Growing Toddlers With Strong Bones, Is Milk the Only Answer?

Growing Toddlers With Strong Bones, Is Milk the Only Answer?

When your baby turns 1 year of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP), recommends starting whole milk by cup. Milk is an excellent source of calcium, which is needed for bone formation, muscle development, and nerve functioning. Milk also supplies Vitamin D and Phosphorus, both are essential factors in bone formation. 

Additionally, Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption. Vitamin A, protein and essential fats that toddlers need for development are also supplied in milk. When a child turns 1 year, their calcium requirements go from 260 mg/day to 700mg/day, so drinking 16oz of milk or milk alternative will provide close to what your toddler needs in calcium.  Ironically, babies at this age are often weaning from breastfeeding or bottles as they continue to increase their intake of real food. I often see babies drinking more milk at this age than they need, which displaces the nutrients they need from other foods.

What if your toddler refuses to drink milk?  I’ve had one such toddler who refused to drink milk.  She weaned herself from breastfeeding at 14 months and only wanted her “wa wa” (water) in the cup.   We did try many different cups and offered many different times but most often it just got handed back to us or tossed on the floor.  I’m grateful she is a big fan of yogurt, cheese, and almond butter and luckily she eats an occasional piece of broccoli.   I do occasionally give her chocolate milk and hot chocolate, which she is delighted to drink.  Her older sister drinks milk every meal and I had hoped her influence would eventually rub off, but it hasn’t yet at 3 ½.

I work with a lot of families managing  a milk intolerance or milk allergy.  For those children finding a milk alternative is important.  I’m not a fan of most alternative milks as they are so low in protein and fat, but when it comes to calcium, they are highly fortified and a good way to meet calcium goals.   My new favorite that has changed my opinion on milk alternative is Ripple, pea protein milk which is high in protein (8g) and fat (4.5g).   When looking for a milk alternative,  it’s important to compare brands and make sure they are enriched with calcium and vitamin D and without added sugar.  There are plenty of other foods rich in calcium that are important to include so toddlers are getting what they need.  Here is a list of high calcium foods for toddlers.

Age of childRecommended Dietary allowances mg/day
Infants 7-12 months260mg
Children 1-3 years700mg
Children 4-8 years1000mg

High Calcium foods for toddlers:  

8 oz milk                                             300mg

Siggi yogurt (5.3 oz)                         150 mg

Dannon plain yogurt (5.3 oz)         250mg

Danimals Smoothie, 3 oz                100mg

Chobani 3 oz plain yogurt               85 mg

Yo Baby yogurt (4oz)                       250mg

String cheese                                    150mg

Cheddar cheese 1 oz                        200 mg

Parmesan cheese ¼ cup               250 mg

Milk Alternatives, 8oz

Soy milk, Silk                                    450mg

Soy Dream                                        300mg

Almond milk, Silk                            450mg

Almond Breeze                                450mg

Coconut Milk, Simple Truth          450mg

Rice Dream, Enriched                     300mg

Ripple pea protein                             450mg

Non-dairy Calcium-rich foods for toddlers:

Calcium Fortified OJ, 4oz                   175 mg

Canned salmon ½ can                        230mg

White beans ½ cup                              80mg

Tofu extra firm 3 oz                             150 mg

Almond butter 1 TB                             40mg

Chia seeds 1 TB                                     75 mg

Sesame seeds 1 TB                               60 mg

Plum Organic snack bars                    100mg

Z bars, Cliff Kid                                     200mg

Gerber cereal bars                               100mg

1 cup cheerios                                       100 mg

Broccoli, 1 cup                                       75mg

Edamame 1 cup                                    95 mg

Kale, 1 cup                                             140mg

Orange                                                    75 mg

For more information on alternative non-dairy yogurt options, check out my blog post; 3 Best Non-Dairy Yogurt Options.

For More support feeding your child, join my private facebook group: Raising Confident Eaters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to Portland Mom Hub!

Parenting is intense: it’s as challenging as it is rewarding, and it can feel very isolating although you just grew your family!

We want to support you on your parenting journey and share everything that we wish we had known when we were starting out!

Dr. Angela Potter

Supporting mothers from fertility through postpartum.  Visit me at

Ren Johns

Looking for quality day cares and preschools in Portland, Oregon?   Visit my site at

Marie-Eve Gagnon

If your family is experiencing sleep struggles, I can help!  Visit my site

Katharine Burton Jeffcoat

Feeding a family and children can be challenging!  I can help.  Visit my site at