The Milk Debate

We have been hearing lots of talk and controversy around town about milk and alternatives. In posts, tweets and facebook comments.

It’s understandable if you feel confused and here’s why:

No one can tell you what’s right for you and the more knowledge you acquire the more confident you can feel with your decisions as a parent. Carefully weigh out your family history when considering which of these options is the best for you.

If you think your child may be having symptoms related to any one of the following choices try first eliminating that food for a minimum of 4 weeks. These are usually sensitivities that can be outgrown in most people but does require reduction and possibly elimination.


The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding up until age 6 months whenever possible.  If experiencing difficulties with colic or infant temperament, food elimination (dairy, chocolate, garlic, onions, brassica (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower)) can be very effective at stabilizing babies’ bowels and mood. Keep in mind that human breast milk is a reflection of the mother’s diet. Whatever you eat, your baby eats too!


  • Toxins and pollution are stored in fat tissue (breast) and blood and are dumped into breast milk.
  • Colic is common in all infants whose families have an inherited susceptibility to foods such as dairy, wheat, gluten, nuts etc. In which case, nutritional advice is 90% successful. When it’s not, it could be reflux or other undiagnosed allergens or other digestive issues. Food sensitivity testing and intolerance testing is available from the age of 2.

Unfortunately dietary elimination can be stressful and time consuming.

  • Some women have difficulty with milk flow and do not know that there is complementary care and pharmaceuticals are available to help them increase their milk supply.

Infant Formula

For those mothers who cannot breastfeed, formula is a good option.

Calcium absorption from dairy-based foods is higher than other alternatives.

Dairy-free and lactose-free formulas are available as well.


  • Most are dairy-based and there is a significant rise in dairy intolerances making it an unfeasible option for many families.  Any sensitivity could present with frequent illness, acne, eczema, skin and diaper rashes, cradle cap, colic (bloating and discomfort), diarrhea or constipation, dark circles under eyes, horizontal line across bridge of nose or reflux.

Cow’s milk

This is the best source for calcium absorption. Cow’s milk is widely available and the most cost effective, with many options available, such as skim, buttermilk, 1%, 2%. 3.25%, 10%, half and half, 18%, 35% etc.

  • Organic whole and/or raw milk are less processed. They contain all the enzymes necessary to digest and are a cleaner source.
  • Please note, higher fat content milk leads to easier calcium absorption due to Vitamin D naturally occurring in fat.


  • Unfortunately, the agricultural industry today uses animal feed that contains pesticides. In addition, animals are regularly and systematically treated with preventative broad-spectrum antibiotics and hormones, which is what most parents are concerned about.

Did you know?

That calcium content is not the same as calcium absorption? This is part of the controversy regarding milk substitutes. To help give a clearer comparison see below to make an informed choice.

Each brand will have unique calcium content, but the absorption should be the same.

E.g. Cows milk: 1 cup = 300mg calcium, at the fractional absorption of 32%, the total calcium absorption is 96mg.

Food Serving Size Calcium Content(mg) Fractional absorption Absorbable calcium(mg)
Cows Milk 1 cup 300 32% 96
Soy milk Sembalance Brand 1 cup 200 31% 62
Soy milk Vitasoy 1 cup 76 31% 24
Soy milk Edensoy 1 cup 95 31% 29
Almond Milk 1 cup N/A N/A N/A
Coconut Milk 1 cup 41-57 N/A N/A
Goat Milk 1 cup 325 N/A N/A
Human Milk (can vary) 1 cup ~79 N/A N/A

Soy Milk

Soy is a highly controversial subject at the moment. It is the most available non-dairy alternative to formula, however many physicians are reticent to suggest it.


  • Soy hasn’t been used as a substitute for dairy for long enough in the Western world to fully know the long lasting effects it may have. The main concern is the level of phytoestrogens per body mass, with soy as a sole source of nourishment.  (As in infant formulas)
  • Finding an organic non-GMO (genetically modified) soy formula can be difficult, however it is a far superior source.
  • Contains Carrageenan which we recommend clients with Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns to avoid.
  • Studies show that human breast milk from mothers consuming soy foods provided significant levels of phytoestrogens. For the developing male infant, these environmental estrogens can have long-lasting consequences to the reproductive and urogenital system. However, Asian societies have consumed soy products in much higher quantities than Western countries for many years, and haven’t suffered any notable developmental effects or issues.

All of the following alternatives to dairy are meant to be rotated in your diet to avoid or lessen sensitivity to any one therefore some supplementation will be necessary to obtain all vitamins and minerals required for a growing infant.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is very tasty, rich and high in caprylic acid, lauric acid and electrolytes and very appropriate for babies with thrush. It has a good fat content at about 17%.

