Worried about your toddler suddenly refusing milk when he had always loved it? Here’s what to do if your child stopped drinking milk.
My toddler would easily drink 16 to 24 ounces of regular milk a day. But out of the blue, he started drinking less, barely taking a sip.
I ran through the possible culprits. Could it be a change of milk? Nope—it was the same brand as always, so I knew it couldn’t be that. Had he been eating more than usual to compensate for the missed milk? Also a no.
I even hoped it was simply a phase, but eventually had to rule that excuse out when the milk refusal had been going on too long.
So, what gives? He used to love milk. What do you do when your toddler won’t drink milk anymore?
How to handle your toddler suddenly refusing milk
Maybe you’ve found yourself in the same predicament. You’re worried your toddler isn’t getting enough calcium without milk, especially because he’s so picky with food. You’re wondering if it’s okay that he doesn’t really drink that much milk (or formula, for that matter).
It’s stressful for any diligent parent to notice her toddler had stopped drinking milk when it had been a main source of nutrition. We also worry they’re not getting the nutrients they’re supposed to, or that this is a new habit that’s bound to go downhill from here.
Thankfully, I later learned that there are ways to sneak milk back into your toddler’s diet. And if yours truly refuses milk, he can still get nutrients—calcium in particular—from other sources of food.
So, take a look at these ideas to get your child to drink milk, and hopefully he’ll take to it once again:
1. Sneak milk into other meals
If your toddler won’t drink milk in a typical way (as a liquid in a cup), sneak it in into other meals.
Cereal is a popular one kids will easily eat, even if they’ve suddenly stopped drinking milk. Not only will your toddler eat milk-soaked cereal, he just might slurp it from the bowl once the cereal has finished. My kids will finish off their bowls of cereal down to the last drop.
You can add milk or yogurt to smoothies to give him the benefits of milk without actually drinking it plain from a cup. And cook recipes and dishes you can sneak milk into, like casseroles, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. I like to add milk to our oatmeal breakfast for extra boost and flavor.
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2. Offer milk in a different way
Has your toddler grown bored of the same ol’ stuff? Try offering milk in a different way. Sometimes the novelty of a new way of drinking milk is enough to convince him to give it another chance.
For instance, you could try…
- A different temperature. if he typically drinks milk ice cold, offer it at room temperature or warm.
- A different cup. If he’s used to bottle feeding, try a special cup, like a sippy cup, a small mug, or even an individual-size carton of milk.
- With a straw. A straw can bring the excitement of drinking milk back.
3. Offer milk with regular meals
From birth to a year old, breast milk or formula had been your child’s main source of sustenance. Even solids and baby food were supplemental and introductory, rather than his main meals.
Now that he’s a toddler, that plan gets switched: regular solid food will now be his main source of nutrition, with milk as a supplemental beverage.
Of course, milk—especially whole milk—remains a great source of calcium and fat that young toddlers need. But he’s now learning to take in most of his calories through food than liquids.
All that to say that a great way to get him to drink milk is to offer it as a beverage with his regular meals. Place a cup of milk with his breakfast, lunch, and dinner so he gets used to drinking milk along with his meals.
Another idea is to offer milk in a sippy cup after a nap. It just might be a soothing way to transition from sleep to awake time, especially if he wakes up cranky from a nap.
4. Offer other calcium-rich food
Ask your pediatrician whether your toddler is able to consume calcium and fat through other food sources.
Kids ages one to three need 700 mg of calcium a day, which they can absorb in other food. Offer yogurt or parfait, a grilled cheese sandwich, string cheese, or cottage cheese on crackers. These dairy products can add up to the calcium content your toddler needs.
Even non-dairy food offers calcium, from leafy greens like kale and spinach, to broccoli, salmon, and almonds. Different beverages like the occasional orange juice, chocolate milk, or soy milk can do the trick.
Research calcium amounts in food you’re already offering him, and you might be surprised at how much he’s already consuming.
So, is it okay if your toddler doesn’t drink milk? Your pediatrician will be able to tell you definitively whether the sudden refusal of milk is a cause for worry.
But from what I’ve learned, it’s nothing to worry or keep yourself awake at night about. For one thing, you can do plenty to offer milk in other ways, from giving it in different temperatures and cups to sneaking it into his meals.
You can also focus on other sources of food rich in calcium and fat, as well as treating milk as a beverage to drink with regular meals.
Because the less you stress about it, the less he’ll see it as “an issue” to fight about. Keep offering milk in a casual way—he just might finish a cup of milk before you know it.
Get more tips:
- Top Questions About Transitioning from Breastmilk to Whole Milk
- How to Introduce Cow’s Milk to Your Baby
- 7 Simple (But Genius!) Ways to Stop Diaper Change Tantrums
- Need a Toddler Schedule? 15 Examples That Will Actually Make Life Easier
- Want the Best Transition Sippy Cup? Start with These Options
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