What’s The Deal With Cow Milk At 12 Months Anyway

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You’re thinking of weaning, or baby is moving towards year one and much of the world is asking, “when are you going to introduce milk to your baby?”

So you ask yourself, do I need to switch to another milk? The answer is NO.  One year old breastfeeding babies do not need to start cow milk. Here’s why ….

1. The notion of introducing cow milk comes from the idea of weaning babies off of infant *formula* and putting them on a cheaper, but still somewhat nutritious cow’s milk for their second year of life. Why cow’s milk? Ask the dairy council for a detailed answer on their marketing practice.  The short of it though is that during a time when the majority of American babies were formula fed – moving away from formula at age one, and to an alternative in the form of cow’s milk, was an easy, cost-effective and accessible way to get a good chunk of daily nutrients into non-nursing babies.

2. As long as your child is nursing between 3 – 5 times in a 24 period, he doesn’t need ANY supplemental milk at all. None. Breastmilk will continue to meet needs and be sufficient as a supplement to solid foods. If he’s only down to once or twice a day, you can give him the extra fat & protein breastmilk provides via whole food sources and other milks. It doesn’t have to be cow milk.

On that same note, one might assume though that if your child were down to only nursing 2x a day by 12 months, they might already be supplemented with formula or expressed milk in a bottle. What to do then, for a child accustomed to a bottle? For that … see the next point 3.

3. If you’d like to offer him some additional calories via sippy cup/bottle – or during meals in a cup, cow milk is but one choice. You can choose how and if you want to introduce cow milk over other alternatives. There are plenty of other wholesome and commercially marketed “milks” out there (coconut and almond being good choices. Less favorable are soy and rice milks). Point is milk does not need to be the way to provide additional calories. Diverse wholesome foods , a “rainbow” of choices, combined with proteins & fats from sources other than cow milk are winners (picky eaters might be another story, so discuss with pediatrician or nutritionist).

4. If you’re eager to start a sippy cup, to start weaning away from the breast, then offer your little one water or expressed milk (not juice). Try skipping the bottle to wean right to a sippy cup. Once little ones have the ability to grasp toys – definitely toss a sippy cup with handles in their line up of playthings, so they can start experimenting with sipping water and learning how to use a cup. Straw cups are even better and we highly recommend them. Breast to straw!

5. Political soap box: human milk for human babies, cow milk for cow babies. “Species specific” as they say.

6. All that said, whole cow milk is not evil and some people enjoy it. For you – it may be an easy way to get extra calories in your one year old.  Back to point 4. and offering alternative milks to obtain those calories and nutrients. If milk is “it” for you though – go for it, but not because someone says you must, but because it’s working for you – good, organic, grass-fed milk …. or plain yogurt, cheese, butter, puddings, etc.

7. Alright – down to brass tacks. The annoying idea (often heard from well meaning family members) that somehow cow milk really is better than breast milk when baby hits 12 months old.  HELLO?  Really?  Come again? When these blogs, articles and essays talk about weaning from formula & breastmilk to cow milk … our jaws drop!!!  Remember: Cow = Casein! Cow milk has giant bovine indigestible casein protein molecules that offset & irritate intestinal balance.  And you want to compare that to the perfect food for babies?  Put it up against breastmilk, which has the perfect sized, digestible proteins for tiny humans? Uh-huh. We thought so.

8. Breastmilk, by the way, has a higher fat content than cow milk if that’s your worry, so there’s that.

And with that …  we think we’ve compiled a nice list of points to ruminate on next time some one, or some article confuses you about if and when you should give your breastfeeding 12 month old cow milk.  The answer is:  relax, enjoy solid food exploration and don’t stress the cow milk!

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