The Best Type of Milk for Children



Have you been to a grocery store lately and been caught off guard by the number of different types of milk that are possible to buy? There are so many options for milk that honestly, it can be overwhelming. How do you know which one is the best for your family? ⁠


We recently purchased, taste tested, and compared the nutritional profile of six different milks. Take a look at the chart below to see how they compare.


Which Type of Milk is Best?


Several things can go into the decision of which milk to choose from allergies, child’s growth and access and cost of the milk. In different situations, there will be a different type of milk that works best. No one type is going to be the answer for everyone. Let’s take a look at the things you may need to consider in your milk selection.



In different situations, there will be a different type of milk that works best. No one type is going to be the answer for everyone.



Allergies: Does your child have a milk protein allergy? If so, it is the most common intolerance among babies and children. Most kids will grow out of it, but if your little one has a hard time digesting milk, this definitely has to factor into which milk you drink. You’ll want to avoid cow’s milk, so soy or pea milk may be better alternative because of their higher fat and calorie content.


Your Child’s Growth: If your child is under weight or not growing appropriately, you'll want a milk that has high calories and fat content to help with weight gain.⁠ Whole cow’s milk or a2 milk would be best for the calorie and fat provided in these milks.


Access to Milk: Do you live next to an organic dairy farmer or close to access of a farmer’s market? Getting specific types of milk might depend on your location. If you live somewhere with little access to specialty milk, you may have to simply stick with the kind that you can find.


Cost of Milk: Specialty milks are usually more expensive, so for most of us, money will be a factor.


How These Milks Compare


Whatever your reason for choosing the milk you have, here's how the ones we looked at compare:⁠


Cow's milk (whole): ⁠contains most calories and fat, easy to get at any store and cheapest type of milk.

Soy: ⁠Good alternative if cow's milk can't be consumed. Fairly good amount of calories and fat compared to other milk alternatives.


Almond:⁠ Doesn't provide much for nutrients that growing little ones need. I wouldn't recommend this milk as the milk of choice.


a2: a relatively new milk on the market, this one removes the a1 protein, thought to cause intolerance of milk. ⁠If your little one has digestion issues related to milk, this could be a good option because it provides the same amount of calories and fat as whole cow's milk. (note- not for those with milk protein allergy, lactose intolerant, or galactosemia.) A recent study was published on a2 milk done in China.


Coconut:⁠ Low in calories and only contains the saturated fat. This wouldn't be my first choice of milk for kids.


Pea:⁠ Another good alternative if avoiding cow's milk. Same fat and protein content as soy.


How Much Milk?


The recommended milk intake varies slightly depending on the source you're looking at. But generally, the recommendation for milk intake in children is between 2-3 cups (16-24 oz) of milk/day.



Too much and not enough milk can both cause medical concerns.



If your child doesn’t drink enough milk or any milk (for whatever reason) the concern is their intake of vitamin D, Calcium, and healthy fats. All these nutrients are important, especially in their growing bodies. It is possible to find these nutrients in other foods; however, Vitamin D and Calcium can be harder for little ones to consume enough of the nutrient-rich foods to meet their requirements. For example, foods that contain Vitamin D include: salmon, sardines, etc. and most kids don’t scarf down these food items. (For a full list of Vitamin D rich and Calcium rich foods, appendix 11 & 12 of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines has a great list).


On the other hand, if too much milk is consumed regularly we start to worry about the calcium from the milk inferring with iron absorption. This is a concern because iron is an important nutrient for the growing and developing child and not enough iron will cause iron deficiency anemia.


Little ones under 2 years old will need an increased amount of healthy fats in their diet to aid in brain development. Be sure that the milk you choose is full of fats!


Which milk does your family drink? Let us know!


Need help navigating feeding your little one? Want to learn more about Feeding your Family with Freedom and Grace? We offer a 6 week Family Feeding Coaching program- designed to take you from frustrated to living in freedom with feeding! Find out more here.

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