Cow’s milk is often believed to be the best source of nutrition for infants. However, this isn’t always true. You should wait until your child is at least 12 months old before introducing cow’s milk into their diet. And even then, it’s important to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need from other sources before you switch them over entirely.
After weaning, at about six months of age, your baby’s nutritional needs change.
- Weaning is the process of introducing your baby to other foods and drinks beyond breast milk or formula.
- At around six months of age, your child’s nutritional needs change. You can begin giving your child cow’s milk when she begins eating solid foods (usually around 6 months). Cow’s milk provides a source of protein, fats and other nutrients that are important for growth and development.
- Don’t put milk in a bottle and give it to your baby as a drink. She won’t have enough teeth to chew liquids straight from a cup or beaker until she is well past her first birthday (8–12 months).
Your baby should be shown how to drink from a cup or beaker from around six months old.
From around six months, your baby should be shown how to drink from a cup or beaker. This is because:
- Drinking from a bottle can lead to tooth decay – a risk that’s increased if the milk has any sugar in (which it shouldn’t).
- Milk doesn’t need to be warmed up and cooled down as often as formula does, so there’s less chance of food poisoning.
- It’s easier for you to make sure your baby is getting enough milk if you’re giving it in a cup or beaker, rather than having them drink straight from the bottle.
Milk should not be put in a bottle and given to your baby as a drink as it increases the risk of tooth decay and may cause tummy problems or allergies.
Milk should not be put in a bottle and given to your baby as a drink as it increases the risk of tooth decay, tummy problems and allergies.
Offering extra snacks between meals can limit the amount of milk your child takes in each day.
One way to limit the amount of milk your baby takes in each day is by offering snacks between meals. Snacks should be healthy and nutritious, not sugary or salty. It’s also important that you limit the number of snacks your child has per day to two. In addition, snacks should not replace actual meals; instead, they should provide additional nutrients and energy for kids who are active throughout the day.
Cow’s milk should not be introduced until 12 months of age at the earliest.
You may be wondering when to introduce cow’s milk to your baby. It’s best to hold off on cow’s milk until 12 months old at the earliest, because introducing it before this age can cause digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies. After 12 months, it’s fine to give your child a few ounces of cow’s milk a day, but only if he or she is developmentally ready for it (that is, able to sit up without support, hold his or her head up without help).
If you’re going with formula, look for an iron-fortified variety—this will help prevent iron deficiency in children under 6 months old.
Feeding your child cow’s milk can be beneficial for their development, but there are some things to keep in mind when you’re ready to make the transition.
Exclusively breastfed babies are not ready for cow’s milk until they are at least 12 months old, and those with a family history of allergy should not be given cow’s milk before that age. If your baby has eczema or other skin conditions, you should also wait until around 1 year old before introducing cow’s milk into their diet.
If your child is younger than 12 months old and already likes drinking formula (a liquid made from cows’ milk that can replace breastfeeding), this may help them accept cow’s milk more easily once the time comes to start adding it.
When Can Babies Have Cow Milk?
Babies can have cow milk only after they are one year or 12 months old, when their body can comfortably process different types of foods (1).
Why Can’t Babies Have Cow Milk Before The Age Of 12 Months?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies below the age of 12 months cannot digest cow milk as they can breast milk and formula (2). Cow milk also has a high concentration of protein and minerals that can strain an infant’s kidneys. The baby’s stomach and kidneys become stronger after the age of 12 months, which makes it an ideal time to introduce cow’s milk.
But why should you give cow milk to a baby anyway?
What Are The Advantages Of Giving Cow Milk To A Baby?
Cow milk is rich in nutrients and provides the following benefits to the baby (3):
- Benefits muscle growth: Cow milk is high in protein, which babies need in abundance for healthy muscle synthesis and development.
- Good for the circulatory system: Regular consumption of milk is good for maintaining blood pressure, which in turn can benefit the overall circulatory system.
