Babies under 12 months of age should drink breast milk or infant formula — not cow’s milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, is cow’s milk dangerous for young children?
Dr Jae Kim, Director of the Department of Neonatology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told Live Science that breast milk is made specifically for babies, while cow’s milk is actually for calves. Thus, cow’s milk contains the protein difficult for babies to digest and lack important vitamins and minerals, such as iron, that babies need to grow. Although infant formula is made from cow’s milk, manufacturers remove the proteins and alter them before adding them back to the formula along with other essential ingredients. “The final infant formula is quite different from the milk you get,” says Kim.
Intestines, kidneys and immune system Kim says it takes time to mature before they can safely tolerate the new types and amounts of protein found in cow’s milk. The high concentrations of proteins and minerals found in cow’s milk “can stress the immature kidneys of infants and cause severe illness at times of heat stress, fever or diarrhea,” according to the report. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That’s why “we’ve actually recommended avoiding cow’s milk for the first year of life,” says Kim. While most babies over 6 months will enjoy drinking cow’s milk, the foreign protein can cause inflammation due to an allergic reaction in some babies, Kim says.
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That allergic reaction can lead to a child’s enteritis or microscopic bleeding in the lining of their intestines, according to Kim. And the lack of iron in cow’s milk can lead to anemia. Overall, it can lead to babies being unwell or not growing, he says.
This risk is lower in older children, starting at about 4 to 5 months, who eat more than just formula, Kim added. Since milk is not their only source of nutrients, they are more likely to get their full nutrients elsewhere. Plus, older children have more mature intestines, kidneys, and immune systems to tolerate new proteins. But since babies and young children only consume milk, it’s even more important that they receive a formula very carefully, like breast milk or infant formula, Kim says.
However, cow’s milk for babies under the age of 1 “is not ideal and should not become a habit”, AAP said. However, it’s a better option, “than diluting formula or making homemade formula,” according to the AAP.
Kim said. And be aware of the signs and symptoms of any inflammatory or allergic reactions, he adds. Newborns probably won’t have an immediate reaction to cow’s milk, but instead they may gradually begin to spit up or have more frequent diarrhea. Worst case scenario, there may be some blood in their stool due to colitis, an inflammation in the colon. Or they may experience swelling, especially of the face, and anemia from the loss of protein in the blood, he says.
For babies who already have an aversion to milk or who need a special formula containing only broken down proteins or amino acids, milk from milk before they are one year old may not be suitable. And plant-based milks, which are much lower in nutrients, are not a complete nutritional substitute for any baby, Kim says. But for the vast majority of babies 6 months and older, the addition of cow’s milk shouldn’t pose a problem, he says. If you’re concerned about what your child should drink, the AAP recommends talking to your pediatrician.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice.
Originally published on Live Science.
https://www.livescience.com/why-no-cows-milk-for-babies Why can’t babies drink cow’s milk?