Nutrition in the second year is important as this is a period of rapid growth and development. Milk is a major food for young children and this analysis evaluated the impact of the type of milk consumed on nutrient intakes and nutritional status. Data from the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children were used to investigate the intakes of key nutrients, and Fe and vitamin D status, of children aged 12–18 months, not breastfed, and consuming >400 g/d fortified milk (n 139) or >400 g/d of whole cows’ milk (n 404). Blood samples from eligible children for measurement of Hb (n 113), serum ferritin and plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations (n 105) were available for approximately 20 % of children. Unpaired Mann–Whitney tests were used to compare nutrient intakes and status between consumers of fortified and cows’ milk. Mean daily total dietary intakes of Fe, Zn, vitamin A and vitamin D were significantly higher in the fortified milk group. Mean daily total dietary intakes of energy, protein, Ca, iodine, Na and saturated fat were significantly higher in the cows’ milk group. Hb was not different between groups. The fortified milk group had significantly higher serum ferritin (P = 0·049) and plasma 25(OH)D (P = 0·014). This analysis demonstrates significantly different nutrient intakes and status between infants consuming >400 g/d fortified milk v. those consuming >400 g/d whole cows’ milk. These results indicate that fortified milks can play a significant role in improving the quality of young children's diets in their second year of life.