Milk for Children After Breastfeeding
by Crystal W
My daughter is 9 months old now. I plan to nurse her for at least a year but probably a little longer as she is pretty much obsessed with my breasts :-) . What type(s) of milk is/are best for her? I know that she can get her calcium from other sources. However, non-vegans say that she needs the cow's milk to get the fat. What else can substitute for this?
This is an interesting and somewhat contentious topic. Humans are the only animals that continue to drink milk after being weaned, and also the only animals that drink milk from another animal. Our bodies are designed not to need milk after we stop drinking our mother's, and in fact, most people develop a lactose intolerance shortly after being weaned.
Why do we still drink it? Well, largely because the government tells us to do so. This may sound like a conspiracy theory, but the government gives financial support to the dairy industry, keeping the supply high and working to increase demand by sponsoring programs that tell us milk does a body good and keeps the bones strong.
Doing even a little bit of research into the dairy industry will show this is true, and you can check out books like Whitewash, The China Study, The Mad Cowboy, Diet For a New America, and anything from Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine for more information.
So, what should our babies drink after they stop drinking breast milk? That is up to you and your doctor, but I would highly encourage water, fruit juices you blend yourself, smoothies, and if you want to supplement with nondairy milks, try soy milk, almond milk, and hemp milk. Soy tends to have the most fat, which is best for children, but some people worry about the effects of soy. Whatever you decide, make sure to give the full fat version, and the non-GMO and organic soy milk is better over conventional. Most nondairy milks also tend to be fortified with calcium, which is also important for children.
You are right that many parents give cow's milk to their children because of the high fat content. Because children have smaller stomaches, it is important to get high density calories into them; even more than the fibrous foods that adults need. Avocados become your best friend, as well as nuts and nut butters, coconuts, and healthy oils like olive and coconut.
You should definitely speak to your pediatrician to ensure you're giving your child enough calories, but don't worry too much about it. Vegan children with caring parents who work on their diets are at a great advantage over children whose parents feed them typical kid foods.
Hope this helps!