Can babies drink almond milk?
Almond milk can safely be given to babies and toddlers, but it is important to note that it’s not a replacement for breast milk or infant formula.
Almond milk is a common alternative to cow’s milk for adults, but developing babies have different nutritional requirements.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies less than 1-year-old drink breast milk or, if breast milk is not available, dairy- or soy-based infant formula unless otherwise advised.
Doctors advise only introducing other milk alternatives, such as cow’s milk or almond milk, after a baby’s first birthday, because the specific nutrient profile in breast and formula milk is vital for development.
For children who are lactose-intolerant or if they avoid dairy for other reasons, they can be given almond milk. Toddlers who are above 12 months old can drink almond milk once or twice a day in between periods of breast-feeding or eating their other foods.
Almond milk is made of finely ground almonds and water. Other ingredients may include sweeteners, flavorings, such as vanilla and thickeners. Many manufacturers also add nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium.
Almond milk may be a safe addition to a toddler’s diet, but no milk can compare to the nutrients provided by breast milk or infant formula.
A parent should see their doctor if they have any concerns that a child may be lactose-intolerant. Lactose intolerance is more common in older children and adults than in babies and toddlers.
If using almond milk to supplement a toddler’s diet, make sure that:
- the milk is low in sugar or unsweetened
- the milk is enriched with calcium and vitamins A and D
- the baby eats other forms of fat and protein
Ask a pediatrician about added ingredients, such as flavorings or thickeners.
It is also essential to find out whether the baby has a nut allergy. If relatives of the baby have nut allergies, then it is best to avoid nuts altogether and consult a pediatrician on the best option.
How does almond milk compare to cow’s milk?
Cow milk and almond milk are nutritionally different. Some doctors recommend using whole cow’s milk for weaning babies from 1 to 2 years old because it has a high concentration of fat.
A single cup of whole milk contains about 8 grams (g) of fat, which the developing baby’s brain needs to grow. In comparison, unsweetened almond milk contains only 2.5 g of fat.
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Also, cow’s milk is also higher in protein than almond milk: 1 cup of whole milk contains almost 8 grams of protein, but 1 cup of fortified almond milk contains only 1 gram of protein.
However, if these fats and proteins are supplemented somewhere else in the baby’s diet, almond milk may be a suitable substitute for whole milk in toddlers.
Additionally, cow’s milk is also higher in naturally-occurring sugars compared to unsweetened almond milk. The other consideration is the differences in nutrients and vital minerals between the two types of milk. A cup of cow’s milk fortified with vitamins contains:
- 276 milligrams (mg) calcium
- 322 mg potassium
- 205 mg phosphorus
- 105 mg sodium
- 395 units (IU) vitamin A
- 124 IU vitamin D
The same amount of unsweetened almond milk may contain:
- 482 mg calcium
- 176 mg potassium
- 24 mg phosphorus
- 189 mg sodium
- 499 IUvitamin A
- 101 IUvitamin D
Milk of any kind should only supplement their diet after a baby hits one year, and it should not take the place of other whole foods.
Neither almond milk nor regular cow’s milk are good substitutes for breast or formula milk for babies under 1 year. If the child is breast-feeding, no other milk is needed.
Other non-dairy milk for infants
If almond milk does not sound like the right option, people who are looking for dairy-free alternatives to give their growing toddler may prefer other plant-based milk, such as:
- soy milk
- rice milk
- oat milk
- coconut milk
- hemp milk
- hazelnut milk
Before buying plant-based milk, always check to ensure they are fortified with vitamins and minerals and are low in sugar.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.