Making the transition from breast or formula feeding to whole milk is a big step for babies as well as parents. But when is it safe to do so? Can you give your 11-month-old whole milk? Read on to learn more about when to make the big switch.
There will come a day – perhaps for you, it will be a very sentimental one – when your baby may no longer want to nurse, or when infant formula will no longer provide all the nutrients a growing baby or toddler needs. You may then start thinking about switching to whole milk. Whole milk contains additional protein, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, potassium and sodium that a baby could definitely use – but a baby’s kidneys and intestinal tract must be fully ready to digest the milk first.
When To Make The Switch To Whole Milk
According to the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “babies should not be given cow’s milk under the age of one because of potential health issues.” A baby’s intestinal lining takes time to mature and giving your tot whole milk too soon may cause problems such as abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Allergic proteins in the milk can also possibly escape through an undeveloped intestinal lining and head into the bloodstream, causing allergic reactions. Limited iron is also present in cow’s milk and if a baby has an allergy to the cow’s milk protein, the intestines may cause a tiny amount of blood to be lost in baby’s stools, leading to iron-deficiency anemia.
What The Experts Say
Infant anemia used to be quite common in the United States, but thankfully, the health problem has plummeted since guidelines on when to introduce whole milk changed in 1971. Breast milk or iron-fortified formula has been strongly recommended until a baby reaches one year of age. Some parents say they started their babies on whole milk at 11 months of age or younger and their children turned out fine, but doctors strongly suggest waiting until your child is at least a year old to do so.
“It is true that most babies who start earlier will be fine, but I don’t see a good reason for taking the added risks.”
Dr. Alan Greene, MD, FAAP
“Once baby hits age one, his digestive system is able to handle the proteins in cow’s milk. Before that, they could cause an allergic reaction causing gastrointestinal bleeding.”
Janelle Aby, MD, Well Baby Nursery at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford
“The most dramatic effects are on iron levels in the body. Recent studies show infants often have depleted levels when started on cow’s milk at six months of age.”
MerckSource Dairy Facts – Infants
“Infants fed whole cow’s milk receive inadequate amounts of Vitamin E, iron, essential fatty acids, and excessive amounts of protein, sodium, and potassium. These levels may be too high for the infant’s system to handle.”
American Academy of Pediatrics
“A guide I give patients in my pediatric practice is: no cow’s milk before age one, whole milk until age two and low fat or non-fat milk after that.”
Dr. Sears, Ask Dr. Sears: Cows’ Milk for Babies
How To Introduce Whole Milk
When making the switch, you can start out by mixing one part cow’s milk with three parts formula or breast milk, then increase the cow’s milk each day over the next several days or weeks until your baby gets used to it. You can also break up an eight-ounce supplemental bottle of whole milk into two four-ounce feedings. My daughter turned one not too long ago and we recently just completed the transition to whole milk ourselves. It was a little emotional when the last bit of formula was mixed in with the new milk, but it was a happy milestone as well — she seems to really enjoy it.
Don’t overdo it! The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended to limit toddler milk to two to three 8 oz. cups of milk per day. It is thought that giving your child more than this may put a toddler at risk for anemia as well as nutrient displacement – a toddler who consumes too much milk will most likely not be eating all the whole foods that he or she needs.