How to Get My 2 Year Old Son to Drink Less Milk? Without Drinking Juice?

Updated on November 14, 2011
M.T. asks from Saint Paul, MN
23 answers

Hi, my son is 25 months old, and his doctor has been telling him to not drink more than 24 oz of milk, so he has appetite for other foods. The problem is, he LOVES milk, and keep asking and asking for it. He fusses and even if we offer other food when he's asking for milk, he wouldn't take it. When I offer water, he throws the cup. I should tell you that we've decided not to give him juice, which may be making it difficult for us - juice just seems to have too much sugar (even if it's fructose) - if he needs vitamins, he can have fruits.

He was drinking 2-3 ozs with breakfast, 12 at day care, and then drinks 6 right after he comes home and then another 2-4 before dinner. That's over 24 right there. When unrestricted, he used to drink 30-34 oz's. Now we're being strict about it, even if we give him 2-3oz's right before bed, he wakes up at 5-5:30am sreaming and crying for milk. My husband and I, wanting desparately to go back to sleep, end up giving him milk. Now this has become a habit and happens every day.

The doctor said to give him Crystal light instead of milk. I know that doesn't have sugar because it's artificially sweetened, but then I don't like that artificial part.

Any advice you can give us on how he can drink less milk and eat more of "real" food? Maybe we would have to give him juice or crystal light, but I'm hoping there are other ideas. I would appreciate your input. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for your suggestions! I'm glad many of you are with me in not wanting to give him juice of Crystal light. For now, we've decided not to give him milk in between meals or snacks (=milk only sitting in high chair), and only after he's done with most of the food. It's been a challenge, but we'll try to stick with it. Already, he hasn't been drinking as much milk as before. His crying for early morning milk would be a challenge, but what I'm thinking of now is to progressively dilute the first am milk (in bed) with water. That's how initially weaned him from milddle of night feedings. Hopefully it will work this time too. Again, thank you to all!

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

we also had a milk baby....ended up going down to skim milk around 2 1/2 and then also started on water....with about a 1/8 of an orange squeezed into the water...oh my was this a hassle at the beginning...took about a week of non stop tantrums with the kid....then it settled done to 1 tantrum a day and eventually tappered off. He is now 6 still loves milk...but will ask for water. (oh we eventually quit squeezing the orange in the water....but still do it when he asks now and then.)

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You can give him some juice just water it down. Start with 1/2 juice and 1/2
water and then gradually cut down juice until it is 99.9% water.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

Juice is not a good substitute. The purpose of not drinking the milk is to give him an appetite to eat more food. So you don't want to substitute another drink. It makes no sense for the dr to suggest Crystal Light. It also fills him up.

I suggest that you not give in to his screaming and crying, ever. When you cave and give him the milk you're teaching him that if he screams loud enough, long enough he'll get his milk.

I suggest that you completely ignore him when he screams You could tell him ahead of time that screaming is not going to get him milk. Explain to him, when he's calm, in very simple terms the reason for not giving him milk. Suggest to him that he wants to be a healthy baby. Ask for his help in making him a healthy baby.

I suggest that you give him milk as a treat after he eats his dinner. Tell him milk is his reward. Then stick with it. It will take time for him to learn you mean business but he will learn. It takes time and patience.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

A DOCTOR told you that it's OK to give him Crystal Light?!!! Good lord. Major red flag here.

Your doctor may want to re-visit her nutrition classes, if she ever had any. Neither kids (nor adults) should consume artificial sweeteners.

Re-think your son's pediatrician.

P.S.: As your son gets a bit older, here's a helpful mantra used by many, many preschool providers: "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Have you switched to 2% milk yet? After 2 years old, we're supposed to do that so that they won't get as much fat.

Try this idea. Make a "milk shake" for him that has food ingredients in it. Banana, strawberries, extra protein (the doc can tell you what to use), perhaps vitamins too (again, ask the doctor). Make this the "bridge" between the plain milk and the food.

