Can infants take cow’s milk?


Cow’s milk is not a good substitute for breast milk or formula for babies as they cannot digest it completely and it does not contain all the nutrients they need. — TNS

Many parents ask why they can’t feed their baby regular cow’s milk instead of breast milk or formula.

There are two main reasons.

Infants cannot digest cow’s milk as completely or easily as they digest breast milk or baby formula.

More importantly, cow’s milk is not a source of complete nutrition for babies under one year of age, as it does not contain enough of certain nutrients they need.

Cow’s milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can stress a newborn’s immature kidneys.

This can cause severe illness if your baby gets a fever, diarrhoea or heat stress.

In addition, cow’s milk lacks the proper amounts of iron, vitamin C and other nutrients that infants need.

Cow’s milk also does not contain the healthiest types of fat for growing babies.

It may even cause iron-deficiency anaemia in some babies as cow’s milk protein can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestine.

This can lead to the loss of blood, from small amounts you can’t see all the way to bloody stools.

For these reasons, your baby should not receive any cow’s milk (or other non-human milk or a milk substitute) until they are about 12 months of age, unless no alternative is available.

Once your baby is past a year old, you may give them pasteurised whole cow’s milk or reduced-fat (2%) milk, provided they have a balanced diet of solid foods (i.e. cereals, vegetables, fruits and meats).

But limit their intake of milk to two cups (about 16 ounces or 473 millilitres) per day or less.

More than 24oz (710 ml) a day has been associated with iron deficiency if toddlers aren’t getting enough other healthy iron-rich foods.

If your baby is not yet eating a broad range of solid foods, talk to your paediatrician about the best nutrition for them.

At this age, children still need a higher fat content, which is why whole vitamin D-fortified milk is recommended for most children after turning one year old.

If your child is, or is at risk for being, overweight, or if there is a family history of obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease, your paediatrician may recommend 2% (reduced-fat) milk.

Do not give your baby 1% (low-fat) or nonfat (skimmed) milk before their second birthday, as it does not contain enough fat for brain development.

After two years of age, you should discuss your child’s nutritional needs with your paediatrician.

However, many children at this age can transition to lower-fat milk if that is what your family uses. – By Dr Mark R. Corkins/American Academy of Pediatrics/Tribune News Service

Dr Mark R. Corkins is a paediatric gastroenterologist with a focus on nutrition and chairs the Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Milk , nutrition , child health


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