At the age of one, your child can begin to drink cow's milk. (She shouldn't have it until then because her stomach can't easily digest the protein.) Children should always drink whole milk, as the fat is vital for brain development. This shouldn't replace breast milk (if you're still breastfeeding) but should instead be considered a serving from the dairy food group, as are cheese and yogurt. Your child should have about 200 calories of calcium-rich foods a day, which equals a glass of milk, a slice of cheese, and a small serving of yogurt.
Dairy products are great snacks for children, since they are often portable and easy to divide into single servings. Some dairy is even sold in single servings, such as string cheese and yogurt. Dairy foods are just as important as, and in some ways healthier than, other foods for toddlers. Yogurts and cheeses are especially good ways for children to get calcium, protein, and other nutrients. At this age, snacking is an opportunity for your child to get important nutrition breaks, since her stomach can't hold a large meal.
Chocolate milk is not necessarily bad for children, but it does have a lot of added sugar — it's not just chocolate that makes the flavor so appealing. Consider it a treat for your baby and not a regular part of her diet.
Some children don't tolerate the sugars and proteins in milk well and get stomachaches after drinking milk. If people in your family are lactose intolerant, keep an eye on your child, as she will be more likely to have this problem. Smelly, loose stools are a sign of this digestion problem. If you suspect your child is lactose intolerant, talk to your pediatrician. He may be able to recommend an over-the-counter medicine that will help your child better digest milk products; or he may need to drink other types of milk, such as soy. The good news about lactose intolerance is that many children can eat other dairy foods, such as hard cheeses and yogurts, even if their digestive systems can't handle straight milk.
Hormones in Milk
Most diary cows today are fed a large number of hormones to increase milk production. These hormones — which are typically estrogen or female hormone variations — stay in the milk, which is then consumed by humans. More and more research is showing that these hormones may have a detrimental effect on children (both boys and girls) as they grow up, and may even cause the early onset puberty of and other hormonal changes. Look for milk and other food products that are made without hormones (it usually says so on the label).