Milk from 12 months

From 12 months onwards, toddlers are walking, talking and interacting. As they start to eat family meals, it’s easy to assume that their dietary requirements are simply those of ‘mini adults’. This is not the case

Toddlers of this age are still growing and developing rapidly, so they require more energy and nutrients than adults in relation to their size. From a child’s first birthday, milk should begin to play a less important role when it comes to meeting dietary requirements. However, toddlers aged one to three years still need at least two to three daily servings of milk and dairy foods such as cheese or yoghurt.

The Department of Health recommends the following regarding the introduction of cows’ milk:

  • Full-fat cows’ milk can be introduced from one year of age
  • Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced after two years of age, as long as the diet is varied and balanced and the child is growing well
  • Skimmed milk or one per cent fat milk should not be introduced before five years of age because it cannot provide enough nutrients for growth before this age.

Compared to cows’ milk, toddler/growing up milks contain:

  • Much higher levels of iron and vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for normal growth and bone development, but infants and young children in the UK are only getting 27 per cent of their daily vitamin D needs, according to the 2011 National Diet and Nutrition Survey
  • A significant proportion of key vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and C 
  • Increased essential fatty acids 
  • Some brands also contain prebiotic oligosaccharides and LCPs.
  • Cows’ milk can be given in combination with toddler milks. For example, cows’ milk could be used in cooking and toddler milk
    given as a drink.

At 12 months of age, children should not be drinking more than one pint (around 550ml) of milk a day

At 12 months of age, children should not be drinking more than one pint (around 550ml) of milk a day (cows’, infant formula or toddler/growing up milk) as excessive amounts can:

  • Leave little room or appetite or other foods
  • Lead to excessive energy (calorie) intake, which may lead to children becoming overweight or obese.

To reduce the volume of milk that infants consume, suggest that parents:

  • Offer water instead of milk for some drinks
  • Restrict milk consumption to after meals
  • Feed from a cup, not a bottle
  • Reduce the amount of milk in the cup or use a smaller cup.

Vitamin supplements

The Department of Health recommends that all children aged six months to five years are given vitamins supplements containing A, C and D every day.

  • Babies who are being breastfed should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth
  • Babies who are having more than 550ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day shouldn’t be given vitamins because formula is fortified with nutrients and no other supplementation is required.

How to prepare milks

As before, milks should still be made up as required and not in batches because milk powder is not sterile and can contain harmful bacteria (see How to prepare a bottle feed).

Remember to always advise parents to check the pack for details of how the milk should be prepared. Some products require water that has been boiled and cooled to 70ºC, while others are prepared with cooler water.

Many toddler/ growing up milks are available in ready-to-use bottles or cartons which do not require any preparation before use.

There is different advice regarding how long products can be stored or used once opened or prepared, depending on the brand.

After a toddler’s first birthday, all liquids should be from a beaker or cup and toddlers should be fully weaned off bottles, so sterilising will no longer be necessary. If a parent does however use a bottle beyond 12 months of age, it is best to continue sterilising.


Toddler or growing up milks are available. As with follow-on milks, these contain higher levels of some nutrients than infant formula milk and some parents may choose to use these to top up or act as a ‘safety net’ for children’s nutritional needs. However, the use of toddler milks is optional.


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