Parent and physician beliefs, perceptions and knowledge of plant milks for children.
Soczynska I., da Costa BR., O'Connor DL., Jenkins DJA., Birken CS., Juando-Prats C., Maguire JL., TARGet Kids! collaboration None.
Background: Parent and physician perceptions of plant milk are unclear. Aim: To explore parent and physician perceptions of plant milk for children and to gain a better understanding of why parents and physicians might choose plant milk for children. Methods: A mixed methods study was conducted using a questionnaire and interviews with parents and physicians participating in the TARGet Kids! cohort study. Questionnaire data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Parents reported a variety of reasons for choosing plant milk for their children including concerns around allergies, the environment, animal welfare, plant-based diet, health benefits, taste and hormones in cow's milk. Parents gave their children various types of plant milks and physicians provided various recommendations to parents of children not consuming cow's milk. Our study identified that 79% of parents and 51% of physicians were unaware that soy milk is the recommended cow's milk substitute for children. Additionally, 26% of parents did not know some plant milks are not fortified and can contain added sugar. Three main themes were identified from interviews about why parents and physicians may choose plant milk for children: (i) healthiness of plant milk; (ii) concerns about hormones; and (iii) environmental impacts. Conclusions: Parents and physicians choose the milk that they believe is healthiest for their child or patient. However, a lack of clarity on the effects of plant milk consumption on children's health resulted in conflicting views on whether plant milk or cow's milk is healthier for children.