When your little one has a milk allergy and you’re avoiding dairy products you may worry whether they are getting enough calcium in their diet.
As a dietitian specialising in milk allergy, I understand the concerns and questions that bubble up during this crucial stage.
For most babies with milk allergies, calcium needs are typically met through specialised milk allergy formulas or breast milk (or both) during their 6 months.
However, as you progress with weaning and start to approach the 12-month mark, you’ll likely notice a significant shift. This is the time when milk intake starts to decrease, and solid foods play a more prominent role in your little ones diet.
The transition from milk to a more varied diet can bring with it the challenge of finding alternative sources of calcium that are safe, nutritious, and milk-free. The good news is that there are many non-dairy sources of calcium perfect for little one with milk allergy.
From leafy greens to fortified products, the variety is vast and full of delicious possibilities. In this blog, I’ll share practical tips, lots of non-dairy sources of calcium and expert advice to ensure your little ones calcium needs are met.
What does calcium do for babies?
Calcium is more than just an essential nutrient; it’s a cornerstone of your little ones early development. As my expertise is milk allergy, I do tend to talk about calcium a lot and here is why.
Calcium for Healthy Bones and Teeth
- Building the Foundation: Calcium is essential for developing strong and healthy bones and teeth with almost 98% of the calcium in our bodies stored in our bones. During childhood, bones are in a constant state of growth and change, and calcium supports this change. Calcium is absorbed the most in infants compared to any other age group.
- A Lifetime Investment: The bone density that your little one develops when they are young sets the foundation for their bone health throughout life. Getting adequate calcium during these years can significantly reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
Beyond Bones – Other Important Roles of Calcium for babies.
- Muscle Function: Calcium plays a really important role in muscle contraction, including the heart muscle. This makes it vital for everyday activities and your little ones’ overall health.
- Nerve Transmission: It also supports in the transmission of nerve signals, which are crucial for the overall nervous system.
Why do babies need calcium and Vitamin D?
Just as you can’t open a lock without a key, your little one needs Vitamin D to help absorb calcium from their milk and food. These two nutrients are essential partners and here’s why.
Vitamin D’s Role in Calcium Absorption
- Enhancing Calcium Effectiveness: Vitamin D significantly increases your bodys ability to absorb calcium in their gut. Without enough Vitamin D, the intake of calcium whether it’s from food, milk or supplements isn’t as effective, no matter how much calcium your little one consumes.
- Sunlight and Diet: While sunlight is a main source of Vitamin D (food is not a great source), in regions with limited sun exposure or during the darker months, it becomes vital to obtain Vitamin D from other sources.
Do you need to supplement babies with Vitamin D?
General Guidelines: Vitamin D requirements can vary, but generally, it is recommended that infants have an intake of Vitamin D between 400-600 IU (10 micrograms) daily.
Does my breastfed baby really need Vitamin D?
Breast milk is an excellent source of nutrients, but it may not provide enough Vitamin D. Therefore, breastfed babies should take a supplement of 400 IU (10 micrograms) of Vitamin D daily to ensure they meet their needs and help to absorb calcium.
Do I need to give Vitamin D while formula feeding?
Formula-fed infants usually receive enough Vitamin D from their formula. However, when they get a little older and their intake drops below 500ml (around 16oz) of formula per day, a supplement of 400 IU (10 micrograms) of Vitamin D is recommended to they are meeting their requirements. This is usually after 12 months.
- Infants (0-6 months): Approximately 200 mg/day, usually met through breast milk or formula.
- Babies (7-12 months): Around 260 mg/day. As solid foods are introduced, it’s essential to include calcium-rich foods.
- Toddlers (1-3 years): The requirement increases to about 700 mg/day. This is a crucial stage where dietary habits are formed, and diverse calcium sources can be introduced.
Requirements can vary based on the country of origin, however, these requirements are based on USA guidelines for adequate intakes.
What foods are high in calcium for babies?
It can be a little daunting if your baby has milk allergy, especially when you think, where will they get their calcium from?
However, I’m here to reassure you that there are so many non dairy sources of calcium.
It is a Myth that dairy is the only source of calcium. We’ve got leafy greens to calcium-fortified products, the variety of calcium-rich foods is huge and can always be adapted to fit your babies dietary needs.
