What To Do When Your Child Hates Milk: Adding Dairy to the Diet

A list of substitutes for milk for when your toddler or child does not like milk. It is easy to work it in!

Child drinking milk

If your child is like Brayden or Kaitlyn were, you have no concern over the milk or dairy intake of your child. He/she drinks plenty and you are not worried.

If your child is like McKenna, however, you are concerned. 

When it came time to wean McKenna and move to milk, she was not interested in milk AT ALL.

To get 2-3 ounces a day was good.

Yes, I was concerned. But I have had two children come before her, so I wasn’t freaking out like I would have if Brayden did that. 

Now, a little more  than 6 months later, McKenna will drink about 8 ounces a day most days in milk.

Some days, she drinks 16 ounces, but most of the time she still isn’t up to the ideal range of 16-28 ounces (I aim for 24) that many pediatricians recommend.

Yesterday, as I mixed some milk in with her yam and giggled to myself that I was “sneaking” milk into her, it hit me that a post with ideas for “sneaking” milk into your child’s diet would be helpful. So here were are.

Adding Milk to Your Child’s Diet

It is easier than you might think to add milk to your child’s diet. 

You can do it easily through foods. Like I said above, I added milk to McKenna’s baked yam. 

I routinely add milk to her oatmeal each day.

So any time you are adding a liquid to something, add milk.

Also, just keep a sippy of milk in front of her at meals. Don’t push it, just have it there for her to drink if she chooses to.

Substitutes for Milk

All of the dairy “ounces” do not need to come from milk. In Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, she has a “Calcium Equivalents” table. This is found on page 127. 

The following foods are equivalent to 4 ounces of milk:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 4 ounces tofu (calcium coagulated)
  • 3/4 ounce of natural cheese
  • 1 inch cube of cheddar cheese
  • 2 T cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup ice cream

You can of course also get calcium from other dairy products such as buttermilk (make pancakes!), evaporated milk, some soy milks, and butter.

Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

You can also find calcium in other foods not derived from dairy (found on page 540 of Super Baby Food).

Note that the sole point of dairy is not calcium–it is also a great source of fat, which your kiddo needs as he/she grows. So if you use these methods, make sure your baby is getting the fat she needs from other sources.:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Almonds (this is obvious, but do not feed whole almonds to pre-toddlers and even toddlers. Some even say to wait until 4-5 before feeding nuts to children)
  • Soybeans
  • Tahini
  • Filberts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Almond butter
  • Great Northern Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Amaranth
  • Broccoli

It is always wise to talk to your doctor before introducing foods that you are unsure of.


Check out this Pre-toddler summary where I talk about McKenna’s milk consumption (or the lack thereof). It also discusses how I observed McKenna to balance her dairy diet on her own.

Trust your child to take what she needs. So long as you offer her healthy choices, in most cases, you can trust she will eat what she needs to.

And if you have any tips of your own, please share!

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8 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Child Hates Milk: Adding Dairy to the Diet”

  1. Thanks for the post Val. Just to share our experience, Elijah didn't like milk at all either. So I did the same my mom did to me as a toddler: prepare milk custard (low in sugar) as part of everyday dinner. He also got milk in the oatmeal in the mornings. For lunch and snacks I kept a 4oz sippy cup of milk in front of him, but for a whole month he would take a sip only (if even). Then one day I tried to spoon-feed him the milk, he was shocked first but then he liked the idea. I would offer the milk in the sippy first, but if the meal was over and he hadn't drank it we would just finish with the spoon. I think that we used the spoon for several weeks (getting used to the flavor, I guess) until one day he suddenly grabed the cup and started drinking by himself. Now he likes milk so much that he sometimes cries when the cup is empty, lol.

  2. thank you so much for posting this. we have been going through this same transition and my son is not interested in milk at all. i takes one sip and then reaches for his water cup. i add milk to his morning oatmeal and feed him yogurt and cheese throughout the day but i really worry about his intake as i know milk is so important for brain development. perhaps i might try the other poster's trick on feeding it to him on a spoon and see how that works! thank you for all the information you post. i find everything so helpful and reassuring.

  3. Brazil nuts are not safe for babies, actually they aren't really safe for anyone in excess. Scroll down to the chart under:"What is the health risk of too much selenium?"Compare the daily allowable safe amount of selenium, with the amount of selenium that is found in 1 brazil nut in the chart at the top of the page. Scary!

  4. This blog post helped take some stress off my situation. We don't do dairy in our house for personal reasons so we drink almond milk. My 14mp the old daughter loves it… Usually. The store had run out of the unsweetened kind which is what I usually buy and so I had to get the plain almond milk which had 6g m of sugar per 8oz. We are trying to knock out sugar so after a few weeks I finally was able to buy unsweetened almond milk and now she won't drink as much. We have been on the same sippy of milk all day. I didn't want to use the other milk because I didn't want her to develop a sweet tooth. She is a very good eater and I am very thankful, but I must wish she would drink her milk. I will be putting it in oatmeal from now on and other foods that I give to her and hope she gets use. To it again. Just out of curiosity, do you think 6gm of sugar is a lot for a serving of milk? I guess that's a question for the ped. Lol


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