Baby girl drinking a smoothie with cow’s milk from a sippy cup

Is There a ‘Best Time’ to Switch to Cow’s Milk?

You should make the switch only after your baby has turned one. There is a reason why you have to wait until your baby turns one before you can start introducing cow’s milk to his or her diet.

Newborns are not able to digest cow’s milk as easily and fully as breast milk and formula – that is why cow’s milk is not good for babies below the age of one.

A newborn's kidneys may not be able to process the high concentrations of protein and minerals present in cow's milk, which may result in dehydration.

In addition, cow’s milk has lower levels of iron and vitamin C than breastmilk. When moms switch to cow’s milk too early, babies may miss out on the nutrition they need.

In some babies, switching too early may lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. A condition that is caused by proteins irritating the lining of the stomach and the intestines.

Be sure to check with your doctor before introducing cow’s milk to your baby. Some babies have an allergic reaction to cow’s milk. Others have special dietary requirements.

Whole Milk, Semi-Skimmed or Skimmed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends whole milk for babies between the ages of one and two, unless they are at risk of obesity.

The high level of fat and vitamins is needed for babies to grow. If your baby is eating well, you can start introducing semi-skimmed milk after the age of two.

Avoid feeding your baby skimmed milk or non-fat milk below the age of five as these do not contain enough calories and nutrients.

Why Switch to Cow’s Milk?

At the age of one, your baby should be getting most of his nutrients from solid food. Cow’s milk is a form of solid food which your baby can take as a drink.

Moms make the switch also because cow’s milk is an easily accessible and convenient source of calcium, protein, vitamin D and riboflavin. Riboflavin is an essential B vitamin that supports the growth and development of your baby’s bones, muscles and nerves.

A healthy diet supplemented with cow’s milk gives your baby the nutrition he needs for healthy growth.

How Do I Introduce Cow’s Milk to My Baby?

Many first-time moms wonder how they should go about offering cow’s milk to their babies. Here are some common ways.

Mix cow’s milk with breast or formula milk

Introduce cow’s milk slowly to your baby by mixing it with breast milk or formula milk. Gradually increase the proportion of cow's milk in the mixture until he is drinking solely cow’s milk.

You can start with a mix of one-quarter cow’s milk to three-quarters breast milk or formula milk.

Use cow’s milk as an ingredient

Does your baby enjoy oatmeal? Cook oatmeal with milk instead of water. Does he love smoothies? Add milk. Find foods he already likes and add or mix with milk.

Both ways will help your baby slowly get used to the taste. And give his digestive system more time to adjust to the higher concentrations of milk protein and minerals.

My Baby Doesn’t Like Cow’s Milk, What Can I Do?

If your baby does not like cow’s milk or has a milk allergy, breastfeeding is a highly recommended option.

Another alternative is to feed your baby yoghurt, cheese and other high-calcium foods to meet his daily calcium requirements.

Milk and other dairy products are usually fortified with vitamin D.

Can I Continue Breastfeeding Instead?

Absolutely. If you do not want to switch to cow’s milk and prefer to continue breastfeeding, please continue to do so.

Breast milk contains just the right amount of nutrients for your baby's growth and development. Your milk production adjusts to your baby's hunger, and the composition changes to meet your growing baby's nutritional needs.

The World Health Organization recommends mothers continue breastfeeding as a source of complementary feeding for as long as desired.

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