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Giving your child milk: things parents should know

October 1, 2019

Making sure your preschooler enjoys a balanced diet loaded with all the right nutrients is key to supporting healthy growth and development. Milk has an important part to play in this; crammed with key nutrients like vitamin A, it’s a vital component of your little one’s diet.

Milk is a mainstay of most kids’ diets. It’s something we’re all raised on for the first six or so months of our lives, and something many of us continue to drink into adulthood. Whereas your little one was entirely dependent on milk as a baby, now they’ve reached preschool age it forms just part of their daily diet. And it’s down to you to control how much milk, and what type, they drink.

The benefits of milk

As well as calcium, whole milk and full-fat dairy products also contain loads of vitamin A. As the NHS explains1, this vitamin supports the body in fighting infections and is essential for healthy skin and eyes. The fat in milk also provides calories for young children, supporting their growing bodies.

In fact, research on 2,700 children2 found that those who drank full-fat milk were likely to end up less hungry, making them less likely to snack on high calorie – and often carb-loaded – foods throughout the day.

So, with these benefits in mind, here are some things you might find useful to know about giving milk to your preschool-aged child:

Aim for at least 350ml of milk a day

As a general rule of thumb, you should make sure your little one gets at least 350ml of milk every day – or two servings of food made from milk, such as cheese, yoghurt or fromage frais. You could always mix things up; one day give them a cup of milk to drink, and another day give them their favourite yogurt to enjoy! If they’re a little reluctant to drink milk, try making the experience more fun with a bright cup and straw.

Don’t buy skimmed or 1% fat milk

So long as your little one eats well and is growing at the normal rate for a child their age, you can introduce semi-skimmed milk from two years old. It’s not a good idea to give them skimmed or 1% fat milk though, because neither provide enough fat for kids under five. That said, you can use these low-fat milks in cooking for kids aged over one.

Crying over spoilt milk

You probably haven’t given much thought to buying milk in the past – it’s simply been a process of going to the shop, checking the expiry date and adding it to your basket. But did you know that the packaging has a huge impact on the quality of the milk?

As well as affecting its taste and flavour, light damage to milk can seriously degrade its nutritional offering. We’re not just talking about natural light, either; research shows that artificial lighting on supermarket shelving destroys the nutrients found in dairy products.

Food studies reveal that after only two hours of exposure to lights typically found in retail dairy cases, milk begins to lose vitamin A, and after 24 hours of sunlight, riboflavin levels in pasteurised whole milk drop by a staggering 28%. This means you’re giving your little ones milk thinking they’re getting all the nutrients, but sadly this isn’t always the case.

Changing the face of packaging

It doesn’t have to be this way. Noluma is a company fighting for the goodness of our milk by advising clients on how to make their packaging more light-protected. It uses patented state-of-the-art technology to measure the level of light-protection in packaging and suggests improvements to ensure the protection of milk and other products through their entire shelf life.

They’re currently encouraging major supermarkets and brands to help preserve the nutritional benefits of dairy products for kids and adults alike by using light-protected packaging.