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The question

With all the concerns about meat and animal products (GMO, hormones), I'm wary of cow's milk for my 10 month old. What other options do I have? Do we really need cow's milk or are there other sources of calcium that I can offer instead?

The answer

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Your concern about hormones and genetically modified foods is reasonable; I don't think anyone would argue that ideally, we should all be having 100 per cent natural food. Canadians are consuming more processed foods than ever, and your concern to stay as hormone-free is understandable.

When a baby is 10-months old, we do not recommend cow's milk; opt for breast milk or formula instead. When your child is 12 months, you can introduce cow's milk. But if you've made the decision to avoid dairy, then calcium via other foods or supplements must be delivered.

Calcium-rich foods such as spinach, peas, broccoli (processed in a blender, of course) can be given to your baby at one year. At that age, the goal should be for 800 mg of calcium per day, according to the Dietitians of Canada.

Some juices may be fortified with calcium, but be careful when exposing a 10-month-old baby to more than a cup a day. In bigger volumes there is a risk of obesity; also all the sugar in juices can cause steady tooth decay. In fact, I tell patients to delay the use of juices for as long as possible due to its sugar content.

If organic cow's milk is a possibilty for you, be sure that it is certified - and be ready to pay a lot more. This is where some gastroenterologists become skeptical - they tell us there is no science to say that organic is the better choice; they also get upset that organic products are so dramatically more expensive.

Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at pediatrician@globeandmail.com. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Peter Nieman.

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Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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