It’s not unusual for little ones to go off their milk somewhat during toddlerhood. After all, once they’re starting to have a full, balanced diet, there are so many other exciting foods to eat!
How much milk?
When they were younger, milk was the most vital provider of the energy and nutrients they needed for healthy growth and development. However, as their diet becomes more varied, nutrients and energy are provided in other ways so the amount of milk they need becomes less.
Even though they need less of it, milk is still an important part of your toddler’s diet and provides them with valuable protein, energy, vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Aim to give them about ½-3/4 pint (360ml) each day – or if your toddler won't drink this amount, try and ensure they have other dairy foods such as yogurt, milk on cereals, cheese, custards and sauces. Ideally, your toddler should be having 3 portions of dairy foods per day, either at mealtimes or as snacks.
To give them an extra boost, you might like to give your toddler a Growing up Milk tailored to their nutritional needs, rather than ordinary cows’ milk. This is especially good for fussy eaters who often don’t get enough iron in their diets.
Learning to drink from a cup
Toddlers' becoming attached to their bottles and not wanting to use a beaker or cup is a common problem, but it’s best to move your toddler away from bottles and teats as soon as possible. Drinking from a cup instead of a bottle is much kinder to their teeth as sucking from a bottle increases the time for bacteria to convert the sugar in milk (called lactose) into acids that cause tooth decay. Long periods of sucking on a teat can also delay the development of your toddler's speech.
You could try your toddler on an open lidded cup straight away, or you might prefer to use a trainer cup or beaker to get your toddler used to the idea of drinking this way first. There are many different types of beaker with different types of lids and spouts to try, and you may find yourself buying more than one type before you find the one that suits your toddler best. Persevere though and it will be well worth it!
Toddlers can have cows’ milk as a main drink once they are a year old, although it doesn’t provide as many key nutrients as a formula milk that is suitable for their stage.
Once your toddler is 2 years old, you can start giving them semi-skimmed milk. Fully skimmed milk isn't suitable as a main drink until they're five years old, because it doesn't contain enough calories for a growing child.
Other drinks to offer
Your toddler might want around 6-8 small drinks a day, and perhaps more if the weather is hot.
Between meals, water or milk is the best way for your little one to stay hydrated, although it’s best not to let them have too much liquid – it can fill them up too much and leave less room for them to enjoy food.
At one or two mealtimes you might like to offer diluted fruit juice to your toddler. Fruit juice contains vitamin C, which helps the body to absorb any iron present in the meal they’re eating. If your toddler isn’t keen on drinking water, you can also try diluting fruit juice and then gradually make it more and more dilute.
Sugary drinks such as squash can harm your baby's teeth when they are given between meals or too often. If you do offer squash, ensure you dilute it well and give it at mealtimes only.
Watch Helen's video below for more advice.
Looking after your toddler's teeth
Cleaning your toddler's teeth should really be part of their daily routine - brush them twice a day, in the morning and last thing before bed.
Using a small, soft toothbrush with a pea-sized amount of children's fluoride toothpaste, brush their teeth using small circular movements, front and back. You might find it helpful for them to watch with a mirror so they can see what you are doing.
It is also a good idea for your toddler to get used to going to the dentist for a check-up as soon as possible. Start off with them coming with you for your check-up so that they can get used to the environment - dentists try hard to make children feel comfortable having their teeth checked and will often give out stickers too!