Is Cow’s Milk Good for Babies?


Many parents often are not sure if cow’s milk is okay for babies. But what suits the digestive system of a calf might not suite a baby.

Read on to know what the experts have to say, and why.

Can I give my baby cow’s milk for the first 12 months of life?

The answer is no. Even though cow’s milk might seem to be an easy substitute to breast milk, but the reality is far from it. Cow’s milk contains levels of proteins and minerals that are higher than what a baby’s immature kidneys can handle, causing strain on the kidneys, which could result in diarrhoea. Moreover cow’s milk is also low in iron, Vitamin C and other nutrients that are really important for a growing infant. Cow’s milk can also affect the lining of the stomach and intestine, leading to bloody stools, which could also trigger iron-deficiency anaemia in babies. So the effect of cow milk is not good and the fat in cow’s milk is not the healthiest form for growing infants.

What do the experts recommend?

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), cow’s milk should not be provided if your child is less than 1 year of age. Only breast milk should be given to the baby for the first 6 months of life and can be continued till 12 months of life. You can add solid foods to the baby’s diet after the age of 6 months.

Can I give cow’s milk to my baby after one year of age?

Yes, you can give whole cow’s milk once your baby is one year old, only as long as he/she is on a balanced diet of solid foods including vegetables, fruits, meats and cereals. Restrict the consumption of milk to less than 1 litre or a maximum of 4 cups every day. But it should be noted that whole cow’s milk can be introduced slowly to a baby over 12 months of age by mixing it with breast milk, increasing the amount of cow’s milk every time. Raw cow’s milk that has not been pasteurised (a process that kills the harmful bacteria) should be avoided, as it can make your baby very sick.

Conclusion: Cow Milk for Babies Is Not Ideal

For newborns and infants, breast milk is the ideal food, not cow’s milk. It provides all the nutrients they require for healthy growth and development. It also protects your baby from childhood illness as it is enriched with antibodies that protect against illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Moreover, breast milk is readily available and affordable.