Milk is an important part of a toddler’s diet. It provides calcium and vitamin D, which help build strong bones. Kids under age 2 should drink whole milk for the dietary fats needed for normal growth and brain development. When your child is 2, most doctors recommend switching to low-fat milk.
Now that your baby is a toddler, milk is meant to be enjoyed with a meal, not be the meal. Ideally, 1- to 2-year-olds should drink 16 ounces (2 cups) of whole milk per day, and 3-year-olds should have 8 to 12 ounces (1 to 1.5 cups) of low-fat milk.
Some kids don’t like cows milk at first because it’s different from the breast milk or formula they’re used to. If that’s the case, try mixing whole milk with formula or breast milk and gradually adjust the mixture so that it eventually becomes 100% cow’s milk. Yogurts, cheeses, fortified juices (no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day) and cereals are also great sources of calcium and vitamin D.
If your toddler is having difficulty transitioning from bottle to cup, instead of cutting out bottles all at once, you can gradually eliminate them from the feeding schedule, starting with mealtime. Offer milk in a cup after the child has begun the meal.
Offer your toddler three meals and two or three healthy snacks a day, but keep in mind that it’s common for toddlers to skip meals because they are too busy! Allow your child to respond to their own internal cues for hunger and fullness. Don’t force your child to eat, but kids shouldn’t be allowed to eat on demand all day long either.