While cows’ milk used to be given to babies ‘straight up’ by mothers (many of whom are our own parents) only a few years ago, more recent research now advises against introducing it to your baby unless they are a year old.
One of the reasons that experts recommend that cow’s milk only be introduced to baby from 12 months is because that many are concerned that moms will use cows’ milk (or soy, goat’s milk or rice milk) to replace breast milk or formula, both of which are nutritionally superior for young babies. If that is the case babies run the risk of developing anaemia given that cows’ milk prevents the absorption of iron, which is essential for your baby’s development.
Another reason is that cows’ milk is high in both potassium and sodium, which are not well tolerated by immature kidneys when consumed in large quantities. The reason why cheese and yoghurt are safe to introduce from 6 months is because both are easier to digest than cow’s milk.
From a year, whole milk can be introduced as a drink provided your baby was not on soy or hypoallergenic formula. Cow’s milk can be viewed as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods around; fatty acids, carbohydrates, all essential amino acids (the body’s building blocks that can only be derived from food), calcium, vitamins B2 and B12 and phosphorous. Goat’s milk is similar nutritionally to cow’s milk, while soy milk and rice milk are little less nutritionally beneficial but healthy alternatives nonetheless.
As long as cows’ milk (or any other milk) is in no way, being used to replace either formula or breast milk, it is safe to include pasteurised milk, in small amounts in meals for your little one (provided that your baba or you/your partner are not lactose intolerant). For more information on lactose intolerance read further on my Lactose Intolerance 101 post.
In the meantime, a splash of milk, other than breast or formula, in baby’s cereal, scrambled eggs, desserts or even in veggies will do no harm – in fact, getting baby used to as many things as possible when they are little is the best way to pave the way for an easy-going eater.
*This information should never replace the advice from your paediatrician, nurse or GP.