Then get him to start some meat and vegetables. Make it so that the fruit is in the shake.

I would worry about this simply because of a child in a family I was close to. He was just like this, but wouldn't eat any meat or vegetables. He would scream and refuse anything but his milk. His mom gave in, and she is a doctor. He is 19 years old now, big as a house, pre-diabetic, and has such a restrictive diet (bread, milk, soda, candy, a few fruits, pancakes, french fries, yogurt, and that's pretty much it) that she add amino acids to his yogurt and gives him Citracel for his bowels. I believe that he had sensory issues and she wore blinders to this problem with him, because he was HER son. It is a real shame, because I truly believe that if she had gotten him some help, he would be eating normally now. As it is, he stays at home and goes to college because he wouldn't eat any of their food. A shame, really.

So, if this continues, and he simply doesn't want to eat food, get the ped to send you to an OT who works with kids with feeding issues. The earlier you deal with this, the better.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Give him milk only at meal time. Water throughout the day. If he's thirsty enough, he will drink water.

We don't give juice at all. He gets it sometimes at grammys house, and I don't mind, but on the day-to-day, its just too much sugar!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Crystal Light over milk!?! Is your ped nuts! Artificial sweetewners have been shown to mess with the body's blood sugar signals, has brain chemistry changing chemicals, not to mention other potential issues. Kids at this age are often picky eaters and obsessed with one or two types of food. A lot of parents would love to have your problem of a child obsessed with a healthy food.

Do not substitute anything to drink other than water. At 24 months he is old enough to understand some rules and guidelines. Put milk at the end of the meal only if you want to limit his intake (although I think the ped is crazy). Tell him ahead of time that the milk will come after he has eaten the solids. If he is thirsty then serve water first. Talk with him about what you are doing before every meal and snack. Repetition is the key. And really I would not stress about this, not worth creating a big scene. Just decide ahead what makes you comfortable and then stick to it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If it were me in this situation, I'd start small with scaling back. Offer a two ounce serving in the morning (because you don't need to start your day with tears, right?), ask daycare to help you by offering 2 oz. cups of milk first, and then offering water afterward (I'm assuming he's getting at least three meals at daycare: a morning snack, lunch and then an afternoon snack), and then two oz. again when you pick him up from daycare, when he's going to be hungry, usually. (I don' t know your daycare sched. so I can't be more detailed.)

If you give him the milk right at pickup, it will satisfy his desire for milk while giving him time to get home and get hungry again.

At the dinner meal, (and any other meal after he's drank his ration of milk), offer the choice: "you may eat your food or drink your water. That's what I have for you." This is your mantra. When the serving of milk is gone, it's gone.

Do not budge on your new routine of milk, whatever you do.

Ask your daycare caregivers/teachers to keep track of this on a chart for you; make the chart yourself if need be, and make the copies for them, so that they've got no reason NOT to chart. I've worked at daycares before; we caregivers can get busy, so the chart is really a reminder for *them* not to slack on this. (of course, do not tell them that!) From my experience working with toddlers in larger groups, it's easy to forget special requests, so this method will keep everyone on track. When the teacher has a quiet moment, explain to her that the Pediatrician has asked for him to have less milk and more food. (Do not even mention that juice or Crystal Light were suggested options, or you will just confuse them.) Because this may interrupt what was easy for the caregivers (lots of milk=no tears) you'll want to have the outside authority of the pediatrician on your side. If the teacher or director of the daycare states that the USDA Food Program has mandated how much milk they must offer, then get a note from your ped. (I have attended trainings on this program; for the daycare to keep their USDA reimbursement, doc notes are mandatory for offering lesser quantities or for offering rice/soy. It stinks, but that's the way it is. )

Keep up with your instincts about juice and artificial sweetners, they are correct. If your son is consistently getting less milk, and everyone is being consistent about offering water and food afterward, this will get better. It might feel worse for the first week or so--expect tantrums, because it sounds like milk is his 'easy food' security blanket--but he will come around. One more thing, and I don't know if this factors in, but be sure he's always seated at the table when he's drinking. Some kids prefer drinks to fill up on because they don't have to stop playing. We *always* stop playing and come to the table before drinks and food. Make it a way of life and model it too.

