat

dawn m said...

My 13 month is not happy with the coconut milk (regular or vanilla).... Would you try rice or almond next? (I am allergic to almonds)

katarina herrera said...

Both girls (both have dairy, egg, and soy allergies) are on Neocate products to drink. For cooking and such I use unsweeted coconut milk. Neocate changed our lives, I can't speak highly enough of their products.

josie m said...

Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk

Luci said...

Unsweetened silk almond milk. Unsweetened vanilla occasionally. I stay away from blue diamond because of the carrageenan. Sometimes we sub with coconut but my 2yr old is picky.

Greta said...

Coconut

Joanne said...

Uk: blue oatly milk with added calcium, it tastes lovely

Stphanie T said...

Coconut as much as possible, unsweetened almond milk as backup. He sometimes boycotts coconut milk.

megan l said...

Silk soy milk with DHA added.

Anonymous said...

We use Rice milk.

catherine l said...

My daughter was struggling to gain weight so we have her on bright beginnings pediatric soy drink

jamie said...

Almond or coconut. We prefer the Vanilla Almond Breeze as the Silk does taste a little nuttier.

Anonymous said...

almond

Anonymous said...

Silk plain Soy milk

Anonymous said...

So Good Soy milk. Plus he takes calcium vitamins.

Kristy said...

We had our son on soy milk & were advised to take him off bc of it causing early puberty?!? We ended up having to take him off bc it was the cause of his eosinophilic esophagitis. Just an FYI.

Anonymous said...

We do almond breeze vanilla and I actually prefer it now myself over cows milk too!

Anonymous said...

Rice milk . It's delicious

Pam V said...

Vanilla almond milk is our go to. At daycare, we can't bring the almond milk (ironically, due to nut allergies) so he drinks rice milk at school. We try not to go too crazy on the soy, but soy is good for yogurt and ricotta replacement for us.

Anonymous said...

I had my son on almond after diagnosed with milk protein allergy only to discover highly tree nut allergy so almond milk out. On soy currently.

Anonymous said...

My son won't touch milk anymore. He use to drink soy with soy formula (he needed calories) then he drank almond milk. Now he won't touch any and we tried it all even chocolate and strawberry almond milk. Now he get vitamins.

Heather said...

Vanilla almond milk with extra protein. Still not a ton of fat though, so we try to make sure he eats other oils, etc at mealtime.

Anonymous said...

Rice milk, calcium fortified orang juice as well to get additional calcium. As they get older almond yogurts and calcium chews

Anonymous said...

Chocolate soy milk. Vanilla flavored on her cereal. She won't drink the plain. Allergic to tree nuts/ peanuts so no almond milk here

Anonymous said...

Soy Milk. Very vanilla silk has an ice cream like taste that's easier to stomach than plain.

Jaydee B said...

Neocate as lb allergic to dairy and soy and refuses anything else

Anonymous said...

Almond milk. Coconut or almond milk yogurt.

Anonymous said...

Almond milk

Anonymous said...

almond milk

Anonymous said...

Rice milk

Melissa B. said...

When mine was an infant he had amino acid based formula called Puramnio now we have passed soy milk

Anonymous said...

Hemp milk. Sometimes cook with Flax milk

Anonymous said...

Almond milk

Amy B said...

Flax milk and Peaceful Planet toddler spreme

Anonymous said...

Oat x

Kristina said...

Almond milk and hemp milk

Tamara said...

Unsweetened almond milk

Annayeli M said...

Almond and sometimes coconut milk

Anonymous said...

Coconut milk, either homemade or so delicious brand.

Anonymous said...

Unsweetened coconut milk

Anonymous said...

Elecare junior and coconut milk...mine can not have soy either

Kristie W W said...

vanilla soy milk

Anonymous said...

I'm the allergy person.I really only like chocolate soy milk but use rice milk in cooking

Anonymous said...

After months of problems with BFeeding, at 7 months we realised he was dairy intolerant. I went dairy free and things improved. Started gaining weight again after a 2 month lull. Just turned 1 year old. Tried several brands of coconut milk. OK in cereal. Almond best for cooking as it doesn't alter the overall taste of the food too much. Stayed away from Soy because of the hormone thing. Rice milk has higher levels of naturally occurring Arsenic so I avoided that too. Have been adding a small amount of Alpro Soy Junior +1 for the fat to Oatly milk with added Calcium. Still has upset stomach and terrible goings on in his nappy so going to try Almond on it's own. Resorted to adding 1 teaspoon of Nesquik strawberry milkshake to it. He hates the taste of everything we tried so far. He gets no other sugar in his diet other than the Nesquik so not too worried but make sure we brush his teeth afterwards. In his juice/water using a dribble of liquid Calcium supplement. Same make as Floridix. All say for over age 3 but what choice is there? Also very skinny, can't get trousers to fit on the waist & leg length at the same time. He is quite tall which makes things difficult. Luckily he eats broccoli. Figs & apricots in his fruit purees with porridge. They are good calcium providers. Had to make all his meals at home as jars of baby food made him sick. Anything with tomato did the same. Couldn't digest pasta but he can tolerate it now. No red meat either which also made him vomit. He must be bovine intolerant. Luckily tested negative for Coeliac but wheat will often bring him out in a rash. Infant feeding is a minefield with so many mixed messages about milk alternatives. Soy custard is quite nice and Waitrose do a lovely dairy free ice cream. I might give him a taste of those as a treat.

Rachel Smith said...

Thank you for this info, we're most concerned about our little getting enough fat and appreciate your insight. We'll add coconut oil to his diet and stick with unsweetened almond milk.

Joeli said...

My 3 year old drinks oat milk that is fortified with calcium. He's allergic to milk/soy/nuts and possibly coconut so we avoid all of that (all well as numerous other allergies). Sometimes we have rice milk as a one off.

For those that have underweight kids -- I recommend Flapjacks (the british version): http://www.puredairyfree.co.uk/Recipes/45/Flapjack
Easy to make allergy free, you can add all sorts of stuff like dried fruit if you want and they have a ton of fat and calories even in a small serving. No they aren't healthiest of foods but when you just need pure calories they are brilliant. We really struggled since it seems like my son is allergic to everything that has good fat and he was losing weight at one point. So if he'd have vegetable soup and a flapjack for lunch, I'd call that a win.

Anonymous said...

My 19 month old boy has just started to refuse his Elecare formula. Not sure how I'm going to get calcium in diet. Good to read the tips. We've used soy in the past but allergist suggested it was causing problems. Use rice milk in cooking but will try using coconut milk. Thanks to all for sharing your approach.

Cassandra Fox said...

Thank you for this resource! I've been stressing hard over having to wean my boy at a year when my mat leave ends. I'll continue to bf in the morning and evenings as long as he wants but I need something to give him at daycare. I feel a little better knowing I can give him almond milk and fatten it with flax oil. He loves flax seeds and almond milk, so it should be a good alternative.

Olivia said...

thanks for the article. i was thinking about trying rice, coconut and hemp milk. but now i think i'm going to pass on rice milk and i'm not sure about coconut milk anymore. i don't like soy milk. right now we are using an organic goat milk formula.

Jamie Kaufmann said...

You're welcome Olivia. That's pretty good if you can use goat milk. Some say it's similar to cow. Glad you found something!

Judith H said...

My daughter drinks soy milk, I cook with rice milk, and we eat coconut milk yogurt.