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Whole Milk Is Not for Babies: When You Can Start Introducing It
  • One can cite the benefits of breast milk or formula, but at the end of the day, it’s a mom’s choice. Sometimes, we get asked about cow’s milk, and that’s where doctors are firm: cow’s milk is not for babies.

    “Young infants cannot digest cow’s milk as completely or easily as they digest formula,” explained the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) via its resource site for parents HealthyChildren.org.

    “Your baby should not receive any regular cow’s milk for the first 12 months of life,” the AAP stressed.

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    Why whole cow’s milk is not recommended for babies under 1 year old

    Babies cannot digest cow’s milk properly, which contains high concentrations of proteins and minerals, such as sodium and potassium. These can damage your baby’s still-developing digestive system and immature kidneys. It can cause the lining of the intestines to get irritated and lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, blood in his stool, and blood loss. It can also cause fever and diarrhea, which then puts your little one at risk for dehydration.

    Compared to breast milk, cow’s milk lacks adequate amounts of iron, vitamins C and E, and the right types of healthy fats that babies need to consume to help them grow. Studies have also linked cow’s milk to iron-deficiency anemia in babies. Past research also linked the early introduction of cow’s milk to the development of type-1 diabetes later in life.

    Introduce whole milk to your baby after his first birthday


    At age 1, your baby’s nourishment is not solely dependent on milk anymore; he’s already eating solid foods. You can start introducing your baby to whole milk “provided he has a balanced diet of solid foods,” suggests the AAP. Always consult your doctor first when it comes to your child's nutrition. He may advise against cow’s milk if your little one has not gotten used to eating a variety of solid foods yet.

    You don’t have to stop breastfeeding when you and your doctor decide to give your baby whole milk. “You can also make a mixture of a little whole milk with formula or breast milk, adding more and more whole milk until baby transitions complete,” pediatrician Dr. Russell Horton, M.D., told The Bump. You can also add cow’s milk in your cereal, use it to make soup, or use it as an ingredient in a dish.

    From ages 1 to 3, a child’s total daily dairy requirement —which includes milk and other dairy food sources, such as yogurt and cheese that you can serve your baby  — is 16 ounces up to a maximum of 24 ounces a day; that’s about two servings of dairy per day. Feeding your baby more than that an amount of whole cow’s milk may affect his appetite for other food.

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    Whole cow’s milk is a rich source of calcium, protein, and carbohydrates and one of the few sources of vitamin D. Kids do need its full fat content (4%) to help their body absorb nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are crucial to their brain development. If your 1 year old is at risk of obesity or if your family has a history of high cholesterol or heart disease, your doctor may opt to prescribe reduced milk (2%) instead.

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    Skimmed and low-fat milk contains too much protein and sodium, and not enough fat to support young toddlers’ growth and development. No-fat products are also more likely to have higher sugar content. Consult your doctor first before considering to switch your child to drinking skimmed or low-fat milk.

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