Why can’t you give cow’s milk for baby until one year as a main drink?
You have been hearing a lot from various sources about “no cow’s milk for babies until one year”. Do you know the scientific reason behind this?
Let’s talk in detail about this in today’s post.
You might have seen many parents starting cow’s milk for their baby just because of the pressure from elders. What they don’t understand is the baby doesn’t need anything other than breast milk or formula for the first 6 months.
Such babies who are introduced to cow’s milk often have low immunity, loose motions, cough, cold and frequent ear infections.
Why no cow’s milk for babies less than 1 year old?
Giving cow’s milk to a baby before a year is controversial among experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no cow’s milk until the child’s first birthday.
Some of the reasons for this are as mentioned below.
- Large amounts of protein
Cow’s milk contains large amount of proteins called Caseine. These excessive proteins in cow’s milk are harder to digest by babies. It often causes intestinal blood loss and can overload baby’s kidneys.
- Causes lactose intolerance
Lactose is the sugar found in the cow’s milk. It is digested by an enzyme called lactase.
The amount of lactase produced in a baby’s body is suitable only to digest the breast milk. When cow’s milk is introduced to babies, it’s not digested properly.
The lactose present in the cow’s milk stays in the baby’s intestine. The bacteria present in the gut try to break down the lactose producing large amounts of hydrogen gas and lactic acid. This is commonly referred to as lactose intolerance.
Common symptoms of lactose intolerance are abdominal pain, crankiness, bloating of tummy, diarrhea and red nappy rashes.
- Large amounts of potassium and sodium
Cow’s milk as a main drink is not ideal for babies below 1 year. The high levels of potassium and sodium in cow’s milk can often results in loose motions, allergies, rashes on the cheeks.
- Iron deficiency / anemia
Cow’s milk doesn’t contain enough iron required for baby. Hence if a baby is provided cow’s milk instead of breast milk or formula before he turns one, he is more likely to be anemic.
- Causes blood in poop
Cow’s milk can irritate the lining of the digestive system of babies. This often results in blood stains in baby’s poop.
- Ear infections
Cow’s milk poses as allergy to many babies. Babies can develop frequent ear infections due to this allergy.
- Lacks important nutrients
Cow’s milk does not contain enough amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and other nutrients required for the initial years of a baby’s growth.
- Causes allergies
Babies under a year are more prone to allergic reactions.
Allergy happens when your baby’s immune system reacts to milk proteins mistakenly thinking it as a foreign body. This is the most common childhood allergy. Most children outgrow this by the age of 4 or 5.
Symptoms of allergy may occur within minutes or several hours or a day or several days after drinking cow’s milk. Common symptoms of cow’s milk allergy are diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, eczema, hives, rashes and vomiting.
In certain cases, introducing cow’s milk before 1 year, may also lead to a condition known as Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus.
Why cheese and butter are ok for babies for babies below 1 year?
Most of the experts consider butter and cheese to be okay for most babies after 6 months. A few prefer waiting until 9-12 months.
Let’s see why cheese, butter and other dairy products can be given to babies less than 1 year old.
In the cheese-making process, the whey proteins are drained off and the casein protein will remain. The curdling enzymes break down the casein proteins into smaller protein molecules which can be easily digested by babies.
For those who cannot consume cheese can have butter because much of the milk proteins have been removed. Butter is comprised primarily of butter fat.
Ghee is basically pure butter oil, which is much less likely to cause dairy intolerance symptoms.
During the ghee making process, the milk solids are almost entirely removed leaving the healthy butter fats behind. It is the best one which does not cause any allergic reactions.
Like butter, ghee can also be started for babies from 6th month in porridges and khichdi.
The main difference between yogurt and milk is that the lactose in yogurt has been converted into lactic acid.
The whole milk yogurt is better for babies and toddlers. Please avoid low fat and no fat dairy products for babies.
Yogurt can be started for babies from 8th month on wards.
You can blend in fruits like banana, mango to make fruit smoothies at home too. Do not introduce store bought flavoured yoghurt which is loaded with lots of sugars, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
If baby has cow’s milk allergy or there is a strong history of allergy to cow’s milk in the family, cheese, butter and other dairy products should be avoided until one year or later.
Quantity of cow’s milk to be given after 1 year:
After a year, cow’s milk can be introduced. It’s recommended to limit the amount of cow’s milk by 2-3 cups per day.
Too much cow’s milk in a kid’s diet can put them at risk for iron-deficiency or anemia. It is because milk can interfere with the absorption of iron and decrease the child’s desire for other foods.
Always make it a point to introduce cow’s milk as the main drink after your baby’s first birthday. You can add small amounts of cow’s milk in porridges and mashes after your baby reaches 11 months.
Your baby doesn’t need cow’s milk for his growth in the initial years as formula or breast milk does the needful. You can give cheese, butter, ghee and yogurt though.
Always remember you should seek your baby’s doctor’s or dietician’s opinion before introducing cow’s milk or any other dairy products if there is a strong family history of cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance.
Did you start cow’s milk for your baby before or after his first birthday? Kindly share with me in comments.