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When Can I Give Cow's Milk To My Baby?

There is an ongoing debate about when you should introduce cow’s milk to your infant. Few parents believe that it is alright to feed cow’s milk to their baby along with solid foods. According to the WHO, babies must be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their life. After this, parents may introduce semi-solid foods, but breast milk should continue to be their main source of nutrition until their first birthday.

When To Introduce Cow’s Milk To Infants

It is best to wait one year before you introduce your baby to cow’s milk. For the first 6 months of their life, it is important to stick to breast milk and until their first birthday, it is best to avoid introducing cow’s milk, goat’s milk and soy milk. If you introduce cow’s milk to your baby before 12 months, it can cause digestive problems for your little one’s delicate tummy.

After the 6 month mark, you can start offering a spoonful of solid food puree to your baby but breast milk should still be the only milk they get.

Why It Is Harmful To Introduce Cow Milk To Infants Under 12 Months

There are several risks that come along with offering cow’s milk early on:

- Your baby’s digestive system may not be fully equipped to digest the kind of proteins present in cow’s milk yet.

- The iron content in cow’s milk is very low and this can cause iron deficiency anemia.

- According to NCBI, it can also lead to loss of blood from the gastrointestinal tract in both early and late infancy.

- It has high levels of complex minerals such as sodium and potassium. These minerals are excreted through the kidneys. A high level of these minerals thus puts a strain on the developing kidneys of the baby.

- Introducing cow’s milk too early can increase the risk of diabetes in the long term.

How To Introduce Cow’s Milk To Infants After 1 Year

Once your baby has turned one, you can start including cow’s milk in their diet. Some babies may take time to adjust to the taste of cow’s milk since they are so used to breast milk. You can try mixing breast milk with a bit of cow’s milk and then offer it to them with the help of a spoon or a paladai.

Gradually, you can increase the cow’s milk to breast milk ratio in the feedings until you wean them off completely. It is recommended that you breastfeed your baby as long as you are able to, and in case you are not, speak to your pediatrician for alternatives that are just as tummy friendly and nutritious.

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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