Milk In The Second Year Of Life – What You Need To Know

Milk In The Second Year Of Life – What You Need To Know

Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend babies are breastfed for at least 12 months – but what happens next?

Just 28% of Australian babies are still breastfeeding when they turn one and that figure falls to 9% at 18 months.

Milk In The Second Year Of Life – What You Need To Know

Only 5% of toddlers reach the World Health Organization recommendation of breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

So, for most one year olds, who no longer have breastmilk in their diet, what should be replacing it?

The answers may surprise you!

#1:Toddlers Don’t Need Formula

Despite the heavy marketing by manufacturers and retailers, there are no benefits in continuing formula use into the second year.

Toddler formula, special milk drinks or other milk products targeting children aged 1 – 3 years have flooded the market in recent years, yet there is no evidence they are necessary or helpful in meeting dietary requirements. Indeed, they can reduce appetite and lead to further disinterest in food.

Check out Is Toddler Formula A Waste Of Money? Find Out Who Says Yes for more information. 

Children who are at risk of nutritional deficit can be given supplements in better forms than these drinks.

#2: Toddlers Don’t Need To Drink Milk

Many parents of one year olds moving on from breast or bottle feeds wonder how much cow’s milk – or replacement – their child needs to drink each day.

However, the Australian Dietary Guidelines for toddlers recommend only 1 – 1.5 serves of dairy each day (a standard serving size is 250ml of milk, 40gm of cheese, 200gm of yoghurt). Most toddlers easily meet this requirement from food and don’t need to drink large quantities of milk.

Children who can’t or won’t eat or drink dairy foods can meet their calcium requirements from foods such as almond butter, canned fish with soft bones like sardines and salmon, or firm tofu etc.

#3: Toddlers Don’t Need Bottles

Continuing the use of bottles once upper incisors and other teeth erupt is associated with higher risk of dental decay.

Paediatric dentists like to see children give up bottles as soon as possible – before or around the first birthday is a good plan.

Australian Dietary Guidelines also recommend infant formula be used only until 12 months, so working toward weaning from both also reduces the risk of dependence on bedtime bottles of milk to sleep. Ideally, begin the transition around nine months.

#4: Toddlers Don’t Need Milk Alternatives

While many families turn to milk-like drinks made from nuts or cereals, such as almond milk, oat milk etc, these aren’t essential in our diet and children don’t need to be routinely drinking them.

If you choose to include these drinks in your family diet, it is important to check the label for added calcium (at least 100gm per 100mls) and how much sugar that has been added to make it more palatable.

#5: Toddlers Don’t Need To Stop Breastfeeding

If this all seems a bit overwhelming and you’re still breastfeeding, it’s good to know the easiest option of all is to keep a good thing going!

The value of breastfeeding in the second year and beyond is more than nutritional. Unlike alternatives, breastmilk continues to support the individual immune system; provide comfort and connection to an increasingly independent child; and offers a range of factors not available in non-human milks.

A breastfed toddler gets a surprising amount of their daily nutrition without fuss, so you can focus on exploring the experience of eating family foods without stressing about what they do – or don’t – eat!

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding into the third year and beyond – so if it’s working for your family, then it’s good to know you can continue.

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Yvette O'Dowd has been a breastfeeding counsellor and educator since 1992. She has three adult children and a two year old granddaughter - the best sort of bonus baby! Yvette runs a popular natural parenting network, is a babywearing educator, and runs antenatal breastfeeding classes for parents expecting twins and more! She is a keen photographer and scrap-booker and a keeper of a fairy garden.


  1. Yes, very interesting; however, it does make me think of the millions of mothers who have been doing not the opposite to what is advocated now a days regarding *almost everything having to do with raising children*, but the “sensible thing” for ever and we’ve managed to bring up our children who’ve become both in mind and body, well rounded individuals with not much wrong with them… just the usual… and I’m sorry to say, but I’d draw the line at breastfeeding after the child is 1 year old… Sorry Australia!

  2. Thank you for this post! But what do we give them to drink instead? Water? I have heard too much water can be bad…is that a thing?

  3. i am in America. My pediatrician says to feed milk for the fat. Unless I can get my toddler to eat 50% of her calories from fat, I need to supplement with full fat milk, he reccomend 24 oz a day. The American pediatric society recommends 16 oz. Why do you think the two associations differ? I would prefer not to feed any dairy, the low amount Australia recommends sounds good to me. I was not able to breastfeed past 8 months sadly and just really want to do right by my baby.

  4. Hello, where does the WHO state breastfeeding beyond two years is optimal? I just spent 30 mis searching but they say up to two years, and beyond, but are not specific with what ‘beyond’ is nor the benefits. can you help with the article/publication written by WHO? I am a mum with a 20 mo and looking at when I will feel comfortable weaning her.

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