Having a baby can be one of the most magical experiences ever, you will be elated as a new mother. However, it is also a time wrought with doubt and worry. It is normal for new parents to have questions about how to care for their little ones. Gradually, babies start on solids and parents are worried if they are eating right. Also, many parents wish to supplement the child’s diet with cow milk. So is cow milk for babies a good choice?
There is no denying that cow milk is rich with several nutritional benefits for even adults and teenagers. But even the most experienced mothers are unsure about whether or not they can give cow milk to infants and toddlers.
This article sheds some light on questions if cow milk can be given to infants and when is the right time to introduce the same.
When Can Babies Be Introduced To Cow’s Milk?
You may be wondering when to start cow milk for babies. It is highly recommended by the experts to wait until the first birthday of the baby to introduce cow’s milk as the main drink. On the other hand, using a small amount of cow’s milk (like one or two tablespoons) while cooking solids from the seventh or eighth month is usually fine.
Also, you can feed your baby curd, paneer, and mild cheese in limited quantities from seven to eight months onwards.
However, cow milk as the main drink can trigger many health issues in babies who have not celebrated their first birthday. It is commonly seen that cow’s milk potentially irritates the inner lining of the intestine of babies under one year causing bloody stools.
What Are the Benefits Of Cow Milk For Babies?
Cow milk is known for being rich in several nutrients like calcium and iron. It also contains a lot of vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium by the body. It also contains a sizable amount of carbohydrates and proteins, both of which are essential for the proper growth and development of the body.
But what exactly does all this mean for the baby? Here are a few benefits of cow milk that show you how cow milk can be good for your little one.
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1. Cow milk enhances bone health in babies
With it being rich in calcium and vitamin D, it is probably no surprise that cow milk encourages bone health in babies. Cow milk strengthens the baby’s bones and fulfills the daily need for calcium.
2. Muscle health
Since cow milk is a rich source of protein, it can play a critical role in the health and well-being of the baby. One of its functions is the growth and development of muscles.
3. Rich source of Vitamin B
Cow milk is packed with B vitamins. These vitamins are vital for a healthy nervous system and ensure the proper functioning of the brain.
4. Maintains blood pressure
Milk contains several nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and a special protein called bioactive peptides. These nutrients help to maintain healthy blood pressure, and can even benefit the circulatory system as a whole.
5. Cow milk aids physical growth and development
Giving cow milk to babies helps them develop physically as well as mentally. In fact, studies show that children (of age 2-6) who drink cow milk are more likely to grow taller than children who drink other types of milk.
6. Development of nervous system
Phospholipids and glycosphingolipids are lipids that are vital for the growth of nerve cells. They also aid in neonatal brain development. These lipids are present in cow’s milk.
Risks and Precautions To Take When Feeding Cow Milk To Babies
While giving cow milk to babies can be very beneficial, there are also some risks you need to watch out for.
Here are a few cow milk risks for babies.
1. Milk allergy
Having an allergic reaction is one of the major risks associated with giving cow milk to babies. According to kids’ health,about 2%–3% of babies under 3 years are found to have a milk allergy. Even though the majority of them outgrow the allergy over a period, it is one of the risks one should not overlook while introducing cow milk to a one-year-old.
Some of the signs of cow milk allergy you should look for after the first time introducing cow milk for babies are:
- Skin hives
- Signs of stomach pain
- Watery eyes
- Trouble breathing
To avoid triggering an allergic reaction, always follow the three-day rule and also introduce cow milk in small sips and look for any signs of allergic reaction. If not, you can gradually increase the quantity.
Milk allergy is not as same as lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a condition that lasts lifelong. It is very rare in babies.
It is also found that babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing a milk allergy when compared to formula-fed babies.
2. Heart conditions
Cow milk is a rich source of saturated fat and cholesterol. So, if the baby has a family history of early heart attacks and other heart diseases, you should avoid cow milk and its products. If you must give the child milk, giving them skim milk of 1% milk can reduce the risk, but even that should only be after they are 2 years old.
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3. Intestinal bleeding
As mentioned above, giving milk to a baby who is too young can sometimes have such an effect. Giving milk to a baby younger than 1 year can cause blood from the lining of their intestine to leak. This can cause bloody stool. It can also lead to iron deficiency or anemia.
4. Lactose intolerance
Milk contains a special sugar known as lactose. Many people, both children, and adults suffer from lactose intolerance, which causes diarrhea or bloating when they consume milk and milk products.
If your baby is lactose intolerant, giving them cow milk can cause these side effects. However, it can be avoided if you add lactase drops to the milk. It will help the baby properly digest lactose. The best person to guide you in such a case is the doctor.
How To Introduce Cow Milk To Babies?
Cow milk is something that should be introduced to the baby slowly and gradually, at the right time. It can be difficult to know exactly how to go through it. If you are in such a situation, here are a few tips on how to introduce cow milk to babies.
