The question I am asked most frequently is “which milk should my child have?” The answer, as with most things, is that is depends on your child. However there is some guidance available.
Babies shouldn’t be given cows’ milk as a drink until they are 12 months old. This is because it doesn’t contain enough iron and other nutrients to meet young babies’ needs. However cows’ milk can be used in their meals (e.g. porridge, cereal, white sauce) from 6 months old. Until the age of two, children should only be given whole milk because they need the extra energy and vitamins it contains.
If your child is a good eater and has a varied diet you can introduce semi-skimmed milk once they are two years old. Skimmed and 1% milk aren’t suitable for children under five. If your child is a healthy weight and is active every day then they can continue to drink whole milk – in fact there is some evidence to suggest that children who drink whole milk have healthier body weights than those who drink semi-skimmed. This may be because whole milk is more filling and reduces the desire to snack.
Milk is an important source of vitamin D and calcium, both very important for bone growth and strength. Children aged 1-3 need to consume around 350mg of calcium per day. About 300ml of milk (just over half a pint) would provide this, but other sources such as cheese also count. 4-6 year olds need 450mg and 7-10 year olds need 550mg. To increase your child’s milk intake try giving it as a drink with at least two meals per day (under 5’s can recieve free milk at school). Also choose breakfast options such as cereal or porridge that are milk based.