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To Milk or Not Milk: Whole Milk vs. The Best Milk Alternatives For Toddlers

Do you know what the best milk alternatives for toddlers are?

I’ve been the allergy mom and the mom who became so obsessed with trying out the latest milk on the market to see how it pairs well with my morning coffee.

If it’s out there - I’ve probably tried it, and so have my kids!

We’ve been through nursing, supplementing, and straight-up formula feeding - no judgment here: just some terrible humor and straight-up facts.

Finding the best milk alternatives for toddlers can be challenging, but I’m here to make it easy for you.

So using my experience as a mother, I’m going to take you through all of the pros and cons of the best milk alternatives for toddlers!

Dairy Recommendation for Toddlers

toddlers love milk alternatives

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers at one year consume about two dairy services per day or about a 16-24oz maximum of whole milk per day.

Whole-fat milk is recommended for children at this age unless there is a family history or risk for obesity or heart disease.

Older toddlers between the ages of two and three old should consume 2.5 servings of dairy per day.

The AAP recommends that children stay on whole milk until they are two years of age — unless there is a reason to switch to low-fat milk sooner.

Rejoice the parents whose children simply don’t like drinking milk - If children cannot drink cow's milk, they can meet their dairy requirements by eating yogurt and cheese while still drinking one of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.

Nevertheless, vitamin D may be needed as a supplement since not all yogurts are fully supplemented with vitamin D.

Pros and Cons of The Best Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

Okay, but my family is vegan, dealing with allergies, lactose intolerance, or choose not to drink moo milk.

What should we do?

First and foremost, be open and honest with your pediatrician.

Different kinds of milk contain different nutritional make-up, which is essential for growing bodies.

My oldest had a severe allergy to milk for the first two years of his life.

The good news?

He grew out of it - as do most kiddos with that allergy early on. Hang in there!

Whole Milk

whole milk for toddlers

Pros: Whole milk has a healthy balance of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, calcium, and vitamin D without being dependent on added sugars.

Cons: Not everyone can safely consume cow’s milk due to allergies or intolerances.


breastfeeding a toddler

Pros: Breast Milk protects infants and toddlers from a variety of diseases and conditions.

Extended breastfeeding can boost nutritional needs as they adapt to table foods - this is especially true if you have a picky eater.

Cons: Breastfeeding is hard work and can be draining physically and emotionally on the mom and is often the reason for finding some of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.


Pros: Toddler formula under the advisement of a pediatrician and/or dietitian can ensure your child doesn’t become deficient in protein or vitamins and minerals.

Cons: Cost is a pretty large factor here, but in general, toddler formula is unnecessary.

Soy Milk

soy milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: Next to cow’s milk (and pea-protein milk), Soy Milk contains more protein than other milk alternatives and more calcium than whole milk.

Soy Milk is also widely available and affordable.

Cons: Over the years, there have been lots of conflicting evidence on soy products in general.

Debates from soy containing similar chemical makeups of estrogen have caused concerns.

The AAP states there isn’t conclusive evidence that soy products harm animals or humans.

Author's Take: I don’t mind soy! The kids also don’t mind it, but they won’t touch it if it’s not sweetened.

Not even the flavored no sweetener added kind.

It’s kind of cardboardy tasting without some sugar, so it is lower on my list of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.

Rice Milk

rice milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: Rice Milk is comparable to soy milk, being just ten calories more than soy milk. Rice milk does, however, have more calcium than whole cow’s milk.

Rice milk has been increasing in availability over the last few years in both refrigerated and shelf-stable options.

Cons: Rice milk only contains .7 grams of protein per serving and contains less Vitamin D than cows milk.

Author's Take: Meh. Rice milk wasn’t well-received here and didn’t do much for my coffee.

Sometimes I find myself craving rice milk because its taste is a bit sweet on the palate, but it’s a hard pass for me as one of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.

Almond Milk

almond milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: Unsweetened Almond milk has 70 calories per serving and nearly double the amount of calcium of cow’s milk.

This nut milk is widely available in different flavors - including banana for discernable palates.

Cons: Almond milk comes third to last in terms of protein per serving. Almond Milk falls lower than other kinds of milk in vitamin D also.

Author's Take: For me, Almond Milk is one of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.

While none of us really like drinking the unsweetened variety, the flavors and sweetened varieties are just YUM.

It’s also much cheaper than my personal favorite, pea protein milk.

Hemp Milk

hemp milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: This not milk outranks cow’s milk in calcium and has a pleasing taste without much sugar or calories.

Cons: Hemp milk only contains two grams of protein per serving and falls behind on Vitamin D as well.

Author's Take: We’ve tried this once or twice, but Hemp Milk has gained popularity and is finally consistently available at our local grocery store.

Many people feel this is one of the best milk alternatives for toddlers, but I still think that goes to almond milk.

Pea Protein Milk

pea tree milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: Pea Protein Milk tied with moo milk for protein nearly doubles the calcium and almost meets the vitamin D!

Go peas!

This milk alternative is on the thicker side but is just as creamy, if not creamier, than milk.

Cons: Price. Pea Protein milk is one of the most expensive alternatives and isn’t widely available - yet.

Author's Take: WE LOVE THIS ISH. Seriously.

This stuff is a crowd-pleaser and another one of the best milk alternatives for toddlers.

Sometimes we grab the chocolate one as a treat for the kiddos.

Dare I say that it’s better than regular chocolate milk?

The sweetened varieties are a bit on the sweet side, but knowing that it’s pretty nutritionally balanced still makes me feel good about it.

Goat's Milk

goat's milk alternative for toddlers

Pros: Goat’s milk meets cows milk on nearly every level and contains more calcium than cow’s milk.

Goats milk has a similar flavor profile to cow’s milk and can be baked/cooked without much taste.

Cons: Another one to add to the affordability. Goats milk is a bit pricey and has slightly less Vitamin D than cows milk and other not milk products.

Conclusion - Best Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

Narrowing down and finding the best milk alternatives for toddlers can be challenging.

Luckily, I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you.

All of the options above have pros and cons for you to consider when choosing a milk alternative.

No matter how you milk the milk, choosing a delivery system for toddlers can be just as tricky.

Mom life moment here - I know we’re supposed to use an open cup.

I get it, and sometimes, ya, we open cup, but that’s more of a water situation to me personally.

We spend enough time cleaning up and cleaning up milk that your toddler told you just now that they spilled a week ago.

Is the cause of that smell?! No thanks.

We thrive on gosili to go sippy cups.

klean kanteen sippy cup options

Klean Kanteen makes the most durable sippy cup I’ve ever come into contact with, and trust me, I’ve tried them all.

There are even insulated versions if you need to pack some milk to go.

This sippy cup, once it’s outgrown, can be fitted with a sports cap! Drink up and waste, not my friends.