- Helps neurodevelopment: Cow milk contains lipids called phospholipids and glycosphingolipids that play a vital role in the growth of the nerve cells. Experts state that these lipids can be helpful for healthy neonatal brain development.
- Keeps bones healthy: Regular consumption of cow milk helps the baby reach their recommended daily allowance of calcium.
- Several micronutrients help baby’s general health: Milk contains a small quantity of almost all essential micronutrients and vitamins, which makes it a complete food for babies.
Nutritional Value Per 100g Of Whole Cow Milk
|NUTRIENT||UNIT VALUE PER 100 GM|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||0.046mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.169mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.089mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||5µg|
Source: United States Department of Agriculture (4)
[ Read: When Can A Baby Drink Soy Milk ]
How To Choose The Right Variation Of Cow Milk For Babies?
The cow milk you give to your baby should be:
- Pasteurized and sterilized: Pasteurisation is when the milk is heated at a high temperature for some time, and then rapidly cooled to limit the bacteria and other microorganisms in the milk (5). Sterilization is a process that kills all the microorganisms in the milk, which makes sterilized milk the safest option for babies. You can consider pasteurized milk when sterilized milk is not available.
- Fortified: Milk in itself contains a lot of nutrients, but added nutrients can enhance its nutritional values. Such a process is called fortification. Choose cow milk fortified with vitamins, especially vitamin D. Fortification makes it easier for a baby to attain their recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of essential nutrients.
Can You Give Skimmed Or Low Fat Cow Milk To My Baby?
No. You must always choose whole cow milk for your baby. Babies need fat at their age and skimmed (fat-free) and low fat (1-2% fat) milk contains very little fat to meet baby’s nutritional requirement. Moreover, skimmed and low-fat versions of cow milk contain a high concentration of protein, potassium, sodium, and chloride, which can overload a baby’s kidneys (2) (6).
The concentration of vitamins and minerals is also less in low-fat and fat-free cow milk, which makes whole milk a better option for babies.
Your baby can have low-fat varieties of cow milk after the age of two years. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that if a baby is overweight, has high blood pressure, or heart disease, low-fat cow milk can be given after consulting the pediatrician.
How To Introduce Cow Milk To Babies?
Cow milk is hard to digest and should be introduced slowly, starting with small quantities in the beginning. Here is how you introduce cow milk to a baby:
- Start with small sips every day: Your baby may not develop a liking to cow milk right away. Therefore, start with spoonfuls or small sips through a sippy or open cup. It lets the baby get used to the taste of cow milk and become familiar with it.
- Give cow milk in a separate cup: Do not mix any other food item with cow milk the first time you give it to the baby. Pour some cow milk in a separate glass and offer it to the child: this allows the baby to know the taste of milk and lets you understand how the baby’s body reacts to it.
- Increase quantity slowly: If you have given the first cup of milk to the baby today, wait for a day or two before offering more. As you would with other foods, introduce cow milk in small quantities and gradually increase the quantity and the frequency.
- Make it part of a meal or a beverage: Serve milk as an accompaniment to breakfast or evening meal. Cow milk can be a part of the baby’s daily meal plan to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of nutrients it has.
How Much Cow Milk Can A Baby Have?
Pediatric experts recommend no more than 32oz (946ml) of cow’s milk per day for babies. Excess milk consumption can increase the baby’s calorie intake and leave little room for other solid foods that the baby needs. If your baby demands more than the ideal quantity, you can give them alternatives such as breast milk or formula.
Can There Be Any Disadvantages Of Giving Cow Milk To Babies?
Cow milk can be disadvantageous to babies below the age of 12 months. It can irritate the inner lining of their stomach and intestine, causing bloody stools. Intense bleeding can cause the onset of iron-deficiency anemia, which in turn can cause several health problems (6). To avoid that, it is best to wait until the baby is 12 months old before introducing cow milk.
Can A Baby Be Allergic To Cow Milk?