30 Great Sources of non-dairy calcium for toddlers.
All these foods below are non-dairy food sources that are all an excellent source of calcium to add to your toddlers diet.
|Food||Toddler Serving Size||Calcium Content (mg) for Toddlers|
|Soy Milk – calcium fortified||120ml||140.0 mg|
|Almond Milk – Calcium Fortified||120ml||140.0 mg|
|Oat Milk – Calcium Fortified||120ml||140.0 mg|
|Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate||60g||125.0 mg|
|Tinned salmon (red)||80g||120.0 mg|
|Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bones||42g||90.5 mg|
|Collard greens, cooked||60g||90.0 mg|
|Bok choy, cooked||60g||75.0 mg|
|Tinned salmon (pink)||80g||80.0 mg|
|Soybeans, cooked||60g||65.5 mg|
|Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% DV||20g||65.0 mg|
|Spinach, steamed||60g||61.5 mg|
|White beans, cooked||60g||60.0 mg|
|Frozen yogurt, calcium fortified||60g||51.5 mg|
|Wholemeal bread||1 slice||50.0 mg|
|1/2 Pitta bread||Half pitta||45.0 mg|
|Turnip greens, fresh, steamed||60g||49.5 mg|
|Chia seeds||7.5g||38.0 mg|
|Sesame seeds||7.5g||35.0 mg|
|Beans, pinto, canned, drained||60g||27.0 mg|
|Broccoli, steamed||60g||25.0 mg|
|White bread||1 slice||20.0 mg|
|Sweet potatoes||60g||20.0 mg|
|Tortilla, corn||Half a tortilla||23.0 mg|
|1 Orange||1 fruit||23.0 mg|
|Bread, whole wheat||Half a slice||15.0 mg|
|Chinese cabbage (bok choi), steamed||60g||15.0 mg|
|Kale, fresh, cooked||60g||30.0 mg|
|Apple, golden delicious, with skin||Half portion||5.0 mg|
N.B. Orange juice is also a great source of calcium, however it can be high in sugar and I would recommend only giving 50mls to a toddler and watering the down with 50ml orange juice and 50mls water.
*approximate calcium intake
Should Toddlers take Calcium Supplements?
If you are finding it tricky to get your toddler to meet their calcium needs then they may need a calcium supplement.
Here’s what to look for in a calcium supplement for your toddler.
- Dose of calcium : Ensure the supplement provides an appropriate amount of calcium for your toddler’s age and dietary needs. I would suggest around 200-300mg per day.
- Absorbability: Look for supplements that contain Calcium citrate as this is most easily absorbed.
- Vitamin D Inclusion: Since Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, look for a supplement that also contains Vitamin D.
- Minimal Additives: Choose supplements with minimal added sugars, artificial colors, or preservatives.
- Allergen-Free: Ensure the supplement is free from common allergens, particularly dairy, in the context of milk allergies.
Consulting Healthcare Professionals:
- It’s crucial to consult with a pediatrician or a dietitian (like me) before starting any supplement regime. This is to ensure that the supplement is the right one for your baby.
Monitoring and Adjusting:
- Regularly monitor your little ones overall diet and health. Adjust the supplementation as needed, based on their dietary intake as they are progressing with milk reintroduction.
Is too much calcium bad for babies?
Yes, your baby can have too much of a good thing. If young children have excessive calcium (too much) then this can cause a condition called hypercalcemia. This is where excessive calcium accumulates in the blood.
Now, it would be pretty tricky to have excessive calcium through food. This normally comes through supplementation and would generally be levels in excess of 2000mg per day. High levels of calcium can also be related to certain health conditions so if you have concerns speak with your healthcare provider.
It is important to make sure that if you give your little one a calcium supplement that it is suitable for them and that they take a Vitamin D supplement to make sure that they can absorb the calcium in their diet. The best way to check is again to speak with a health professional before starting any supplement.
Nourishing Strong Bones with Nature’s Most Abundant Mineral
In navigating the nutritional needs of toddlers, especially those with cow’s milk allergy, identifying great sources of calcium that are non-dairy is essential.
For toddlers unable to consume cow’s milk contained products, it’s important to ensure they receive this important nutrient from non-dairy foods. Options like fortified plant-based milks (soy, almond, oat and coconut milk), tofu made with calcium sulfate, and cruciferous vegetables are excellent sources of calcium.
Including a variety of these foods in your little ones diet helps prevent soft bones and other deficiencies. By including these alternative foods you can be confident that your toddler is meeting their daily requirements for calcium.
Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy.
She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.
- Registered Dietitian
- First Class Degree in Nutrition
- Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
- Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
- Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition