Dec 21, 2015

Why I'm okay with my child not drinking milk

I'm writing this post mainly for mothers who face the same issue as mine - "my child is not drinking milk". Don't worry, you're not alone.

To give you a little background of my motherhood journey so far,
I breast-fed my daughter for 2 years (exclusively for the first 5 months). I never gave her formula milk. When she turned a year old, I started to introduce cow's milk slowly (Nandini blue packet available in Bangalore). She hated it so much. I tried with a little sugar and also with health mix powder (sathumaavu kanji) but she wouldn't open her mouth.

I strongly believe that I will never force-feed my child and I follow it diligently. So I didn't want to force milk down her throat. I checked with my pediatrician and she wasn't too worried about this issue. She asked me to give her enough curd and continue with breastmilk. After she completed 2 years, I tried adding a little chocolate malted drink powder into a glass of milk. She was initially curious, drank for a day or two but then she refused that too.

Was I obsessed with feeding her milk? Not really….but the elders of the previous generation in my family are totally obsessed about milk and couldn't believe that a mother is not giving her child enough milk. There were a lot of comments passed, questions raised and suggestions given:
"What does she drink first thing in the morning?"
"You breastfed her for so long and now see what has happened. She's not drinking cow's milk. You should have started cow's milk from 4th month"
"Why don't you try this brand X? It helps the child to grow taller and stronger. I saw the ad on TV"
"Try this brand Y. It will help her to put on more weight"
"You didn't run behind her enough"
"Seriously, you don't give her milk? How will she get her calcium?"
"If she doesn't drink milk, give her lots of milk chocolates. Atleast, the milk goes in some form"

Though I was strong most of the time, I did question myself often if I'm doing the right thing for my daughter. Now she is 4 years old and I'm settled with this dilemma. Here are my 5 reasons why I'm okay if she hates milk:

1) I ensure she gets her calcium through other foods. She loves curd and cheese. I include ragi (finger millet) in her diet in the form of idli/dosa 2 times a week. Other good sources of calcium include oranges, custard apples, spinach, fenugreek, drumstick leaves, till seeds, chickpeas (kabuli channa), black eyed peas etc.

2) I came across an article that milk wasn't a staple diet during our great grandparents generation. It was used only for certain medicinal properties. Our country has become milk obsessed only in the last 50-60 years, thanks to the White revolution.

3) In earlier days, milk was directly procured from milkmen who raised Indian breeds of cows. I still remember when I was a child, a lady who resided in the same street as us would milk her cows and deliver fresh milk to our door step twice a day. Our grandpa would complain sometimes - "she has added water today. Milk doesn't look thick". This was about 25 years back. The primary concern at that time was diluting milk with water. But now, the commercial milk we get is loaded with antibiotics, growth hormones, urea and what not! If that's not enough, many malt based milk additive drinks lined up in the super-market shelves are full of ingredients that we cannot easily identify. No wonder, we hear news about children reaching their puberty age very early.

4) Milk increases mucus formation in children. In Ayurveda, it is called "kapha" dosha. According to my pediatrician, milk and milk based products are to be avoided if the child has a cold/cough.

5) Milk fills up the tiny tummy of kids and if a malt-based powder is added to it, the appetite totally goes for a toss. There is no way for a child to have a glass of flavored milk based drink and a wholesome breakfast in the early-morning rush hours. The same is applicable for the evenings too. I would rather let my daughter have a bowl of assorted fruits and veggies as a snack than fill up her appetite with milk.

This is my personal opinion about this issue. I'm not suggesting that you stop giving milk to your children. That's completely your call. My main intention is that if your child doesn't drink milk, don't make it a big issue and worry about it. Find other ways by which you can get calcium in his/her diet. Focus on feeding a healthy, wholesome meal.  There's no need to buy expensive milk-additive powders if your child hates plain milk. Spend that money on organic fruits and veggies if you can get access to good quality produce.

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