You may have heard that cow’s milk should not be given to babies younger than one year old. This is because cow’s milk doesn’t provide enough of certain nutrients. Also, it’s hard for your baby to digest the protein and fat in milk.
Cow’s milk doesn’t have the right amounts of iron, vitamin C and other nutrients for infants. It may even cause iron-deficiency anemia in some babies, since cow’s milk protein can irritate the lining of the digestive system, leading to blood in the stools.
As per the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), 42 percent of non-breastfed infants below one year received cow’s milk or any other milk. Globally, the prevalence rate of cow’s milk allergy is approximately 3 to 5 percent.
A severe allergy can cause bleeding in the intestines that can lead to anemia. But only about 1 to 3% of children under one year old has a milk allergy. It is even less common in children who are older than 1 to 3 years.
“Though cow’s milk is associated with our culture for ages, it should not be given to toddlers below one year… It may put a strain on the infant’s immature kidney and is also difficult to digest,” said Nandan Joshi, Health and Nutrition Science, Danone India.
“Allergic diseases are on the rise worldwide. The incidents are more in developed countries though it is on the rise in India as well. Milk allergy is the most common allergy in children,” said Lalit Bharadia, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Jaipur’s Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital.
“Around 3 percent of children can’t tolerate milk protein in animal milk. Milk allergic infants, who do not get breast milk, need an alternate form of nutrition to maintain their health,” said Bharadia.
When you start cow’s milk, it’s preferable to buy organic. While milk is an extremely nutritious food, the antibiotics, hormones and other stuff that is given to some dairy cows nowadays may be harmful. “Organic” means there were no hormones or antibiotics added to the cow feed.
Children usually outgrow allergies or intolerances by the time they are one year old. But having one food allergy increases the risk of having other types of allergies. Finally, cow’s milk doesn’t provide the healthiest types of fat for growing babies. Babies can’t digest cow’s milk as completely or easily as breast milk.