All family elders stress on feeding babies cow’s milk once they start on solids, or even earlier. Cow’s milk is packed with vital nutrients which are required by a growing child, but it should not be given to a baby till she has her first birthday. Babies less than six months get more iron and vitamins from breast milk and even formula, than cow’s milk. You could use a bit of cow’s milk in cooking the solids she takes in after she completes her half birthday, but giving it as a full drink should be avoided till the baby’s first birthday. Know the facts as to why cow’s milk is not the perfect food for babies.
Cow milk and baby

Cow’s Milk To Baby – Wait Till The First Birthday

Experts all over the world recommend waiting till the first birthday before introducing cow’s milk to a baby.

  • Cow’s milk can be taxing on the digestive system a baby. High, concentrated levels of proteins and minerals make cow’s milk much more difficult to digest than breast or formula milk
  • Your baby does not get enough iron from cow’s milk, if she totally depends on it and that could make her deficient in iron too. Your baby could develop iron deficiency anemia as cow’s milk can lead to blood in the stools. Cow’s milk does not contain the healthiest type of fat required for growing babies
  • Allergies due to irritation to the baby’s lining of the digestive system is also a cause for concern. It can cause irritation in the baby’s kidneys as well, leading to blood in the bowels

Once the baby starts taking solid foods and is about six months of age, she can have foods cooked with a bit of cow’s milk, but not as a complete drink. After 6 months, breast milk does not provide your baby the necessary requirement of iron, and this means mothers should consider that weaning foods do contain iron in plenty to make it up. The Ministry of Health recommends breastfeeding a baby till two years old.

Introducing Cow’s Milk To Baby

Once the baby becomes an year old, you can give her full fat cow’s milk. Introduce the new milk to the baby in a cup or sipper. Offer it with a snack or a meal. Toddlers love to experiment with the taste, and some babies will easily take cow’s milk while others may not like its taste. This is also the right time to get rid of the bottle if your baby is in habit of taking feeds through bottle. Offer her milk in a cup instead of giving it in a bottle. However, you can still continue to breastfeed your baby.

  • Do not start with over 350ml of cows’ milk. Until the age of 3 years, infants do not require more than 16 ounces 473.18 mL of milk a given day
  • Try to break the break the servings of milk into 2 or 4 smaller feedings, in a soft beaker or cup with a lid. Smaller feedings will enable the body to accept the change in the digestion
  • Do not treat cow’s milk as or a substitute to breast/formula milk. It is a supplement – you can continue to breast feed the baby and give cow’s milk as well
  • If you find it difficult to make your baby drink cow’s milk, you could try mixing a little amount of cow’s milk in formula or breast milk and feed her. In this case, you can increase the amount of cow’s milk in her feeds slowly and gradually till she becomes used to the taste
  • Do not make it too sweet by adding too much sugar. Sugar will make the milk sweet, but will also give her empty calories. Try feeding her milk that is at room temperature

Cow's Milk

Can Cow’s Milk Cause Constipation?

Though many researches have been conducted on the subject, yet there has been no definite conclusion. You might notice that your baby does not pass stools as frequently after been introducing to cow’s milk, however, babies can actually suffer from constipation whenever they are introduced to a new diet plan. New foods or milk can change your baby’s poo schedule, so unless it is a huge gap, you should not worry about it. Also, once your baby’s digestive system matures, she will absorb more and more of nutrients from her diet, thus not generating enough waste. Read more about Infant Constipation here

My Baby Refuses Cow’s Milk!

So your little one does not like the taste of cow’s milk making you wonder how will she get her calcium for stronger teeth and bones? If the baby refuses to have cow’s milk, you may consider supplementing her diet with add other dairy products to her diet like yoghurt, paneer, milkshakes, cottage cheese etc. You can also try mixing a bit of cow’s milk into her cereal and other foods, including breast and formula milk, increasing the quantity gradually. If your baby still does not like cow’s milk, look for alternative sources of calcium that also have vitamin D.

Should I Give My Baby Whole Milk Or Low Fat Milk?

Essential vitamins like A and D are found in fat, hence it is safe to start your baby with whole milk. Whole milk also helps your baby to gain weight normally and provides energy to the baby. Nonfat or skimmed milk may make the baby miss out on essential nutrients, and can also be heavy to digest. The only possible exception being your family has a history of obesity. After the age of two, low fat milk should be started. Cow’s milk is good source of calcium, vitamins, magnesium, protein etc. Calcium is very necessary for bones and teeth development. If your baby gets sufficient calcium, she is on low risk of high blood pressure, cancer and stroke in future. As per American Academy of pediatrics (AAP), 2-3 cups of milk in a day is sufficient for the baby. If the baby takes more than three cups of milk in a day, she might not feel hungry and may miss out other essential nutrients presented in various food items. Toddler Nutrition Guide

However, never give your baby ‘raw’ or unpasteurized milk as they can contain harmful bacteria and parasites.
Drinking milk

Cow Milk Allergies In Baby

Allergic reaction to cows’ milk may be observed in some infants, although the ratio is only 2-3%, which generally is overcome by kids about the time they reach the age of 3. Most children who have cow milk based formula milk or even breast milk are not allergic to cow’s milk, unless the mother avoided all diary and the baby has not been exposed to the complex. If your baby was put on a hypo allergic or soy milk, do check with the doctor before giving her cow’s milk. Common symptoms of milk allergy are:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea and Vomiting
  • Hives
  • Rashes around the mouth and the chin
  • A runny nose with a cough and constant wheezing

If your toddler exhibits any of these symptoms after drinking cow’s milk, you must speak to her pediatrician. If she develops breathing issues, take her to the nearest emergency center. The breathing system could have been affected by the milk allergy. In such a case, do take the doctor’s opinion on feeding milk and other dairy products to the baby.