Ridofranz/ Getty Images
As much as you might enjoy a glass of fresh almond milk or a delicious almond milk latte, especially if you are lactose intolerant—you should avoid sharing this treat with your baby until they're a little older. Babies cannot drink almond milk.
"Babies under one year old should not drink almond milk," says Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP. "Parents should be cautious for children over one year old when using almond milk as a cow milk alternative. Unless it's fortified, almond milk won't have the same amount of calcium as cow's milk and sometimes contains added sugar."
But while babies can't drink almond milk, toddlers can have it, with a few stipulations. According to Mallory Whitmore (M.Ed. and Certified Infant Feeding Tech), founder of The Formula Mom and Bobbie Education Lead), while almond milk is safe for most toddlers (provided they do not have a tree nut allergy), it should not be used in place of whole cow's milk, which is the AAP's recommendation for milk after the first birthday. Almond milk does not contain the level of fat, protein, or calories that milk proteins have.
While trying to get your baby to eat can be challenging, almond milk isn't safe to experiment with. "Almond milk doesn't meet the nutritional needs of infants less than one year of age. It's lower in calories and protein than breast milk or formula. Also, while it does contain vitamins A and D, it doesn't include the vast array of nutrients babies need at this stage," says Dr Casares.
Babies should only consume breast milk, infant formula, and water after six months.
While you might think milk alternatives are great, especially for babies with a milk allergy, parents should hold off. Dr. Casares tells me, "Formula is the only breast milk alternative parents should offer to babies less than one year of age. At one year, cow milk alternatives like oat milk and some almond milk are acceptable options. However, parents should ensure their children's alternative milk is fortified with calcium and doesn't contain added sugars."
Since most alternatives to dairy milk found at your local supermarket have added sugars, according to Dr. Casares, it's crucial to check the label.
Remember that while some almond milk is labelled unsweetened, it may still contain sugar. The ingredients in almond milk can also vary from brand to brand.
Accidents happen. Whether it's a caregiver, a sibling, or a very sleep-deprived parent, we can all make mistakes when feeding our children. If you accidentally give your child almond milk, nothing terrible is likely to happen unless they have a nut allergy. "If they have a known nut allergy, watch closely for signs of an allergic reaction and seek medical care immediately if your baby shows signs of an allergic reaction," says Dr. Casares.
Still, as soon as you realize your child is drinking almond milk (regardless of nut allergy status), she suggests taking it away and stopping immediately. "Check with your child's pediatrician if your baby accidentally consumes a large amount of almond milk over time."
According to Whitmore, parents can offer toddlers soy, full-fat oat, and high-fat pea milk. However, she advises checking the label first to compare it to cow's milk, which is currently the nutritional standard. She tells me it's best to choose milk alternatives that are high in fat because it is essential for brain growth.
While milk and milk alternatives such as almond or oat milk can be a regular part of a toddler's diet, it can't be their sole source of nutrition. Only small amounts are advised. "Parents who choose to offer milk or a milk alternative should limit their child's consumption to approximately 16 ounces per day, as too much milk can limit consumption of whole foods," says Whitmore.
Milk offers a lot of what toddlers need to grow and thrive. "Some parents, with agreement from their child's pediatrician, are deciding against offering whole or plant-based milk altogether," explains Whitmore. "Provided the toddler is receiving enough fat, calcium, vitamin D, etc from other food sources, it is not always necessary to provide daily milk or a milk alternative in young toddlerhood."
Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners