Cow's Milk for Babies?

The issue of giving cow’s milk to babies is one highly debated by inexperienced mothers, however experts do not recommend this type of milk until the baby is 12 months old. After the baby has reached a year old, there are a number of advantages where cow’s milk is concerned.

Reasons as to Why Cow’s Milk Is Inappropriate in the First Year of Life

There are multiple disadvantages and risks associated with the use of cow’s milk for babies who are less than 12 months old, therefore its introduction must be delayed until the baby is above the advised age. The first reason as to why mothers should avoid feeding their babies cow’s milk is because a baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to digest the proteins contained by this type of milk. In addition to this, cow’s milk also comprises large quantities of certain elements that can affect the baby’s kidneys such as sodium, potassium and chloride.

Another reason as to why cows’ milk does not benefit babies is that it lacks the vitamins and minerals that are essential for a baby’s harmonious growth and development during his first twelve months of age. This deficiency is best illustrated by the lack of vitamin E, zinc and iron with cow’s milk being a cause of iron deficiency and even internal bleeding for babies under 12 months old.

The importance of iron in a baby’s life translates into its role of helping the body make red blood cells, a decreased level of red blood cells being known to cause anemia. It’s true that newly born babies have enough iron in their bodies however by 3-4 months of age the iron supply gets depleted, requiring extra iron which needs to be obtained from the baby’s diet. If by any reason the mother is unable to breast-feed her baby, iron-fortified formulas are available on the market to ensure infants get the proper amount that their body needs.

Extended studies have proved the often occurrence of iron deficiency anemia in babies less than a year of age which in some cases has related to developmental delays that could not be reversed by a late iron-rich diet.

The Advantages of Feeding One-Year-Olds With Cow’s Milk

Once the baby reaches the adequate age for cows’ milk consumption, mothers are advised to feed cow’s milk as this type of nourishment is great for building and adding strength to the baby’s teeth and bone structure, as well as for improving blood coagulation and muscle control. Cow’s milk is a good source of vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus, and most milk products contain high amounts of vitamin D which is necessary in aiding the body absorb calcium. The latter decreases the risk of suffering from fractures later in life and also reduces the chances of getting a stroke or suffering from high blood pressure and colon cancer. Another benefit of cow’s milk is that it contains protein that contributes to the baby’s growth, as well as carbohydrates for giving the infant enough energy to last a whole day.

Making the Switch Towards Feeding Babies Cow’s Milk

Babies are not used to the taste of cow’s milk, so some infants may take a while before they get used to the new type of milk. In order to facilitate the switch, mothers are advised to mix cows’ milk with their usual one, be it breast milk or formula, paying attention to the amounts so their babies will be willing to drink the new milk just as easily as the one they were used to. Hence, the first few mixtures should contain larger amounts of formula, over time the amount decreasing until the baby is fully happy with drinking cows’ milk only. Another way of helping babies get used to the dietary change would be to alternate bottles of formula with cows’ milk until the transition is finalized.

The Amount of Cows’ Milk Recommended for Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated the importance of avoiding feeding the baby too much milk as such a diet would increase the risk of getting anemia or nutrient deficiencies. This is explained by the fact that too much milk will prevent the baby from eating the whole foods that his body needs, therefore the above mentioned organization has recommended the amount of 16 ounces of milk per day as being the most adequate, larger quantities of 16 to 24 ounces being also accepted in the case of infants of one to two years old.

Milk Allergy

A milk allergy is a rare food allergy that affects only 2 to 3 percent of babies, 95 percent of them outgrowing it by the age of 3. A milk allergy has two common causes, one of which is genetic. The latter is explained by the occurrence of food allergies or allergic diseases in family members, this situation increasing the baby’s risk of developing an allergy such as the one related to milk. Another reason that explains a milk allergy is the baby’s early contact with cow’s milk protein, either before birth through the mother’s diet or in the following months.

Children who are used to drinking cow’s milk-based formula won’t develop a milk allergy, and neither will babies who were exclusively breastfed due to the exposure of cows’ milk protein existing in their mother’s milk. In order to detect the occurrence of milk allergies in babies, mothers ought to know the main symptoms associated with this kind of allergy. Therefore, parents should contact the doctor if they notice blood in the baby’s stools, or if the baby suffers from diarrhea and vomiting. Other irregularities such as eczema, hives, rashes in the mouth and chin area, a runny nose, coughing, wheezing and other breathing difficulties may point to the fact that the baby’s respiratory system is disturbed by a milk allergy.

What Kind of Cow’s Milk Is Best for Babies?

When the switch towards cow’s milk is made, parents should know that skimmed milk must be avoided in the case of babies who are under two years old. Only full fat cow’s milk is the proper nourishment for helping infants obtain a healthy growth and development. However there are other beneficial types of milk aside from regular cow’s milk that are being sold in babies’ stores.

Some mothers purchase organic or hormone-free milk to feed their babies with, this option coming with a significantly higher price tag. Although studies are inconclusive as to whether these types of milk are a lot more beneficial than regular cow’s milk, it is advisable to purchase organic milk if possible since the certified organic type of milk is free of hormones, antibiotics and other harmful additions that are given to some dairy cows.

A good alternative option to cow’s milk is goat’s milk, which contains less potentially allergenic proteins and is also easier to process by infants’ digestive systems. In the end, it should be crystal clear that cows’ milk is an essential nourishment for babies, as long as they’re at least 12 months old. Once the switch is made, a necessary addition to cow’s milk should come in the form of iron-containing foods such as iron-fortified baby cereals, prune juice, lentils, beans, organic meats and tofu.

1 comment

  1. Jay Reply
    February 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Well-said and explained…

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