Coconut milk is different from coconut juice or water. Coconut water was used in WW2 and in the Vietnam War in IV’s as saline replacement, because it is very close to our own blood plasma.


  • Use with caution in families with history of nut allergies.
    • Contains Carrageenan which we recommend clients with Ulcerative Colitis or Crohns to avoid.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is easy to make yourself, as needed, and does not contain the additives, preservatives or added sugar, which the store-bought varieties contain.


  • Use with caution in families with history of nut allergies;
  • The calcium content in almond milk is lower than in cow’s milk, but is higher than soy. Nevertheless, packaged almond milk is calcium fortified.
  • Some varieties contain soy lecithin and should be avoided by people with soy allergies or sensitivities.
    • Contains Carrageenan which we recommend clients with alcerative Colitis or Chrohns to avoid.

 Rice Milk

Rice milk contains more carbohydrates than cow’s milk, . Commercial brands of rice milk are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B3, and iron. As this is a relatively new option, changes to the current available formulas will evolve over time with customer feedback and more research.


  • Rice milk does not contain significant amounts of calcium or protein;

Goat Milk

Whole goat’s milk contains more fat than cow’s milk. Goat’s milk casein is more similar to human milk. Goat’s milk is also easier digested than cow’s milk. Though goat’s milk contains lactose, it can still be drunk by some of those with lactose intolerance, though no one is quite sure why…


  • Because goat’s milk contains less than ten percent of the amount of folic acid contained in cow’s milk means that it must be supplemented with folic acid in order to be adequate as a formula or milk substitute for infants and toddlers.


Potato and oat: Not widely available, but interesting alternatives. Google to get recipes or to find a retailer near you.



It is our opinion that a rotation diet focused on variety is the best option to minimize allergies and sensitivities in your family.

No one can tell you what’s right for you and the more knowledge you acquire the more confident you can feel with your decisions as a parent.

Carefully weigh out your family history when considering which of these options is the best for you.




Naturopathic – Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a learnt skill and can be difficult for some women – help is available…

It often takes 4-6 weeks to feel confident breastfeeding – be patient


This handout covers the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding and resources.

Contact your local Naturopath, Midwife, or Lactation Consultant for personalized assistance.


Why Breastfeed? Nursing is convenient, cheap, your best means of bonding and the perfect food for your child even if you are sick or on medication.


Why Breast milk?

  • Specific to our species
  • Less digestive upset, diaper rashes and constipation is rare. Your child will have fewer or less severe colds, ear infections, and allergies. Breast milk protects from viruses and bacteria because the mother quickly develops relevant antibodies, passing resistance to the baby through the milk. Baby can still get sick but the immune system will be supported and thus hasten recovery.
  • Better jaw development and optimal teeth positioning because breastfeeding is harder than drinking from a bottle. Children show fewer cavities if nursed longer than 4 months.
  • Better brain development and higher IQs.
  • Essential nutrients: milk will change with your diet (i.e. garlic can be found in milk)
  • Protein is easy to digest = 60% whey protein and 40% casein (Cow’s milk is 20:80 respectively). Protein is lowest in AM and highest in PM.
  • Fats (60% of calories needed in first year) – especially DHA which promotes brain, nerve and intestinal health
  • Lipase – an enzyme that keeps the fats (most efficient energy source for baby) easy to digest
  • Lactose – a sugar important for brain and central nervous system development. Also helps absorb calcium and promotes overall growth. (Lactose is higher in human milk vs. cow’s milk). Lactose is higher in the afternoon.
  • IMMUNE FACTORS: Antibodies, White blood cells, Cytokines, Interferon, and Lysozymes – relevant to local bacteria, viruses and fungi – hours after exposure milk will change to suit mom and baby’s health
  • Bifidus and Oligosaccharides – both aid in intestinal health and colonization
  • (attacks bacterial cell walls) for immunity
  • Water – all that baby needs till solids are introduced (baby should be sitting unassisted, showing curiosity in foods, have a good pincher grasp and teething, ~6 mos).
  • Vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Vitamin D and iron levels are low but absorbed easier than iron in formulas or supplements. If your stores are low talk to the appropriate health care professional. Going outside for 5-10 minutes at least twice a week (face and arm exposure) can help establish vitamin D levels.
  • Hormones and enzymes promoting healthy intestinal tract and ensures protective organisms dominate in the digestive tract.
  • Formula has no immune factors like breast milk

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