Since little man decided he was finished nursing, and I no longer have a frozen stash of mama milk, we've transitioned into having little man drink non-mama milk. But- for us- that doesn't mean cow's milk. One of the most frequent questions I've been asked lately is regarding what type of milk we give little man- and the rationale behind our choice.
To preface this post: I am not a cow's milk type of person. I was raised to drink cow's milk and drank only skim milk from the time I began drinking milk until a few years before little man was born. However, soon after DH & I were married, I began doing quite a bit of reading and began to look into and use dairy free options. In fact, for a period of time before I became pregnant with little man, I was completely vegan. (Meaning no meat, fish, dairy, etc.)
After becoming pregnant with little man, I have become sort of an in-betweener. I drink almond or coconut milk, eat some cheese or other dairy products, and very infrequently will have something with meat in it.
However, after becoming a nursing mother, I don't know that I will ever look at cow's milk the same way again.
When I began to read into why some people choose a vegan lifestyle, cruel or unfair treatment of animals was typically high on the list of justifications. I read over and over about how milk cows are attached to pumps in such a constant way that their bodies are completely over-producing milk, which causes infections and mastitis. There are so many antibiotics given to cows specifically because they are being forced to produce too much milk and it is making them sick.
I pumped breastmilk for little man for over a year. I know what it feels like to have clogged ducts and mastitis. I know the pain of an oversupply.
I feel for those cows.
Because of that and other health-related concerns, while I do eat some dairy, I tend to limit the amount that our family consumes.
So, then what do we do to replace the nutritional benefits of milk?
Is there any good substitution?
Well, right now we use a mix of almond milk and coconut milk. I don't feel, based on what each nutritionally provides, that either are good enough by themselves, for the next few reasons. Coconut milk has a much higher fat content, and that fat content is beneficial for growing children, for the same reason that you don't feed skim milk to toddlers. But coconut milk doesn't contain a good amount of other nutrients. We mix the coconut milk half and half with almond milk, as almond milk has a much higher calcium and vitamin D content.
Are these (coconut and almond milk) perfect?
However, they are the least offensive to our family currently. Soy milk contains a lot of ingredients that have been shown to cause significant problems in your body, specifically to your thyroid. With my strong family history of thyroid problems, I try to stay away from soy altogether (minus the rare treat of edamame!!!). Rice milk doesn't contain what almond or coconut milk does nutritionally. Ideally, I'd love to switch to raw milk from a local farm where I could visit and observe the treatment of the cows, however, raw milk sales for human consumption is illegal in my state.
One of the common misconceptions I hear when discussing milk or dairy consumption with friends or relatives, however, typically tends to be that you can ONLY obtain the nutrients you need like calcium, vitamin D, etc. from milk or dairy products. This just isn't the case.
If you were to really study it, you'd find that eating a healthy diet filled with beans, high protein grains (like quinoa), green/leafy vegetables, and fruits can completely satisfy your nutritional needs. This is one of the main reasons that little man drinks a fruit and vegetable smoothie every day, to help cover his needs nutritionally, even when he doesn't want to eat right- or, really, as a toddler- to eat at all!
As a family, this is one of the decisions we've made and find it works well for our personal needs, however, I am by no means a nutritionist nor do I know what works well for your family, you need to use your own judgment!
Do you have any nutritional concerns for your family? What kind of milk do you serve at home?