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Breast Milk Vs Cow’s milk: What’s Best For Your Baby’s “Happy Tummy” In The First Year

The whole motherly experience can surely be quite overwhelming for any new mom. Among all the common worries of a new mom, remains the age-old question that which milk provides the best nutrition for the baby. To decide on a specific one between breast milk and cow’s milk, we must consider evaluating different criteria such as nutritional composition, digestibility, etc. Even though animal milk seems completely harmless, it may not be the best one to choose if your baby is less than a year old.

Nutritional composition

The nutritional composition of breast milk and cow’s milk vary significantly to cater to the different needs of both human babies and calves respectively.

1. Protein:

The protein content in cow’s milk is much more than that in human breast milk. As babies need much less protein than a calf would right after their birth, giving them cow’s milk which is loaded with proteins may not be a good idea, as the high protein can strain their immature kidneys.

2. Carbohydrates:

Breast milk consists of 6.9-7.2% carbohydrates, majorly Lactose, that provides the energy and calories required for the growth and development of brain and central nervous system in babies. Lactose also keeps your little one’s tummy healthy by promoting the growth of good bacteria. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, consists of 5% carbohydrates..

3. Fat:

According to an NCBI report, fats or lipids provide 50% of the calories in both human and cow milk. But both the milks contain different types of fats. Breast milk contains more amounts of linoleic acid, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (which are important for babies) whereas cow’s milk contains more of saturated fats.

In humans, during the first year, development of brain, nerves and spinal cord takes place faster than body development which requires a good amount of polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids such as Arachidonic Acid (AA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) etc. Unlike cow’s milk, these essential fats are present in appropriate amounts in breast milk thereby aiding to the growth and development of your little one.


According to NCBI, the whey to casein protein ratio of breast milk and whole cow’s milk is 60:40 and 18:82 respectively. Whey proteins are easily digestible and contain antibodies, lactoferrin and lysozyme that makes your baby’s immune system stronger. Casein proteins are complex molecules that make it harder for infants to digest the milk, due to which, higher casein content makes cow’s milk unsuitable for babies.

Growth Promoting Nutrients

Breastmilk is your baby’s source of vitamins which regulate metabolism, immunity and tissue repair. It also is a source of essential minerals like iron for brain development, and calcium for healthy bone and tooth growth. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is low in Vitamin C, which can reduce the absorption of iron by your baby’s body.

Therefore, it is highly advisable to not introduce cow’s milk until your baby turns at least 12 months. Breast milk is undoubtedly the best option for your baby which will not only provide all the required nutrients in appropriate amounts but will boost their immune system, and help keep your little one’s tummy healthy and happy during this delicate stage.

Disclaimer: All the information provided in the blog is for reference purposes only. Please do not consider this as a medical advice. Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child.

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