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If your toddler is refusing to eat anything but milk, you’re probably feeling frustrated! Too much milk can make picky eating worse, so I’ll show you step-by-step how to help your child eat more foods.
“I want milk!” Your toddler is screaming for milk for the 4th time today and you are concerned they aren’t getting enough other things. You’re feeling defeated because your toddler is refusing to eat anything but milk and wondering how in the world you are supposed to get them to actually start eating more foods. You’re not alone though, this is a common problem.
Too much milk can turn into a big problem down the road, so helping your child drink milk in moderation is so important. I’ll show you how to turn things around.
When Toddlers Refusing to Eat Anything But Milk, Picky Eating Gets Worse
Milk is just so so so easy to drink! We don’t realize that eating requires a lot of energy and concentration from a child. All of that chewing and swallowing stuff takes it out of them. Toddlers are smart and they are efficient when it comes to eating. In fact, some toddlers realize that it’s a lot easier to drink their food than eat their food.
Next thing you know, your toddler is drinking milk instead of eating food! Your child would rather do the easy thing and drink milk throughout the day. If we cater to this desire, our child starts becoming exposed to other foods less and less. They start to become more picky and refuse more and more foods until they are refusing anything but milk.
FREE picky eater guide: From Stress to Success: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Eat Better Without Losing Your Mind
How Picky Eating Comes From Drinking Too Much Milk
There are a whole list of reasons why toddlers become picky eaters. One is being exposed to less and less foods. If a child never sees a food, they will never eat a food. Especially for a child who really doesn’t want to eat, the less they see solid foods, the less they will eat them.
If your child never sees steamed carrots, for example, they won’t be able to eat them. Then, the next time they see the steamed carrots, they will ask for milk, because they know what milk tastes like, they know they won’t have to chew it, and they aren’t sure what they are going to get with those carrots. They may even afraid of those carrots.
The longer a child does not see foods they are afraid of, the more afraid of them they become. Then, they will ask for their familiar and favorite food – milk. In fact, your toddler can very easily get to the point where they are refusing to eat anything but milk.
How Parents Help Toddlers Refuse to Eat Anything But Milk
Believe me, I totally get the struggle. It’s not like it’s easy to change a toddler’s decision to only want to drink milk.
Here’s the scenario that I often see. Mom makes dinner and puts it on the table. She brings the toddler to the table to eat lunch. The child refuses to eat anything and starts fussing. Next the child starts demanding milk. Half way into the meal, mom starts getting worried that the child is not eating anything at all that really needs to eat something to get them through the day. Finally, toward the end of the meal, she caves and brings out the milk so that the child at least gets “something” to eat.
It’s so understandable to see why parents do this and why it makes sense for them. The thing is, your toddler knows that if they refuse to eat anything but milk, you will rescue them with a cup of milk!
It doesn’t have to be like this though. I’ll show you how you can be lovingly attentive to your child and their needs and also stand firm on how much milk you give them to drink.
Important Limits to How Much Milk Your Toddler Drinks
Drinking too much milk can lead to picky eating, as we already discussed. It can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia. It is important to limit a toddler’s milk to 2 cups per day or 16 ounces.
When it comes to dairy, toddlers do not need more than 2-3 servings per day total. That includes cheese, yogurt, milk, and all forms of dairy. A cup of milk is one serving for a toddler. So, 2 cups of milk is basically all the dairy that they need in a day.
Milk is not a good source of iron. The more milk kids drink, the less room they have for foods that are good sources of iron. Additionally, the calcium and casein protein in milk make it a little harder for the body to absorb iron. Combine all that with increased selectiveness and picky eating and toddler’s iron levels start to drop when they drink a lot of milk.
How to Limit Milk When Your Toddler is Refusing to Eat Anything But Milk
As the parent you can limit your child’s milk intake. In fact, for their health, it’s important that you do that! Here’s how.
First, remember, as the parent, you are in charge of when meals and snacks are served and you are in charge of what is served for meals and snacks. Your child is in charge of whether to eat and how much during a meal.
Next, make sure you have a meal and sit-down snack routine. In between meals serve only water. Milk should only be served with meals and snacks. I recommend no more than 3 meals and 1-3 snacks per day max. A bottle or cup of milk before bedtime counts as a snack.
After you’ve established your routine, only make milk available at certain times. You can explain to your child “Milk at breakfast, milk at dinner.” I recommend serving milk once a day and letting them drink as much as they want, and then serving it a second time if they only drink about 8 ounces the first time. You may also choose to serve it with all the main meals or some other combination. What’s important is that milk is not served with every meal and snack, and you don’t give them more than 16 ounces.
If your child does reach the point where they have reached 16 ounces for the day, you can say, “There’s no more milk available now, we’ll have more tomorrow.” Empathize with them and understand how frustrating this is for them. This is a really big deal to them! Their favorite food is now gone for the rest of the day. Stay close, even if they are having a tantrum and remind them that more milk will be available tomorrow.
Do Toddlers HAVE to Drink Milk?
It’s important to note that your child doesn’t HAVE to drink milk and if they do drink milk, they don’t HAVE to drink 2 cups per day. We just need to make sure they get adequate fat and protein in their diets. We’re here talking about toddlers who are refusing to eat anything but milk though, so that’s probably not your burning question.
Once you, the parent, are in charge of how much milk is served, you can start to serve other foods during meals when milk is not available. As your child is exposed to other foods more and more, they will slowly learn to like more foods and be less dependent on milk.