6 types of milk and their myriad benefits
Milk comes bundled with the goodness of calcium and protein. Know more about the different types of milk you can give to your toddler
Milk is nature’s wellness drink, so much so that it has the power to transform a tiny tot into a full grown human being. With the perfect balance of carbohydrates and proteins, it helps in the proper functioning of muscles and blood vessels, apart from aiding in the growth of bones and teeth.
Breast milk and formula milk contain nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D that are essential for an infant’s growth. But what happens when he outgrows the age of prescribed breastfeeding?
Of all the types of milk available in the market—such as cow milk, buffalo, soy milk, rice milk and goat’s—which one aids growth and is required in how much quantity?
According to experts, milk from external sources should be introduced to a baby’s diet only after he completes 12 months of age. This will ensure that his stomach is strong enough to digest that milk.
“After one year of age, when he is weaned off breast milk (though the WHO recommends breastfeeding till two years of age), cow or buffalo milk may be added, depending on your child’s taste and tolerance,” says Dr (Maj) Manish Mannan, consultant and coordinator, paediatrics and neonatology, mother and child unit, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon. He adds, “There is no scale to measure the goodness of a milk type as compared with another.”
The type of milk that your child prefers to consume is specific to him and also depends on his tolerance. “For instance, for a child who is lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk like that derived from soya may be used,” says Dr Ruchi Golash, paediatrician, The Calcutta Medical research Institute.
Moreover, the amount of milk that a child needs depends on his age. “Once a child turns one, his body needs at least 500ml of milk every day and at the age of two, he needs to consume at least 700ml of milk,” informs Dr Golash.
However, all types of milk have certain benefits. Consult your paediatrician before introducing him to any new milk or a dairy product. Your paediatrician will be able to guide you on the type and quantity based on your baby’s growth pattern.
Soy milk is generally recommended to those infants who are lactose intolerant or suffer from cow milk allergy. Derived from a plant, it is produced by soaking, boiling dry soybeans and then grinding them with water. This form of milk is a stable emulsion of oil, water and protein and contains about the same proportion of protein as is present in cow’s milk.
Being naturally high in essential fatty acids, proteins and fibre, it certainly makes for a wholesome milk variety. Soy milk can be included in your child’s diet once he completes one year of age. However, the milk is recommended to infants as part of a mixed diet because of its “low calcium, minerals and vitamins content,” informs Dr Golash.
A variety of fortified preparations of soy milk is available in the market, but you need to be careful before putting your little one on it. Be sure to buy whole soy milk and not the low-fat or non-fat versions as fat is important for brain development in children under two years of age. “Also, make sure that the soy milk you choose is fortified with vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium,” adds Dr Mannan
The nutritional value of goat’s milk is similar to that of cow’s milk. Therefore, it can be made a part of your child’s diet after 12 months of age. “However, it has lower amount of lactose when compared to cow or buffalo milk and has a bit more of calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium, niacin, copper, and the antioxidant selenium,” informs Dr Mannan.
Goat’s milk also lacks folic acid (folate). “Therefore, to help overcome the deficiency, make sure that your child has a good variety of food, especially vegetables, fruit and cereals that are rich in folate,” says Dr Golash. It is important to pasteurise or boil goat’s milk as it contains germs that can make your child ill.
In certain cases, goat’s milk is advised to infants who have digestive problems and are unable to tolerate cow’s milk.
Different types of milk and their contents
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Coconut milk is not really a type of milk and does not provide the same nourishment as other milk. “However, it is suitable for children with milk allergies and intolerances as it is not a dairy product,” informs Dr Golash. Compared to cow’s milk, it has much less minerals and vitamins and needs fortification.
"Besides this, it is rich in fats, adds Dr Golash. Therefore, it is fine to give children occasional foods containing coconut milk. It is not ideal as an infant food and certainly cannot be used to replace other milks.
“Buffalo milk has the highest fat content and is the richest source of calcium,” informs Dr Mannan. Apart from this, it is rich in vitamin A, has a higher protein efficiency ratio and contains more iron, calcium and phosphorus than cow’s milk.
However, it is better to introduce buffalo milk slowly. Start with a small amount of milk and then gradually increase it. Use it to prepare your baby’s food such as cornflakes, porridge, soups, and kheer.
“Cow’s milk is recommended to every child if it is well tolerated,” says Dr Mannan. However, it is important to wait until your baby is one year old to put him on cow’s milk as it does not contain sufficient iron.
Boiled from rice, this milk is low on calories (each 100 ml contains about 52 calories). “Apart from this, it is very low on lactose as well, making it suitable for a lactose intolerant child,” says Dr Golash.
Nevertheless, it is not a good substitute of breast milk or cow’s milk for infants, “as it lacks minerals, vitamins, calcium as well as proteins,” says Dr Mannan. However, the fortified form of rice milk which is available in the market has calcium.
Rice milk is also low on fat, making it not very advisable for infants. “Toddlers can have an occasional drink of rice milk as long as it doesn’t take the place of other milks or milk foods in their diet,” says Dr Mannan.
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