Parents often ask why cow’s milk is not the best option for their little one. The answer is simple: babies or young children can’t digest cow’s milk as completely or as easily as breast milk or formula.
The Nutrition Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of cow’s milk for two reasons: allergies and iron deficiency anemia.
The intestinal lining takes more time to mature in some babies than others. Although lactose intolerance is not so common in babies, some toddlers can develop diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain because they are unable to digest the lactose sugar in milk. Some toddlers can develop milk allergies, meaning that their immune system, which normally fights infections, overreacts to proteins in cow’s milk and thus fights these proteins thinking they are harmful invaders.
Another reason as to why cows’ milk is not beneficial to infants is that it lacks the proper amount of vitamins and minerals needed for an optimal growth and development, such as vitamin E, zinc and iron. Why is iron so important for an infant? It helps the body create red blood cells, and a decreased level of red blood cells causes anemia. Babies do have enough iron in their bodies but by 3-4 months of age, the amount of iron supply gets depleted and extra iron is required in the infant’s diet.
Instead of offering cow’s milk, you can offer an iron-fortified growth formula like Nestlé® Excella Gold to your child if he or she is 1 year or older. It is important to mention that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the six months of your little one’s life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. Always consult your doctor to help you choose the best option for your child.