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Can babies have plant based milk?

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Introducing a baby to plant based milk should occur in stages. Experts recommended to introduce this type of milk as a supplement, and it should not be fed as a whole meal replacement. 

After a child is 2 years or older, you can more safely serve fortified plant based milks as a supplement with whole foods. Until then, experts recommend a large portion of the diet be focused on breastmilk or formula because they contain the necessary nutrition for growth and development.

Can babies have plant based milk? Newborn babies should only be fed breastmilk or formula specifically designed for their age. Babies can have plant based milk after one year of age, and even that should be kept to moderate levels because it lacks necessary micro and macronutrients that are important for a growing child.

If you need a readymade mealfor your baby, or are in a pinch, our recommendation is to use whole milk from cows. However, even in this case, it’s not recommend to serve whole cow’s milk any earlier than 6 months in age or until you start to slowly introduce other foods and have stetted it for allergies. 

There are many scenarios why it is necessary to feed a baby different types of milk, including if they have a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. These allergies can be tough to deal with and babies can be very sensitive to any contact with dairy or lactose products. 

If your baby exhibits signs of allergies, contact a pediatrician or specialist for nutrition recommendations. A babies diet is an essential part of early growth and development, so fulfilling the micro and macro nutritional needs is imperative.

This article explores whether or not babies can drink paint based milk. Answered below are frequently asked questions about babies having plant based milk, along with any causes for concerns that you should be aware of.

Is plant based milk safe for babies?

In general, children under the age of one shouldn’t be given plant-based milk because it does not contain sufficient nutritional value. If your baby or infant is drinking plant based milk, they may be nutrient deficiencies from missing out on key nutrients [1]. 

Expert recommendation is to supply an infant breast milk or formula for the majority of their calories and nutrients. Check with your pediatrician or specialist to make sure your baby is getting the proper nutrients they need in this crucial stage of life.

Children over the age of one should already be eating a variety of foods and will then be less reliant on breastmilk or formula for calories. In this case, plant based milk can be a great addition to your child’s total diet.  

If a child does not eat much solid foods and solely drinks breast milk and formula, then plant-based milk may fall short of essential nutrients for this group. If you feed your child low-calorie, plant-based milk, it could not have enough protein, vitamins and minerals to sustain optimal growth.

Which plant based milk is best for babies?

Children below five should primarily drink cow’s milk because it more closely resembles a mother’s breastmilk. But if there are any dairy or lactose allergies, then plant based milk can be consumed as a supplement in moderation for children over age 1.

However, plant milk is not to be served as a meal replacement for breastmilk or formula because plant milk lacks valuable nutrition. 

Common plant based milks for babies are:

  • Soy milk is high in protein and helps to maintain a healthy diet. Many individuals have soy allergies, so be careful to gradually test soy milk the first few times, furthermore there is some concern about consuming too much soy, especially for young children.
  • Almond milk contains a significant amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which may be a health fat source. However, if your child has a nut allergy then this is not an option.
  • Rice milk is lactose-free and can be used as a substitute for people who are allergic to soybeans or almonds. Downside is that rice milk is not nearly as nutritious as nut or soy based beverages.
  • Coconut milk can aid in the reduction of dangerous low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) levels linked to cardiovascular disease. Children might find it tasty and is a great cooking ingredient, but it does not contain necessary amounts of protein to be considered as a meal substitute.

When can I start giving my baby plant based milk?

For children above the age of one, plant-based milk, such as fortified soy milk, could be a viable alternative to non-plant based milk. Toddlers in this range should drink no more than 8 ounces of fortified plant milk or yoghurt each day, and should only be considered to be a supplement and not a meal replacement. 

There are many great reasons to choose plant based milk including allergies or intolerance, health benefits, or personal beliefs. If you’re able to wait, we’d recommend feeding a child plant based milk after the age of one as breastmilk and formula are the best sources for balanced nutrition. 

Plant-based milks for infants and toddlers are great as part of a healthy, balanced diet over the age of one, but they are not recommended as the main source of nutrition. 

Check with your child’s pediatrician, allergist, or specialist if you think there is a special circumstance. A balanced diet is essential for healthy growth and development of your child, so this it is necessary for them to get the proper nutrients required.

After the age of one, you can provide your child with calcium-fortified, unsweetened plant milk as a supplemental beverage. Types of plant based milks include almond, soy, oat, or hemp milk for a healthfully balanced diet.

Side effect of plant based milk for babies

Experts tend to agree that milk replacements shouldn’t be served as a main drink until children are at least one or two years old. This is because they do not contain the same nutritional profile as breastmilk or traditional baby formulas. 

