You're Not a Bad Mom if Your Kid Doesn't Drink Milk

A young boy drinking water.


Yesterday, an article about the benefits of flavored milk showed up in my Facebook timeline via the Milk Mustache Campaign. The group linked to’s tip of the day about “helping kids get the daily servings of milk recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

Included in the short tip was the following information:

Studies have shown that children who drink flavored milk meet more of their nutrient needs; do not consume more added sugar, fat or calories; and are not heavier than non-milk drinkers. If your child does not like the taste of unflavored milk, flavored milk such as chocolate or strawberry low-fat or fat-free milk will provide the same nutrients and help your child build strong bones.

It took me a few reads to comprehend what was being said here. I think it’s cleverly worded to be confusing and make parents think that milk is a necessity. If adding sugar to milk is the only way to get kids to drink it, then add sugar we must. The sentiment here is that without chocolate and strawberry flavorings, many kids will become nutrient-deficient.

Since the article didn’t link to the studies that have shown that flavored milk-drinking kids don’t consume more sugar, fat or calories than non-milk drinkers, I have to make an assumption. The non-milk drinking kids must be getting the same amount of sugar that’s in flavored milk in something else they are drinking. Maybe because they don’t drink milk, they’re drinking sugary juice-flavored drinks and sodas instead. Obviously, those drinks have very little nutrition.

I used to be sold on the milk-is-a necessity message. When my boys were little, they were going to drink their milk whether they wanted to or not. My oldest never had a problem with it. My youngest went through a phase where he didn’t want it, but we kept giving it to him and required him to drink it every day. Eventually, he started enjoying it again. I was determined to have milk drinkers. (But, thankfully, I was also determined not to add sugar to their milk to get them to drink it.)

If I understood then what I understand now, I would have let my youngest drink water instead. If I had fed my family a variety of good, whole, nutritious foods way back when, the absence of milk wouldn’t have been a problem. I had it my head, though, that good moms had kids who drank their milk — probably because I had heard many messages similar to yesterday’s Eat Right tip.

If you’re a parent, I want you to listen up. Milk, in any form, is not a dietary necessity. If your child never drinks a sip of cow’s milk, you’re not a bad parent. You don’t need to offer chocolate- or strawberry-flavored milk; you can offer water instead. The main nutrients found in milk like calcium, potassium, and vitamins A & D are found in many other foods. If you serve a variety of fresh, colorful produce, beans and nuts, the nutrients will be covered. Adding in lean cuts of chicken and fish can help, too, but even those are not necessary.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not "anti-milk". We go through two or three gallons of 1 percent organic white milk every week in my house. I am "anti" the scare tactics being used by the milk campaigns that make parents (particularly moms) think that if their children aren’t drinking milk, they aren’t being well-fed.