When can my baby have cow's milk?

Eating & Nutrition   |   Age: 7 months 3 weeks


When can I introduce cow's milk?

There’s no arguing that your baby would look adorable with a milk mustache. But milk itself causes a significant amount of debate in online discussions of babies’ diets, and many disagree about when whole milk can be introduced into your baby's diet. According to current medical thinking in the US though, when your baby is a year old, she is ready to give real milk a whirl.

Why not sooner?

Before one year, your baby’s stomach may not be able to digest all of the proteins in cow’s milk. In addition, cow’s milk does not provide all of the nutrients your baby needs before one year, at least not in the way that breast milk or formula does. Babies who drink cow’s milk before one year run the risk of iron deficiency, as well as not enough vitamin E or zinc in their diet.

If ever?

There are a lot of heartfelt articles out there detailing reasons why babies shouldn’t be started on cow milk at all. Some of these are sensible and fairly self-evident (your baby is not, in fact, a baby cow), while others are a little more controversial.

The truth is that it is possible for your baby to get the nutrients she needs without cows’ milk. Adult vegans do it, and so can your baby. Plus, if your baby does end up having milk allergies or intolerances, you may not have another choice besides formula or breastmilk. If you do want to give your baby cows' milk, it can provide her with a good source of protein, B-vitamins, and vitamins A and D, as well as zinc, after the one-year mark. At a point when your baby’s stomach is still fairly small, a concentration of nutrients like that can make it easier for her to get the balanced diet she needs, but there isn't really a need to get your child drinking cow's milk by a year, or 2 years, or ever at all.

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