Babies should not be introduced to whole cow milk, as a drink, prior to the age of 12 months.
Dairy - Whole Milk - is not recommended for babies under 12 months of age. Learn why babies should not drink whole milk prior to 1 year of age.
Introducing dairy products is often a source of confusion for parents. Many pediatricians will tell parents "no dairy until age 1 year" and neglect to go into further detail. This "no dairy until 12 months" rule is really targeted to whole milk. You see whole cow milk does not contain enough nutrients, vitamins or minerals to adequately and properly sustain an infant's growth.
Babies should receive breast milk and/or formula as their main source of "drink" until they are 12 months of age.
“Infants fed whole cow's milk receive inadequate amounts of Vitamin E, iron, essential fatty acids, and excessive amounts of protein, sodium, and potassium. These levels may be too high for the infant's system to handle."
Indeed, prior to the age of 1 year old, consumption of a lot of dairy products may put baby at risk for iron deficient anemia. Milk impedes the proper absorption of iron and iron is one thing that an infant can not afford to have cut down or cut out of the diet. Additionally, whole cow's milk protein and fat are more difficult for an infant to digest and absorb.
"The most dramatic effects are on iron levels in the body. Recent studies show infants often have depleted levels when started on cow's milk at six months of age." MerckSource Dairy Facts - Infants
Did you know that Toddlers aged 1 year through 2 years do not need as much milk/dairy as you may think.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that 16 ounces of whole milk per day is all your toddler will need. Calcium for Infants & Toddlers (AAP). It is thought that more than 16 ounces of milk per day may put an toddler at risk for anemia as well as nutrient displacement - a toddler who consumes too much milk will most likely not be eating all the whole foods that he needs.
Remember, always consult with your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.