Cow's milk for infants and children
Cow's milk is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children under 1 year old. Infants fed whole cow's milk don't get enough vitamin E, iron, and essential fatty acids. They also get too much protein, sodium, and potassium. These levels may be too high for the infant's system to handle. Also, whole cow's milk protein and fat are more difficult for an infant to digest and absorb.
For the best infant nutrition, pick the right milk source and eventually introduce the infant to solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula during the first 12 months of life. Between ages 4 - 6 months, certain solid foods may be added. Breast milk or iron-fortified formula, along with age-appropriate solid foods and juices during the first year of life, provides more balanced nutrition.
Almost all babies and infants do well on these formulas, if they are used. Fussiness and colic are common problems. Most of the time, cow's milk formulas are not the cause of these symptoms and switching to a different formula is not needed.
Iron-fortified infant formula or breast milk should be used until a child is 1 year old. Children age 1 and older should only be given whole milk, NOT skim or reduced fat milk.
Low-fat milk is not the answer for an overweight baby. The best diet is the same as that of a normal weight infant; the only difference is in the amount. Talk to a registered dietitian or doctor about your child's diet. Slightly reducing calories will allow the infant to "grow into his weight" without a rapid change in body fat. Rapid weight loss can be dangerous, particularly in a small child. Reducing fat too much might not leave enough energy stores for the infant to fight a serious illness. Many doctors question the serious, unknown consequences of a rapid loss of fat.
Suggested Dairy Intake for Babies and Toddlers
- None for infants 0-3 months
- None for infants 4-5 months
- None for infants 6-8 months
- Small servings for infants 9-12 months
- 20 - 24 oz. whole milk for toddlers 1-2 years
See also: Infant formulas
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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