Most infants can start supplementing breast milk by the age of one. This is because weaning starts at six months and a child needs to start supplementing some nutrients, for instance iron, which are in inadequate levels in breast milk. However, not all parents are comfortable with cow milk due to lifestyle preferences or allergies. Here is part one of our two-part article on animal and plant milk alternatives to cow’s milk.

Plant-based milk refers to ‘milk’ or liquid extracts from plants. They contain no cholesterol and little saturated fats. Most require nutrient supplementation through an expansive diet or commercial fortification by manufacturers, as they may contain little protein. The best alternative plant-based milks fall under different categories including:

Soymilk: It is extracted from soya beans. It is highly recommended for vegetarians or children with allergies to cow milk as it contains the same amount of protein and iron as cow milk. However, be sure to fortify it or supplement it with some calcium.

Hemp milk: Hemp milk is derived from hemp seeds, which is also the marijuana plant. But before you panic about your toddlers ‘drinking weed’, the active psycho ingredient in marijuana is not found in the milk. Hemp milk is high in iron, protein, magnesium, phosphorous, omega fats and vitamin E and is highly recommended for children with soy, dairy and nut allergies.

Nut milk: These are liquid extract from nuts. They, however, have a lower protein content compared to animal milk and soymilk. They are also deficient in vitamin B12. You can extract nut milk from groundnuts, cashew and even coconuts. Coconuts contain iron, sodium, calcium fibre and vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6. Almond milk, the most popular and recommended nut milk, contains protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, C and E.

Grain milk: These are milks created from fermented grain or flour and include brown rice. They are considered the most hypoallergenic and are lactose free. However, they contain very little protein and fat.

Published March 2017 .