Hang in there! It gets better.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Is his growth or development being impeded, by his milk drinking????
Is he healthy???

My son.... is a milk lover. LOVES, milk.
So was I, when I was a child. And still am.
My son, was also... a very picky picky eater.
BUT.... we NEVER ever... battle about it or food or his eating.
On his own, and naturally, he has... increased his palate tastes.
He is 5 now, and eats a wide variety of things... and water. He is not a juice person nor do we even push it.
He drinks, water or milk.
We go by his, cues.
He knows himself very well per hunger or fullness cues.
-He is, very healthy.
He is tall and lean... and solid, and always has been in the upper 97th percentiles for growth... and is overall developed well and/or advanced per his age.

My point is... loving milk and drinking it a lot... has never harmed me nor my son. We both love milk.
Versus, my daughter hates it... and she has weak teeth etc.

Anyway, I guess my point is: Unless milk is his ONLY intake everyday... then I would not heavily stress over it.
If he is eating other things, then fine.
The 'serving size' for kids this age, per solids/food, is only in terms of Tablespoons. So, 2 tablespoons of something, is fine. They do not have to eat an entire plate of something, like an adult would.

Also, with my son, he is a "Grazer." Meaning, he eats in small amounts, throughout the day. But to a stranger, he is not eating much. BUT... if you know and see what he is actually eating/grazing on all day... my son IS, eating well. Plus drinking milk, which he loves. And which I never restricted him.
And again, my son is healthy and grows like a weed, despite his seemingly 'picky' eating... and love of milk.

I personally like to drink milk, before bed too.
My son is 5 and still likes to have a cup of milk before bed.
I see no big deal, about that.

And, for me, crystal light or chemical sweeteners, are more harmful than him having milk.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well I'm with you on the juice and Crystal Light. Is your son gaining weight and growing? If so then I wouldn't worry too much, but I do understand your need for a change. Honestly, I know that milk can inhibit the appetite but I I'd just go about it a little slower and let him have some "extra" right now. Maybe let him have his milk when he comes home but then don't give him any more until dinner. That way he gets his fix and then dinner will go more smoothly cuz he gets his milk again. In between just offer him water, even if he screams and throws the cup. Then I'd give him some again before bed if that's the worst time.

My son loves his milk too and will scream and open the fridge and try and take the milk out (he's 26 months) if I won't give it to him, but I don't give in and within 5 minutes he's moved onto something else. It can be hard, especially when they can open the fridge ;), but just keep at it.

Also, what % milk is he drinking? Switching to skim will really help that. We gave both our kids whole until age 2 and then skim. My son still loves his milk, but I know he prefers the whole milk and has started drinking a tiny bit less since the switch. Just the 2 months or so in between has made a noticable, still small, but noticable difference.

Keep at it! Don't worry too much about it, just keep offering healthy foods while slowly whittling down the milk and it will all work out!

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answers from Washington DC on

Offer small amounts at a time and say, "When you finish your (food item), you may have more milk" or "You had milk at breakfast. I would like you to drink water now." When nursing and introducing solids, you nurse first so the baby doesn't fill up on crackers or whatever instead. So that's why I'm thinking offer the other food first, but do offer him something to drink with it (I had a sitter who refused to give you ANYTHING to drink before you ate or with your snack and I hated it. Everything was so dry....)

When you tell him no, you must be consistent. If throwing cups is not acceptable (and it shouldn't be) then tell him if he throws the cup he gets time out. We taught DD to say, "No, thank you" and leave the "offending" food...which half the time means she goes back for it later.

