My toddler families often tell me that their child is a “picky eater”.
Since lack of food can also cause night wake-ups, I always dig into the potential issues leading to a limited diet during the day.
We know that food issues can be caused by a battle of the wills. But, we need to remember that food intake is also natural. Our bodies are made to EAT so that we can function. This means that we will eat when we are hungry. So, sometimes we need to talk about: changing the ways parents present food, talk about food, and find ways to relax when a child refuses to eat.
But, the most common issue I find is that the toddler or child is simply drinking too much milk.
By decreasing the amount of milk, milk alternatives, or breastmilk a child is drinking - we can drastically increases the child’s food intake (and, cut out many of our food fights)!
As a mom myself, I wasn’t taught by any of my health practitioners about when to decrease the amount of milk my kids were drinking. More shocking is that of all my clients with kids who were considered “severe picky eaters” and were referred to nutritionists were also not questioned on the amount their child was drinking.
Of all my “picky eaters”, the key to getting them to eat was decreasing their milk intake.
So - here is my “how much milk to actually drink” soapbox blog:
How much milk is enough?
According to the Canadian Association of Paediatrics, Dieticians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, and Health Canada:
12-24 months - 500mL (16 oz or 1.7 cups) of 3.25% milk or breastmilk per day.
The American Association of Paediatrics recommendations are a little different:
12-24 months they suggest - 500-681 mL (16-24 oz/day or 2-3 cups) per day.
2-5 years they suggest 500-568 mL (16-20 oz/day or 2-2.5 cups) per day.
Remember though that every child is different. If you decide to go with the American recommendations and you find your child is still not eating, try to decrease their milk to meet the Canadian requirements and see if that makes a difference.
Make sure you are still giving them healthy liquids:
Do remember that if you are decreasing milk, you should be increasing other liquids - primarily water.
Canada’s Food Guide has eliminated all fruit juices as a healthy alternative to fruits because of the high sugar content. There are strong warnings to not offer juices and other sugary drinks in both Canada and the US because of their link to obesity.
Water can be given during mealtimes and throughout the day - especially during or after playtimes.
When should my child be drinking milk?
I always suggest to my clients that they separate their meals from drinking milk.
Try not to offer food within an hour to an hour and a half from drinking milk. As we all know (and have learned the hard way!) when our kids fill up with milk, they won’t eat their food (cue mealtime tantrums).
You can choose to give the milk during the times of day that works best for your family. But, try to avoid giving milk right before your child goes to bed or down for a nap so that they don’t associate sleep with milk.
Should we even be giving milk? I hear vegetables can give calcium too!
There are many groups that believe that the even these milk recommendations are excessive. They believe that if the concern is to get our kids to have calcium in our diet, we can do so with vegetables.
But, that is a whole other can of worms that needs it’s own devoted blog! More on that later, I promise!
My sources if you want to read more: