Why do experts recommend waiting to introduce cow's milk till a baby is 12 months old?
There are many reasons to delay the introduction of cow's milk till your baby reaches her first birthday. Babies cannot digest cow's milk as easily as b****t milk or formula. Moreover, cow's milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals which can tax your baby's immature kidneys. In addition, cow's milk does not have the right amount of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients for infants. It may also cause iron deficiency anemia in some babies, since cow's milk protein can irritate the lining of the digestive system, leading to blood in the stools. Cow's milk does not provide the healthiest type of fat for growing babies.
Once your child is ready to digest it, milk becomes an important part of his diet. It is a rich source of calcium, and it can build strong bones and teeth, and it also helps to regulate blood clotting and muscle control. It is one of the few sources of vitamin D, and it helps the body absorb calcium and is also crucial for bone growth. Mostly all milk in the U.S is fortified with vitamin D. Ultraviolet rays are another source, but they are blocked by sunscreen.
Milk also provides protein for growth, as well as carbohydrates which will give all the energy to your child which he needs. If your child gets enough calcium from the get-go, then there is evidence that he will have a lower risk of high blood pressure, colon cancer, stroke and hip fractures later in life.
How much milk should my toddler drink?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most kids will get calcium and vitamin D if they drink around 16 to 20 ounces, which is 2 to 2 1/2 cups of cow's milk in a day. You should offer a one year old whole milk, unless they are at a high risk of obesity.
You should not offer more than 3 cups of milk in a day or your child will not be able to eat the other foods that she needs to round her diet. If your child is thirsty, you should give her water.
Can I give my child fat free or reduced fat milk?
In most cases you should not. The AAP recommends whole milk for one year old children. Children at this age need higher fat content of whole milk in order to maintain normal weight gain and it can also help the body absorb vitamins A and D. Nonfat milk provides too high concentration of protein and minerals for children at this age. Once your child is two years old, you may decide to switch him to reduce fat or non fat milk, as long as he is growing well.
If you are overweight or obese, or you have a family history of obesity, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, then your child's doctor may recommend giving him reduced fat milk which is 2 percent after he completes one year.
My toddler does not seem to want cow's milk. What tricks should I try?
Some toddlers greedily have cow's milk. But because milk has a different taste, texture, and even temperature than b****t milk, some kids hesitate in order to make the switch.
If that is the case with your toddler, then you should mix milk with b****t milk or formula at first. You can try mixing one part milk and three parts of her usual stuff. Then you can start shifting the ratio slowly till she drinks 100 percent milk. You can also try serving milk at room temperature.
If your child does not care for milk, then meeting the minimum requirements of 2 cups can be a challenge for you. But there are many ways to get milk into your child's diet. You can add it to her cereal. You can serve yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese, custard or shakes for snacks. You can make soup with milk instead of water. You can also add milk based sauce or gravy to casseroles.
What if my child does not like any dairy products? What if he has an allergy or if we are vegans?
If your child is not getting enough calcium and vitamin D from milk and other dairy products, then it can be because he cannot tolerate them, or your family is vegan. Your pediatrician will recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Should I buy organic or hormone free milk for my child?
There is no evidence that these kinds of milk are better for children, but there is no harm in them. Organic milk is more expensive. You should read more on growth hormones in milk and organic foods in order to make a decision.
The AAP says that you should not give your child raw or unpasteurized milk. Without pasteurization, milk may contain harmful bacteria or parasites which can cause serious illness or even death.
Could my child have milk allergy?
True allergies to cow's milk are uncommon. Only 2 to 3 percent of children are allergic to milk, according to the AAP, and most of them outgrow it by the age of 3. You should know the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergy.
If your child drank cow's milk based formula as a baby without any problems, then you can be assured that she will have no problems tolerating regular cow's milk. Babies who were exclusively breastfed for the first year can handle regular cow's milk as they have been exposed to cow's milk protein in their mother's milk, unless their mother avoided all dairy.
If your child drank soy formula because your doctor recommended it, you should check with your doctor before you start giving her cow's milk. Your doctor will recommend that you start with a soy beverage which has been fortified with vitamin D and calcium. The main symptoms of milk allergy are blood in the stool, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your child has eczema, hives, a rash around the mouth and chin, chronic nasal stuffiness, cough, a runny nose, wheezing or breathing difficulties, then it could be a sign that the respiratory system is getting affected by milk allergy. If your toddler develops any of these symptoms, then you should speak to her doctor.
If your child appears to have severe and sudden problems with swallowing or breathing, then you should take her to the nearest emergency room. She could be having a life threatening allergic reaction.
If it turns out that your toddler is allergic to cow's milk, you will have to be careful and avoid foods such as cottage cheese, condensed or evaporated milk, yogurt, ice cream, margarine which contains milk, milk chocolate, butter, and powdered milk. The law passed in 2004 says that all allergens must clearly be marked on food products, so in this case, the label will say "milk".