Yes. Cow milk allergy is the most common allergy among toddlers and young children (7). The symptoms of cow milk allergy include skin hives, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. The baby’s face could be swollen, and the demeanor could be lethargic. Severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis, a condition with serious symptoms.
To avoid triggering an allergic reaction, introduce cow milk in small sips, and then gradually increase the quantity. If you suspect the baby is allergic, then stop giving milk entirely. Otherwise, slowly increase the portion of milk served.
Can A Baby Have Cow Milk Yogurt And Cheese?
Yes. Your baby can have yogurt and cheese made from cow milk after the age of 12 months. Ensure that the cheese or yogurt you buy is without added flavoring, sugar, and color.
Can You Continue Breastfeeding When The Baby Starts Having Cow Milk?
Yes. Medical experts recommend that you continue breastfeeding beyond the age of one year or even two years when the baby has solids foods (8). Hence, there is no need to pause or stop breastfeeding when the baby starts having cow milk.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I boil cow milk before giving it to the baby?
Yes, especially if the milk is not sterilized. If you have purchased packaged cow milk that has been “sterilized” or has a “no boiling required” label on it, then the milk needs no boiling. Pasteurized milk is also reasonably safe to consume since it has a significantly lesser bacteria when compared to raw milk.
In any case, boil the milk if you can, before giving it to the baby, to be on the safer side.
Also, never give raw cow milk to an infant, as it can contain a host of pathogens including viruses that can adversely affect the baby’s health.
2. Can I buy organic cow milk for my baby?
Yes. You can choose organic cow milk for your baby if you have a choice, but only if it is pasteurized or sterilized.
3. Can I give cow milk formula to the baby?
Yes. Infant formula is usually made from cow milk. But if your baby has a milk allergy, then they cannot have cow milk formula either. You have to choose alternatives such as a soybean-based formula in such a case (9).
4. Cow milk vs. almond milk vs. soy milk – which is better?
Almond and soy milk are ideal alternatives for babies with milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Each variety of milk can be fortified with vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. Cow milk naturally contains several vitamins and minerals that almond and soy milk may contain after fortification.
In any case, consult your pediatrician before choosing the best alternatives to cow milk for the baby.
5. Cow milk vs. buffalo milk – which is better for babies?
Studies have found similarities between cow milk proteins and buffalo milk proteins (10). However, they may differ in their mineral and vitamin content. Buffalo milk has more magnesium and calcium when compared to cow milk, but it also has more fat (11). The low fat content of cow milk helps control the calorie intake of the baby while buffalo milk does not. Eventually, it comes down to your preference and local availability.
6. Can cow milk cause autism in babies?
No. No evidence directly suggests that cow milk consumption causes autism or a reason for the worsening of autism symptoms (12). If your baby has autism and milk allergy/lactose intolerance, then consuming milk can make the baby more irritable, thus exacerbating autism symptoms. Therefore, it is the allergy to cow milk rather than the milk itself that can aggravate the symptoms of autism.
7. Can cow milk cause constipation in babies?
Yes, but not always. Cow’s milk has been linked to constipation, but not that frequently. Some studies have found that chronic constipation due to regular cow milk consumption can be an indicator of a mild milk allergy (13). If the baby always develops constipation after consuming cow milk, then take them to the doctor.
Cow milk is an ideal choice of milk that most parents opt for their babies as it is packed with energy and several vital nutrients. Cow milk for babies also helps them meet their recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of nutrients. However, it is advisable to feed cow milk only to babies aged one and above. Nevertheless, it is best to consult your baby’s pediatrician before introducing cow milk to them. You may also start with small quantities to check for allergies before including cow milk in your baby’s routine diet.
The best way to ensure your baby gets the nutrients they need is by feeding them a balanced diet that includes lots of different foods. If you’re worried about whether or not your baby is getting enough milk, talk to your doctor or health visitor about how much milk they should be drinking.