Drinking less milk - how to ensure your baby is getting calcium

Feeding | | Helen Farnsworth

As your baby eats more food, the amount of milk they drink will gradually reduce. Generally, babies at 6 months will be drinking about 500-600ml milk (breastmilk or formula) per day, and this will decrease to about 350ml per day by their first birthday.

Milk is a great source of energy and many nutrients, including calcium, which form part of a healthy, balanced diet. Calcium is vital for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, keeping our muscles and nerves working properly, and ensures our blood clots normally.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that we are all getting enough calcium throughout our lives. So how much calcium should your baby be having? The recommended intake for infants under 1 year of age is 525mg/day, and this reduces to 350mg/day for children aged 1-3years.

Milk is not the only source of calcium though – there are many other dietary sources which you can include in your little one’s diet to help ensure they’re getting enough. Cheese, yogurt, milk puddings and sauces, broccoli, spring greens, oranges, fortified cereals, bread and fish (with soft bones that you can mash and eat, e.g. tinned sardines, pilchards, salmon) are all valuable sources of calcium. For a very useful list of the calcium content of a variety of foods, have a look at the following link to the  British Dietetic Association food fact sheet

Here are some ideas of how to give your little one the calcium they need:

• Start the day with a breakfast cereal with their usual milk (or just add water if they already contain dried milk, as many of the HiPP Organic cereals do).

• Add some natural yogurt to some stewed or soft fruits for a dessert or snack

• Grate some cheese and give it as a finger food, in a sandwich, or melted on top of some pasta with veggies, including broccoli

To optimise the absorption of calcium from the foods your baby eats, it is really important to make sure they are getting enough vitamin D. The current recommendation is that all babies from the age of 6 months to 5 years should have daily vitamin drops that contain 10 mcg vitamin D and vitamins A and C, unless your baby is formula-fed and is drinking more than 500ml formula a day. However, as their food intake increases and their formula intake drops to less than 500mls/day, you should start giving them vitamin drops too to safeguard against possible deficiencies.

Calcium deficiency is rare, but your baby might be more at risk if they are dairy intolerant. If you are at all concerned that your baby is not getting enough calcium, have a chat with your healthcare professional.