Adventures in Toddler Nutrition

My son’s first birthday included another important milestone—his transition from formula to milk. We had been giving him soy formula since he was about two months old after we found out that he had an allergy to the dairy-based formula (and good thing—have you smelled dairy-based formula? Yuck!) We had tried breastfeeding, but I wasn’t producing enough to cover his insatiable appetite, even after drinking gallons of Mother’s Milk tea and taking fenugreek supplements. As anyone who formula feeds knows, formula is expensive. Even the store brand stuff costs $13 a canister, which lasts a few days. It may seem like small potatoes considering $13 is what many people spend on lunch, but when you’re on a budget, you notice it.

We were excited to transition him to a non-formula. However, we debated whether or not to give him cow’s milk. We had discovered his dairy allergy, which many babies have, early on when he would scream after feedings. Once we switched, he was a happy camper.  Our pediatrician wholeheartedly recommends cow’s milk, saying that it is the only source that offers all of the essential fats that our baby needs. I’m not so sure. Why can’t my son get all of the vitamins and minerals and fats he needs from a well-balanced diet?

We’ve been giving him soy milk and almond milk (which I spike once a day with his multi-vitamin). He seems to like the latter better; it has a sweeter taste. We also give him the green smoothies I make every day, which always have spinach, flaxseed, chia seeds and parsley along with a combination of bananas and/or berries. He eats pretty well; while he does enjoy the taste of the occasional French fry we give him from In-n-Out, he also enjoys vegetables, particularly peas, carrots and sweet potatoes. He’s even getting a taste for broccoli.

Much like when I was pregnant with my son, I look at the dietary recommendations and take them as just that—recommendations. My son eats fish. He loves it. We don’t feed him other meat; my husband has ethical issues with the treatment of land animals. But he eats fish—can’t get enough of it. When I make dinner that includes fish, he eats that before he touches his vegetables. However, fish isn’t recommended until kids are a bit older (yet chemical-filled red meat and chicken is A-okay). My husband is a sushi chef; he knows which fish to avoid due to mercury content. We eat fish that are lower in the food chain.

My son also loves almond butter. We spread it on his toast and he devours it. Now, many pediatricians don’t recommend nuts before the age of two to prevent nut allergies. At least that’s what they say this week. I also heard of study that debunks all of that and says you can feed nuts to kids when they start solids. Who’s right? Who knows?

When it comes to diet, you have to do what’s right for your family. Dietary studies are great, but new studies are always coming out that contradict the last; it’s hard to keep up. Not giving our son cow’s milk has made us more conscious of his diet and making sure he gets everything he needs elsewhere. This isn’t a bad thing—he’s more likely to experience a wider range of foods than many other kids.

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