When, how much and what kind? Milk is a hot topic with parents and caregivers, especially when their baby is transitioning from breastmilk or formula. Some of these Moms have toddlers that can’t tolerate whole or homogenized milk because of a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, so they are turning to milk alternatives to fulfil their little one’s milk needs. Unfortunately, these milks don’t provide enough nutrition. And to make things even more confusing for these poor Moms, there are many misleading theories and opinions out there on this subject.
Here’s what you need to know:
It is safe to introduce cow’s milk between the ages of 9- 12 months of age (but I recommend waiting until 12 months. There are a few reasons why you should think twice about introducing too much before that. First, the proteins present in fluid milk are hard for babies to tolerate and digest. Also, milk contains too much sodium potassium and chloride which can tax your baby’s kidneys. It also lacks important vitamins and minerals such as iron, Vitamin E and Zinc. Your baby would be at a higher risk for iron deficiency anemia and if your baby drinks too much cow’s milk, he or she is also at a risk for internal bleeding. That being said, once your baby reaches about 12 months, his or her digestive tract is mature enough to handle milk and reap the many nutrition benefits from it. It’s a nutrition powerhouse full of protein, carbohydrates, calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A. Milk is key not only for energy as well as tissue growth, but also for building strong bones and teeth and regulating muscle control.
When baby turns one…
At a year of age, I encourage Moms to continue breastfeeding if they are already, even with the introduction of cow’s milk. If your baby is on formula, you can slowly transition to homogenized cow’s milk (assuming your baby doesn’t have a milk allergy) at one year. You don’t want rush this transition because your baby’s digestive system needs time to adapt to the new proteins and other nutrients present in fluid milk. Start with 1-2 tbsp a day and slowly increase this amount until fully transitioned. Again, you can continue to breastfeed as long as possible. Your baby should be having 2-3 cups (16-24 oz) of milk per day until the age of 2 and then should decrease down to 2 cups max. (16 oz). If your baby is still nursing, he or she may not need as much.
Milk should be offered in a cup or sippy cup preferably at meals. Offer water freely in between meals. Even though it may be a tough transition, try to encourage cups and not bottles (eek, I know it’s hard, trust me!), especially after 15 months of age.
What about other milks?
You don’t want to feed your baby reduced-fat or fat-free milk because your baby NEEDS the fat for proper growth and development until the age of two. You also don’t want to feed your baby soy milk, rice milk, almond milk or any other milk alternative until the age of two. These milks often do not contain enough calories, protein or fat for a growing toddler.
What if my baby has a milk allergy or lactose intolerance?
If your baby is allergic to milk or lactose intolerant, you may want to consider keeping your baby on formula or a follow-up formula until the age of 2 to ensure proper nutrition. There are soy varieties or hydrolyzed protein/ hypoallergenic varieties out there for babies with allergies or intolerances. You should offer the same quantity as you would cow’s milk.
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