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Cow's milk for infants and children

Recommendations

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 - 2 who are risk of being overweight should get reduced-fat milk

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


Review Date: 12/9/2010
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine (8/2/2009)
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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