Plant based milk is known to lack primary nutrition for early growth, especially for children are under the age of 1. Under this age, plant based milk should only be used to supplement your child’s complete diet, not as a primary source of calories or protein. 

It is acceptable to cook with and stir into other foods, but not to be served as a substantial replacement for the macro and micronutrients available in breastmilk or formula.

Check with your healthcare professional if you think there is a special circumstance where plant based milk is the best option for your child’s needs. 

Here are a few thoughts of side effects from of our favorite plant based milks

Soy milk

Cons: Kids may not like the “bean-y” flavor. Soy milk side effects also include the presence of phytic acid or “anti-nutrients,” which are compounds that limit nutrient absorption and digestion, according to some studies. We trust these findings, but are looking forward to more research on the topic.

According to dietitians soy is one of the common eight allergies. People who are soy intolerant or sensitive can experience bloating, intestinal pain, lethargy, headaches, and skin problems, among other things. 

Soy based formula is the leading alternative to dairy based formula, but there are some considerations when making the switch. Soy ingredients may be a great source of protein for vegans who are limited on other protein options, but it must be consumed in moderation according to many studies. 

Almond milk

Cons: Missing some vital nutrients for a complete meal.

Unsweetened almond milk has as little as 30 calories per cup and only contains around 1g of carbs. Most brands also supplement almond milk with calcium and vitamin D. 

For folks who get enough protein from other sources, and who are controlling their calories and carbs, it’s a wonderful milk substitute in cereal, smoothies, and porridge.

Rice milk

Cons: Rice milk’s nutrient profile varies greatly, putting newborns at danger of malnutrition.

Rice milk is low in protein and fat, with the majority of its calories coming from carbs. It’s a wonderful beverage to encourage hydration, especially those with nut, dairy, or soy sensitivity (in smoothies, oatmeal, or cold cereal). 

The low protein and fat content makes it mostly unsuitable for babies or toddlers in regards to nutritional value is concerned. 

Coconut milk

Cons: There is no protein and it has high saturated fat.

Coconut milk is rich and is an excellent dairy substitute in certain recipes, such as soup, puree, pudding, and ice cream. Great for those who want to create rich foods, but want to eat more plant-based meals and less animal fat. 

The lack of protein and high saturated fat put it lower on the list of plant based milks for newborn babies, infants and toddlers. 

Cashew milk

Cons: Usually missing the vitamins, minerals, and protein found in full cashews.  

Cashew milk is usually made from filtered cashew pulp, a process that also filters out most of the vitamins, fiber, minerals, and protein found in whole cashews. 

However, at about 25 calories per unsweetened cup, cashew milk is one of the lowest-calorie plant options. Most brands supplement calcium and vitamin D, and like almond milk, cashew milk is a wonderful option for individuals limiting their calories and carbs. 

It should not be used as a full substitute for breast milk or formula for babies since it does not have a high protein content.

Peanut milk

Cons: Peanuts are a common allergy in newborns and infants. 

Peanuts are abundant in Omega-6 fatty acids, and excess consumption may be linked to inflammation and obesity. 

It is not recommended for newborns or infants due to the high Omega-6 content and potential allergen risk in developing children. 

Hemp milk

Cons: Does not contain enough protein

Hemp isn’t a common allergen, and though it’s not the most protein-dense of the plant options, it does contain complete protein with all nine amino acids.

Hemp is not a common allergen and may be a good option of plant based milk. However, it is not the most protein dense of plant based milks and cannot be served as a meal substitute for breast milk or baby formula. 

Can babies have plant based milk

Plant Milk for Babies: Conclusion

Babies can drink plant based milk after one or two years of age, and should be used as a supplement to their regular diet. Before the age of one or two, experts recommend breastmilk or baby formula as they will contain all the nutrition your baby needs to grow and develop. 

There are many different types of plant based milk available on the market. Of the many options, soy milk seems to have the most protein and closest to resembling the nutrients in dairy milk.

There seems to be a number of concern about overconsumption of soy products, especially in developing children. More research needs to be done int he field, but there appears to be cause for concern.

In the end, plant milk can be ok for a baby to have, however it is not supposed to be the main source of total nutrition that serve to replace breast milk or formula. After the age of 1 years old, then plant milk can be increased only as a supplement to a well balanced diet of protein rich foods full of essential vitamins and minerals.

Speak to a doctor, pediatrician, or specialist if you think there are special circumstances or allergies affecting your baby and why you should consider plant based milk. Diet is extremely important for a babies growth and development, so a balance of micro and macronutrients is necessary.

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