Milk Requirements

February 26, 2018 by: Roy Benaroch, MD Article Tags:

Q: Do toddlers need other liquids other than water? What’s the role of milk at this age?

A: All mammals depend on mother’s milk as their sole source of nutrition, at least at first. By 4-6 months of age, human babies are ready for complementary foods, and that’s a good time to start offering sips of water. Though there isn’t an exact, perfect time to wean babies from nursing, the AAP recommends that families aim to nurse their babies for a year. Shorter or longer than this is fine, too-whatever works for your family is what’s best. If babies wean from nursing before a year of age, they should transition to a commercial infant formula. 

After a year of age, babies can transition to cow’s milk, but it is not essential that they drink any milk at all. The main advantage of milk is that it’s a great source of calcium and vitamin D, and it’s the main source of these nutrients for many families. For children or adults who don’t drink milk, there are plenty of other foods that can supply what’s needed (and, keep in mind, vitamin D can be made in a child’s own skin, just by playing outside). 

Water should be offered at every meal once babies start consuming solids, and should be freely available for toddlers and children between meals, too. Juices should be avoided-they’re really just high-sugar drinks-and should be considered treats, in the same category as sodas or soft drinks. 

Water intake

Toddlers: 2 to 4 cups
4-8 years: 5 cups
9 -13 years: 7 to 8 cups
14 and up: 8 to 11 cups

Roy Benaroch

Roy Benaroch, MD

Roy Benaroch, MD, FAAP is an Associate Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics with Emory University. He has produced several courses exploring medical cases for laymen in his "Medical School for Everyone" lectures, available from The Great Courses, and has also written books for parents and chapters in medical textbooks. He is also on the Board of Directors of The Children's Care Network, one of the largest clinically integrated pediatric care networks in the country. Dr. Benaroch practices general pediatrics near Atlanta, GA.