All About Milk: From Breast Milk to Soy Milk and Everything in Between

I get lots and lots of questions about milk in clinic- breastmilk, formula, whole milk, soy milk. You name it. Especially during the first two years of their child’s life, parents think a lot about milk. So, I thought I’d round up some of the best resources I’ve found on this topic.


My go to on-line source when I was breastfeeding and the site I recommend most to patients is kellymom. Founded by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, this website’s goal is to provide evidence-based information and support for breastfeeding. Here you’ll find answers to many of your breastfeeding questions- everything from concerns about low milk supply to forceful letdown and oversupply. I scoured their section on Pumping and Employment before heading back to work after maternity leave.

A common question from pregnant and breastfeeding moms is whether certain medications are okay for maternal use. A great on-line resource is LactMed, an on-line database maintained by the National Library of Medicine. You can also ask your pediatrician to consult Thomas Hale’s well regarded resource, Medications and Mother’s Milk.


We’ve all heard “breast is best” and, while I certainly agree, there are times when formula is a needed and safe alternative. For moms struggling with low milk supply, which can occur for a variety of reasons, Dr. Melissa Arca is your go-to Dr. Mom for heartfelt, well reasoned posts regarding how difficult this can be. She has taught me a lot about Insufficient Glandular Tissue in particular.

And, for those feeling overwhelmed by a trip down the formula aisle at the supermarket, fear not, Dr. Somsak is here with an awesome review of all of the different kinds of formula and the differences between them. Many parents consider changing formulas to solve a variety of baby problems and I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Somsak when she says,

“Formula companies would like you to believe that their recipe is best for your baby, but there are no studies to support the advantage of any single brand. If you want to make a formula change, consider consulting your pediatrician. Infant crying, stooling, gas and spitting are variable. Give a particular formula at least one week before you decide it does not agree with your baby.”

Transitioning to Milk

The switch from breastmilk or formula to cow’s milk should occur at one year of age. Conventional wisdom had long held that between one and two years of age children should drink whole milk. Have you heard the news? This is not true for all kids anymore, particularly those with risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease. Check out Dr. Natasha Burgert’s great post, “Whole Milk at One-Year? Maybe Not.” for the low down.

My own thoughts on this transition:

-Anytime you make a big change in milk or diet, be it from breastfeeding to formula, or formula to whole milk, expect a change in your child’s stools. For many kids, the transition to cow’s milk leads to a short period of constipation. You can deal with this by increasing water and fruits and vegies in the diet and slowly increasing the amount of milk you give your young toddler. Change in stools at this time does not mean your child is lactose-intolerant, which is actually very rare at this age. If you have more questions about this, talk with your child’s health care provider.

-During the first months of life, babies receive much of their nutrition via milk. It is easy to become focused on how much milk our kids are drinking and think that more is better. But, especially after one year of age, this is definitely not the case. Toddlers should drink no more than 16-24 ounces of milk and should get most of their calories from food, not milk. Too much milk at this age can contribute to problems such as iron deficiency anemia (upcoming post will focus anemia in kids) and overweight.

-If you haven’t already, this is a great time to ditch the bottle. Yes, it may be painful, but it is better for your child (and their teeth). Transition to a sippy cup, or even better, a regular cup. You’ll likely be surprised at how quickly your child learns to use it.


Finally, if you are considering giving your child a milk other than cow’s milk, I highly recommend Dr. Natasha’s excellent post, “The Alterna-milks: Cow’s Milk Alternatives for Toddlers.”

Which resources did you find helpful regarding your questions about milk?

2 thoughts on “All About Milk: From Breast Milk to Soy Milk and Everything in Between

  1. Pingback: What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia and How Does It Affect Kids? | My Two Hats


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