When I was taking my Child Nutrition Course, this was of the questions we discussed in class.
It is also a very important question that most mothers often ask. The debate for breastmilk and formula ‘nko?’ that is another controversial issue.
According to the World Health Organisation, a governing body on health and safety and UNICEF, MILK is one of the most important food for growing children in their first 1000 days even up to 5 to 10 years old.
There are a number of children allergic to milk/milk products, that is fine. This article will highlight some foods they can take to make up for some of the dietary nutrients they may miss from milk.
1. Breast milk:
In Nigeria, and some African countries, the rate of breastfeeding is as low as 17%. This is quite worrisome, as breastmilk is the first milk essential to provide antibodies, immunity and fat content needs for babies especially in the first 6 months.
Breastfeeding has also been arguably been said to make babies’ brain develop faster because of the major nutrients; Whey protein and Casein and others.
It is also cheaper and demands less preparation. Breastmilk is natural.
In situations where a new mother is unable to breastfeed, formula is often served to the baby before or at 6 months old. Formula is the only medically-approved subtitute for breastmilk, for a child below 12 months.
Unlike breastmilk, it does not contain Whey Protein, which makes about 60% of breastmilk, this is why it is only advisable to be taken after 6 months if possible.
Formula is great to be served as a meal or added to solids like purees, and so on.
Most formulas are enriched with Vitamin D, an essential nutrient not present in breastmilk; which is why it is advisable to introduce formula and iron-rich foods like grains and selected vegetables from 6 months. ( Click here to get the best natural baby meals)
It is important to note that formula is not easily digested like breastmilk, so mothers should watch out for signs of indigestion after introducing formula to a child. Water should be given to babies as soon as they begin formula and solids.
3. Follow-on milk:
Follow-on milk are usually labelled commercially for babies from 8 months to 2 years, and they are also known as ‘senior formula’ or ‘hungry baby’ formula.
They are usually labelled with age tags by manufacturers to contain extra nutrients such as prebiotics, extra Vitamins, that keep the babies fuller for longer and also provide better nutrition for their age.
These claims have not been popularly proven or certified by nutritionists, therefore, if unsure of a brand, parents have a choice to choose
FOLLOW-ON milks or regular cow’s milk for their children from their first birthday.
4. Regular Cow’s Milk:
From 12 months, a child should begin to take full cream cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk is rich in Calcium and Phosphorus, known to build strong bones and teeth. It is also a rich source of protein and fibre.
Taking 3 glasses of milk everyday is essential in forming a balanced diet for the child in the first 10 years.
It is not advisable to serve skimmed milk, low fat milks and other specialty diet milk to children, except if presribed by the doctor.
5. Diet/supplement milks:
There are some milks that are made specially for certain diets, and they come in various packs such as skimmed milk, fat-free, soy-based, lactose-free, and some for weight gain.
The milks are often age-appropriate, and laden with special ingredients and components such as cholesterol, therefore giving them to children without consulting a dietician or nutritionist, may trigger health challenges such as weightloss, allergies, addiction or excessive weight gain.
What about Plant-based milks?
Plant-based milks such as tigernut milk, almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk have become popular these days because of its low fat content which has made most of the sellers term them as ‘healthy’.
Plant milks are truly healthy, but are not nutritious enough for children as their calcium, fats, and Vitamin D, C & A content have been proven to be too low for a child.
This means that they should not be served as SUBTITUTES for breastmilk or formula for children less than 12 months old.
They should only be served as snacks or subtitutes for children above 12 months who are allergic to dairy products or lactose intolerant.
A quick one on lactose-intolerance & milk allergies.
Lactose intolerance is an ability to digest lactose, a component of milk and other dairy products.
Lactose intolerance is not as severe as allergies which could be fatal, but the symptoms are similar.
A child suffering from lactose intolerance or milk allergies should have more of foods rich in Calcium, Vitamin D, Riboflavin, phosphorous which summarily can be found in foods like grains, spinach, soya-based foods, oranges, and green vegetables.
Augustsecrets Foods have been recommended by clinical nutritionists as a supplementary food for children suffering from most allergies and lactose-intolerance.
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