Milk is one of the best and most convenient sources of calcium for your toddler, however, for some parents, getting your toddler to make the switch from breast milk or formula to cow's milk is easier said than done.  In order to make this transition, it is essential to:

  • Understand why calcium is integral to your toddler's growth and development
  • Try different strategies to help your toddler to drink milk if he or she is struggling
  • Discover alternative sources to milk if your child is allergic or refuses to drink milk

By finding what works for you and your child, you can ensure that your child is receiving the proper amount of calcium to keep his or her bones and teeth strong.

Why Calcium Is Essential For Your Toddler's Teeth

Although most people will agree with calcium is necessary in growing strong teeth and bones, what many do not know is that calcium is required for every cell in the human body to work properly.  Along with building strong teeth and bones, calcium:

  • Ensures that muscles and nerves are working correctly
  • Helps the blood to clot properly
  • Aids in the release of hormones and enzymes

When a child does not get enough calcium in his or her diet, the body will take calcium from the teeth and bones (where 99% of the body's calcium is stored).  When calcium is taken from the teeth and distributed to other parts of the body instead, this can cause the teeth to become:

  • weak and fragile
  • more subject to brakes and fractures
  • more susceptible to injuries during high-impact sports

Calcium is indeed an essential nutrient that your toddler cannot afford not to have in his or her diet.

Helping Your Toddler to Make the Switch

When your child turns 1, and he or she is allowed and encouraged to drink cow's milk, it can be very difficult to help him or her to make the switch simply because:

  • Breast milk or formula is often a different temperature than cow's milk
  • The difference in taste can be unpleasant to a toddler at first
  • Drinking out of a different container (switching from a bottle to a cup or sippy cup) can be confusing or hard for a toddler to get used to

In order to help your child to take advantage of milk, and the great source of calcium that it is, try some of these tips until you find what works for your toddler.

Try Different Containers

One of the best ways to help a child to try something new is to put it into a different container.  Try having your child drink the milk from a sippy cup, a cup, or a cup with a straw to see which one he or she likes best.  If your toddler is still resistant, purchase a brand new cup/sippy cup with one of your child's favorite things on it (i.e., cars, princesses, animals) and call this his or her special new milk cup.  Be excited and enthusiastic as your child tries this new and important drink.

Have The Milk Available Consistently

At every meal, before you offer water or juice to your child, have the milk out and available to him or her.  Throughout the day, offer the milk first before other liquids.  In many cases, children will get thirsty enough that they will try whatever liquid you offer to them first.

Mix Milk With Something Else

If your child simply does not like the taste of milk, try mixing the milk with something else so that the taste is diluted or disguised.  Some things you can do include:

  • Mixing milk with orange juice
  • Putting milk in smoothies
  • Fixing foods that have milk in them (i.e., macaroni and cheese, soups, oatmeal, pudding, cereal)
  • Flavoring milk with chocolate or strawberry powder

Warm Up The Milk

If the temperature is what's bothering your toddler, you can try leaving the milk out so that it is at room temperature before your child takes a drink.  If you choose to warm the milk in the microwave, be sure to heat it slowly and stir it extremely well before offering it to your child (a microwave can cause uneven heating of the milk).  A safer option is to heat the milk by running hot water over the outside of the sippy cup.

Other Sources of Calcium

If, after trying all of the above methods, your child refuses milk, is lactose intolerant, or is allergic to milk, don't fret.  There are other sources of calcium that you can give your toddler to ensure he or she is getting the suggested 700 mg of calcium a day.  Some of these sources include:

  • Calcium-fortified orange juice, granola bars or cereal
  • Cottage cheese and other cheeses
  • Yogurt
  • Red and white beans
  • Almonds
  • Collard greens (and other dark leafy green vegetables)
  • Chickpeas
  • Broccoli
  • Almond or soy milk
  • Evaporated milk (which can be added in place of milk in recipes)

Although milk is surely an excellent source of calcium for your growing toddler, what's most important is ensuring that your child is getting enough in his or her diet from a variety of sources to support exceptional growth and development. For more tips that can help keep your child's teeth healthy, contact a local pediatric dentist