- Give it separately – The first time you give cow milk to your child, make sure you offer it in a separate cup, without mixing it with any food item or ingredient This way, your baby will adjust to the taste. You can also use this time to observe your baby for any side effects.
- Start small – Start by only giving a few sips or spoons of cow milk to your baby. Let them get used to the taste. Then, you may slowly start increasing the amount and the frequency, as they develop a liking to the milk
- Integrate with meals – Once the baby starts liking cow milk, and you have made sure they experience no side effects, you can start using cow milk as an accompanying beverage to other meals. This will help to meet the daily requirement of calcium and other nutrients
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What Type Of Cow Milk Is Best For Babies?
So what should you consider when buying cow milk for your baby? As you may be already aware, some kinds of milk are not good for the baby, while some may be beneficial. So, it is important to take some things into account when buying cow milk for babies.
· Go for fortified cow milk for baby
Adding more nutrients to a substance to enhance its nutritional value is known as a fortification. As this is beneficial for the baby, choose fortified cow milk, especially milk fortified with vitamin D.
· Milk which is pasteurized and sterilized
Sterilization gets rid of all the harmful microorganisms in milk. Pasteurization is also almost as effective. So buy sterilized milk, and if it is unavailable, buy pasteurized cow milk for babies.
· Opt for whole cow milk for babies
Skimmed and low-fat milk are not enough to meet the daily fat requirements of a baby. They also contain a lot of sodium, chloride, potassium, and protein, which can be too much for the baby’s kidneys to handle. So, make sure you choose whole milk.
· Toned Milk
If the baby has a family history of obesity or is overweight, some doctors recommend giving the baby toned milk instead of whole milk.
Is Packaged Cow Milk Safe for Babies?
Packaged cow milk or tetra-packed milk is available in just about any market or shop. So you may be wondering if it is safe to give it to your little one. If so, you can put your mind at rest.
Packaged milk is considered safe to give babies, after their first birthday. However, choose a good brand. Tetra pack milk is pasteurized and fortified with vital minerals and nutrients. It is also hygienic and the risk of contamination is much low. Moreover, it is very convenient if you are traveling with your baby. The fact that it does not need to be boiled is also very useful.
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While buying tetra-packed milk read the label carefully and make sure that the “best before” date is a long time away.
What happens if you give a baby cow’s milk too early?
Cow’s milk is no substitute for mother’s milk, and it is not wise to introduce it to a baby who is younger than one year. The baby will not be able to get enough nutrients from cow’s milk. These nutrients include iron, so substituting breast milk or formula with cow’s milk can lead to anemia.
Babies who are introduced to cow milk too early are also more likely to develop a milk allergy.
Cow milk is more difficult to digest than breast milk or formula milk. So, feeding it to the baby may cause irritation in their intestine that causes bleeding. In addition, the high concentration of various minerals and proteins is often too much for the baby’s kidneys to handle.
Introducing cow milk to a baby is a big decision. You need to consider several factors beforehand. Remember: every child is different. With proper research and a consultation with the doctor (if needed), you can safely introduce cow milk to your baby.
Be sure to watch out for any potential allergies or side effects. Starting your baby on any new food or drink should be a slow, gradual process. Once it’s done, though, there are several benefits your baby can enjoy!
While giving cow milk to babies can be very beneficial, you also have to make sure you don’t give them too much. Giving the baby the right amount, at the right time, will provide them with several essential nutrients.
If you give your baby more milk then it can reduce their hunger for solid food. It will also result in them not receiving enough nutrients. Hence, it is advised a baby, after the age of one, is given at least 350 ml and at most 400 ml of milk each day.
It depends on the milk you are using. If the milk is packaged, and either sterilized or pasteurized, there is no need to boil it. However, if it is not, you must boil it before giving it to your baby. If you are unsure, boil it just to be on the safe side. Giving raw cow milk for babies can be deadly as it can contain several pathogens.
When boiling, ensure you do not boil it for more than 3 minutes, as boiling for too long makes it lose its nutrients
While cow’s milk can sometimes cause constipation, it doesn’t happen all the time. If your baby gets constipated every time they drink cow milk, it could be a sign they are allergic.
1. Whole milk or full cream milk: Do not give your child skimmed milk. They require the fats present in cow milk. You can give them whole milk after they turn one year old.
2. Semi-toned milk: If your child is of a healthy weight and has a healthy diet, you can give them semi-toned milk from the age of two. Do not give it to them if they are younger than two, or underweight.
3. Double toned milk: This, too, is not recommended for children below the age of two, due to the low amount of calories and other nutrients.
Generally, it is best to give your baby whole milk, unless they are overweight. The packaged milk you choose for your baby depends on their age, weight, and sometimes, family history. If you doubt this, you can consult your pediatrician and decide if you want to try another type of milk.