If you give him juice, give him lower-sugar options and consider thinning it so it's not full-strength. I think that simply subbing juice for milk will still leave you with a full belly and no food if you don't ration it.

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answers from Detroit on

We give our daughter juice in the morning only, and it's watered down. So you could try watering down so that it's only 50 to 75% juice, and limiting to the morning.

Otherwise, you need to just stand firm. This is the age where they need to start learning that whining, fussing and throwing a fit is not going to get them their way. He may be very persistent about it but you still need to not give in just because he's crying about it. I would also not offer the milk right before a meal. Tell him he needs to eat first - if he eats X number of bites, then he can get a sip of milk.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son was like that for a while, he just loves milk. I would just add water into his milk. At first I started out with about 1 oz of water with 6-7oz of milk, after a while I would do half milk, half water. He never even noticed. Now he doesn't drink as much milk as he used to, maybe 2 cups a day, so I don't have to water it down anymore, although I do at times when I'm running low on milk.

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answers from Chicago on

We don't drink much juice either.. We do a lot of water, but my husband and I drink a lot of water. My son loves water and milk.

Maybe you can try water with a slice of orange or lemon in it?

If you do choose to do juice, water it down.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Please, in the name of all that is holy, do not give your child Crystal Light!! I am SHOCKED that a pediatrician would make that suggestion. Besides the fact that it is full of aspertame, which has been linked to a whole bunch of medical issues, it sets up your son to develop a taste for sweetened beverages, instead of good old-fashioned water. When your son gets old enough and has his own money, you can bet he's going to trade Crystal Light for soda.

Whatever you've done to "be strict about it," keep doing, only at the next level.

Can you go to bed really early for a week so that you feel better able to handle the 5:30 a.m. screaming?

Can you have a count-down to "only water in between meals" (or whatever your goal is)? This worked really well when we finally potty-trained our daughter, and it made total sense--as an adult, I don't do well with sudden change, so I don't want to do that to my child. Giving a "deadline" to my child means that she doesn't have to have change sprung upon her.

I think a friend of mine went through this. I think she made her son go cold-turkey on milk for a week and by the time the week was over he was eating food and not as attached to the milk.

Good luck! Just please, stick to your guns on no-juice and no-crystal light, because you are right!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I give my son crystal light all flavors. I do about an ounce or to with about 3 ounces of water. It has no sugar and about 5 calories. I asked his doctor about it and he said it was a great alternative. My son loves it especially the strawberry bananna flavor. Hope this helps.

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answers from Champaign on

My ped also suggested a limit as to the number of ounces of milk my kids should have. I thought about it a quite a bit but decided to ignore her on that one. They are so healthy. They eat very healthy food (for the most part). They are both slender but muscular. We only drink skim milk. I would like for them to drink a little more water, but overall I just really can't complain. The only time they want anything else to drink is when they have a cold and we usually give them a sports drink. Not the best thing in the world, but it is just once in awhile.

If it's something you (and not just your ped) believes is right for your child, I would just try giving an ounce or half an ounce less and offering water at meals. Don't make it into a battle, just keep making efforts. One of my nieces almost never drinks milk. She loves water. But I always offer her milk first. When she says yes, I give her some. Hey, some is better than none :-)

Try not to worry too much. It's not as though milk is bad for him! You just want to make sure he is getting the other healthy foods his body needs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

I wouldn't offer him anything at that isn't breakfast, dinner, or lunch. There is no reason to. Snack time maybe. But other than that he doesn't need a constant food supply. My doctor suggested getting the Gatorade Propel water since it has a *slight* bit more healthy ingredients to it. I use that when O hasn't been drinking a whole lot. He will chug it down in now time.



answers from Washington DC on

Is he drinking whole milk? Maybe you could try gradually cutting back to 2% or 1% so it's less filling (and he'll probably like it less).

I'd start by mixing 2/3 of what he's used to with 1/3 of the new milk then every couple of days put a little more of the lowfat and a little less whole milk. Even if he likes it just as well, it won't fill his belly as much and he'll have more room for the real food. And if he doesn't like it as much, he probably won't drink quite so much of it either.




answers from New York on

We don't get that kind of protest with the water, but you might try cutting his milk with water if you think that will help him get some water in him. I don't want to get hate mail for this one so let me clarify.

Suppose he gets 5 6 oz cups of milk a day currently, and is clamboring for more.

the first cup he gets should now be 4oz of milk, 2 oz of water. (total volume 6oz), if he wants another on its heels, then 2oz of milk, 4oz of water.

If he just drinks 5 of the first glasses, you've effectively reduced his total milk consumption to 20oz of milk a day. if he has a total of 10 glasses, in the first and second combo specified above, you are really no worse off than you are now at 30 oz of milk total.

Play with the numbers to fit your particular scenario.
Good luck to you.



answers from Boston on

You can try the kids herbal teas. They have different fruit flavors, such as raspberry, and lemon balm, as well as mint, chamomile, ginger, and more. My daughter likes ginger so I make my own now instead of buying it. You can brew it up and then make iced tea, or let it cool a bit and serve it warm. You can also try fruit flavored kefir. It tastes somewhat like milk, but it is thicker, like yogurt. It has the qualities of yogurt (probiotics/active cultures) so in many ways it is better than plain milk. if you feel really ambitious you could add a banana to it and use a hand blender to turn it into a smoothie.
You could also start a new rule where he has to eat half of his meal before he may take the first sip of his milk (or other drink). Try to eliminate the after day-care milk and/or the before dinner milk. THat way he will not fill up on liquid before a meal. Keep offering the water. TRy putting your foot down and enforcing one tall glass of water per day or else he can't have such-and-such. I would probably still allow the milk in the middle of the night but crack down on the intake between and during meals. The night time milk isnt' harming his appetite, but the daytime milk might be filling him up. Milk has sugar in it too. Kids who constantly sip on milk (or juice, or anything else w/sugar) end up getting cavities, so definitely work on this habit. Take it slow and wean him down one cup at a time. good luck!


answers from San Diego on

I hate artificial sugar. I don't believe we know enough about it to prove that there is no cancer links. Just because we can't prove something causes cancer, does not mean that it doesn't. So I agree with you there.

On top of that, crystal light or juice is still filling the stomach. So I fail to see the point to restrict milk and then give water or juice in it's place.

We have a similar problem with my grandson. He has never really liked food much. There comes a time when it simply isn't worth the fight. Everyone becomes curious eventually. Little by little, he's starting to at least lick or taste things.

I refuse to restrict the milk. I just add some vanilla flavoried breakfast drink to it so that he gets some extra vitamins. Beyond that, we make a big deal of how much we love our foods when we eat. There is a variety of food available in this house. He'll come around to them on his own someday.



answers from Chicago on

Are you trying to cut down on milk because he's not eating? Or just reducing milk intake in general because of the "extra" calories?

My daughter was in love with milk as well, but she never had problems with not eating enough "real" food. We switched her to 2% around 20 months. She got plenty of fats from cheese & other sources, and our pediatrician was totally ok with it. If he's eating ok and you just want to cut down on intake, try switching to 2% or skim.

We NEVER offered juice or Crystal Light as an alternative. Offering food as an alternative to milk won't work if he's thirsty (and not hungry). As other mamas have said...don't give in! Eventually he'll drink his water. (As an aside, I would totally discipline him for throwing his water. He can put it aside if he doesn't want it, but throwing should not be allowed).

Is he hungry or thirsty when he wakes up at 5:30am? Maybe he can have a snack before bed to keep him from being hungry when he wakes up. You don't say what time he goes to bed, but I know my daughter (28 months old) is usually very hungry first thing in the morning. She usually eats her last meal/snack (usually fruit) at 7pm, goes to bed around 8:30pm, and gets up around 6:30am. She also has a sippy cup of water in her crib with her.

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