Ask the Dietitian: Help! My Toddler Won’t Drink Milk

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on May 13, 2010

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Q: After trying for 6 months, my 2-year old daughter refuses to drink milk or eat yogurt.  I’m worried that she’s missing out on nutrients by not drinking milk.  Can you please let me know what the impact of her not drinking milk is and provide some suggestions as to what I should be providing her via vitamins and/or food to make up for any deficiencies? 

A: The most important nutrients in milk are calcium and vitamin D.  Milk also has potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A and B vitamins but those are not difficult to find in other foods.  At age 2 your daughter only needs 500mg of calcium daily.  Because 1.5 oz of cheese contains 300mg, 2 ounces of cheese would almost get her there.  See this list for nondairy sources of calcium.

You can also try fortified orange juice and smoothies with yogurt/milk.  But because your daughter is only a toddler, I would continue to offer her milk with meals and with her cereal.  When she gets older her calcium needs will go up and dairy is a great way to help her meet her needs.

Even kids who drink milk may not get enough vitamin D so talk to her pediatrician about supplementing with vitamin D ( 400IU).  I like the Carlson D drops because you can just put it in food or drink and it has no taste.

I plan to talk more about the calcium needs of kids and adults in my upcoming “Nutrients Even Healthy Kids Miss” series.


The information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not take the place of medical advice. Please verify with your healthcare provider.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Katja Rowell May 14, 2010 at 8:45 am

I just went through this with my daughter. It is unnerving, but offering and not pressuring is the way to go.

I blogged about it, check it out. I mentioned how I cooked to up the calcium and how after waiting her out, she is coming back to milk and dairy on her own with no battles. Remember that pressuring kids to eat, even things we REALLY want them to eat for their health can often backfire. Good luck!


genie May 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm

As a mom, I have severe issues with all forms of dairy (of the GI variety) so it came as no surprise when my now 2 year old daughter refused to drink any form of milk, be it soy, smoothie, goat or cow. Per our pediatrician’s rec, we tried her on Pediasure, which she also refused. At this point, I’m not worried. She eats everything else out there, lots of fruits and veggies, and I give her a multi vitamin and calcium/vit D supplements. There is also some concern out there about dairy not being as good for you as the dairy industry would have you believe. Large numbers of other ethnicities (Asian, African…) have very high levels of dairy intolerance, and yet they all seem to do fine with other calcium sources. My little girl loves broccoli, which is also high in calcium, and other key nutrients. If you’re really concerned, keep a food diary for your child for a few weeks and then consult with a dietician to make sure that you’re on the right track.


Ellen McCaleb May 21, 2010 at 11:41 am

Rainbow Light makes a delicious orange gummy with 400IU of Vit. D.

Children who refuse to eat certain types of food often turn out to have mild intolerance for them. Kids are smart…if something makes them feel “funny” they don’t want to eat it. My daughter has an intolerance to non-organic milk or cheese. She seems to need the enzymes the whole organic product gives her. If she eats any other type of dairy, I have to give her some chewable enzymes so that she can digest it. If I don’t give her the enzymes, she gets a “tummy ache.”


cyrell November 30, 2010 at 1:53 am

Again..not to forget, normally milk does not contain much Vitamin D, it is later added before the milk is packaged.

Why so obsessed with milk? Do cows have strong bones, cats, they drink milk long after the infant stage…no.

And where do mamaels get their calcium from? Do they drink milk to get calcium into their milk with which they feed their young?

What do cows, horses, apes, mice, cats, dogs, squirrels to get their calcium?

Just something to think about. If we would need milk to build strong bones then neither humans nor horses or cats would get weened after the infant stage.

But surprise, they do


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