Got Skim Milk?

Question of the Week

Close-up of a boy drinking a glass of milk
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Question. Should a child under the age of 5 years old drink skim milk instead of whole or 2%? I have a friend who has a 3-year-old and they are having him drink skim milk. Denise, Iowa

Answer. Yes. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents begin low-fat milk after age two years.

Best Milk for Kids

Before two years, unless they have a milk allergy, toddlers should be either breastfeeding or drinking whole milk, but after age two you can start giving him 2%, 1%, or skim milk.

There are some toddlers who should switch to low-fat milk even sooner, though, including those who are:

And of course, they should be either breastfeeding or drinking an iron-fortified infant formula before age 12 months.

Why Switch To Low Fat Milk?

You should mostly switch to low-fat milk because your child will likely be getting plenty of fat from other things that he is eating. And starting early can help to develop preferences for low-fat foods that he will hopefully keep for a lifetime of healthy eating.

If your child has a poor diet and doesn't get enough fat from other areas of his diet, then you may want to keep him on whole milk. Keep in mind that by the time they are 4 to 5 years old, children should be getting about one-third of their calories from fat.

If your child isn't, then staying on whole milk may be a way to boost his intake of fat. But remember that isn't a problem for most children, especially with the current epidemic of obesity we are facing.

And of course, if your child is already overweight, a change to low-fat milk can be very important to reduce the amount of fat and calories that he is getting.

Milk is still an important part of a healthy diet for these children, though.

My Kids Won't Drink Low Fat Milk

It can be a big change to go from whole milk to skim milk, so it is better to make a more gradual change. You might try to go first to 2% milk and then 1% milk, etc.

Starting early can also help to ease this transition to low-fat milk. A two-year-old who really likes to drink milk will probably be more accepting of low-fat milk than a school age child might.


American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Complementary Feeding. In: Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds.Pediatric Nutrition. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014: 135.

Daniels et al. Lipid Screening and Cardiovascular Health in Childhood. PEDIATRICS Volume 122, Number 1, July 2008

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