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Is my toddler drinking too much milk?
Q: Is it possible to give my 17-month-old daughter too much milk? She loves it. I don’t give her juice other than at snack time, for fear of the high sugar levels. But should I be giving her something other than milk throughout the day?
Rebecca El Paso
A: It’s great that your daughter loves milk. Milk is healthy for young children as it provides them important nutrients including calcium and protein. But there is such as thing as “too much of a good thing.” In fact, too much milk can be unhealthy for children. Health experts recommend that toddlers drink no more than 16 to 24 ounces of milk a day. When toddlers drink too much, it tends to fill them up and interfere with their appetite for other healthy foods such as meat, vegetables, fruit and grains. Too much milk can also interfere with children’s absorption of iron from foods, leading to anemia.

Juice can also be a healthy part of a toddler’s diet as it provides vitamins and minerals. But be sure to give your daughter 100 percent fruit juice rather than sugary fruit drinks. It’s also important to limit the amount of juice your daughter drinks to 4 to 6 ounces a day. Like milk, too much juice can also fill children up and interfere with their appetite for other healthy foods. In addition, since juice is high in sugar, too much can lead to diarrhea, tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain.

If your daughter is still thirsty after she’s reached her recommended limit for milk and juice in a day, it’s healthiest to give her water.

Here are some tips for limiting the amount of milk your daughter drinks to the recommended amount:
  • Make sure your daughter uses a cup and not a bottle for her milk. Children tend to drink less milk from the cup than the bottle. Get her some nice, colourful sippy cups to use, and praise her for being a big girl.

  • Give your daughter her meals and snacks first, and her milk afterward. This will help her fill up on the other healthy foods and then drink the milk to satisfy her thirst. You can also offer her juice or water after her meals and snacks.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician