Nurturing life Your reference in perinatal nutrition, from pregnancy to childhood

Can I offer cow’s milk to my baby from the age of 6 months?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary

No. Cow’s milk should only be given after 9 to 12 months of age. Before that, foods such as meat, meat alternatives and iron-fortified cereals should first be introduced to provide the infant the iron it needs for growth and to avoid any onset of anemia.

According to Health Canada recommendations, iron-rich foods should be introduced first so the baby does not develop anemia. Meat and alternatives should be a priority, as well as iron-fortified cereals, when introducing solid foods to a baby’s diet at about 6 months of age.

It is recommended that a baby be at least 9 to 12 months old before introducing cow’s milk. Unfortunately, milk does not contain iron. In fact, the calcium contained in milk may reduce the absorption of iron from other foods. Cow’s milk contains more than three times the amount of calcium found in breast milk!  Therefore, giving cow’s milk concurrently with the introduction of solid foods may affect iron absorption.

Additionally, cow’s milk, when offered too early, can cause intestinal bleeding and, as a result, increase the risk of anemia.

It should also be noted that cow’s milk is highly rich in proteins and minerals, which increases the kidneys’ workload; in fact, it triples it! That being said, feeding cow’s milk to an infant increases their risk of dehydration, especially if the infant is ill.

In many industrialized countries, such as Australia, England and New Zealand, it is recommended to wait until the age of one year before introducing cow’s milk to a baby’s diet. In Canada, it is advised to never offer cow’s milk before 9 months of age.