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.
Babies should receive breast milk and/or formula as their main source of “drink” until they are 12 months 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 cow’s milk. You see whole cow milk does not contain enough nutrients, vitamins or minerals to adequately and properly sustain an infant’s growth.
“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.” (AAP)
Whole Cow’s Milk Is Not Recommended for Baby for the Following Reasons:
- Compared to breast milk and formula, whole cow’s milk is low in iron, lineoleic acid and Vitamin E
- Cow’s milk has too much sodium, potassium, chloride and protein for little kidneys to handle
- Early introduction to cows milk may cause microscopic gastrointestinal bleeding and blood loss in up to 40% of normal infants (this risk mostly disappears after 12 months)
- Cow’s milk may cause an allergic reaction, approximately 0.3 to 7.5% of all children are affected
- Cows milk consumption before 1 years of age has been linked to iron deficiency anemia in children
Cow’s milk and iron deficiency anemia
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. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics also does not recommend giving babies whole milk until at least one year of age.
“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.
When can babies have skim milk?
Children under the age of two should not be given low-fat (1%, 2% or skim) milk products. Lucky babies, babies need all the fat they can get for proper brain development. Pediatricians recommend you switching your baby to low-fat, 1%, 2% and skim milk products at about 2 years of age.
More Resources and Learning on Giving Milk to Babies
- U.S. National Library of Medicine- Cow’s milk for Infants
- American Pediatrics the Use of Whole Cow’s Milk In Infancy
- Consumption of cow’s milk as a cause of iron deficiency in infants and toddlers
- Mayo Clinic – Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents