Babies under 12 months should drink either human breast milk or formula — not cow’s milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So is cow’s milk dangerous for the little ones?
Breast milk is made specifically for human babies, while cow’s milk is really meant for calves, said Dr. Jae Kim, director of the department of neonatology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told Live Science. As such, contains cow’s milk proteins which are difficult for babies to digest, and lack important vitamins and minerals like iron that babies need to develop. Although infant formula is made from cow’s milk, manufacturers remove and alter the proteins before adding them back to the formula along with other essential ingredients. “The final formula is very different from the milk you receive,” Kim said.
An infant intestine, kidneys and immune system need time to mature before they can safely tolerate new types and amounts of proteins in cow’s milk, Kim said. High levels of the protein and minerals found in cow’s milk “can stress a newborn’s immature kidneys and cause serious illness during times of heat stress, fever or diarrhea,” the researchers said American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That’s why “we really strongly recommended avoiding cow’s milk for the first year of life,” Kim said. While the vast majority of babies over 6 months are fine drinking cow’s milk, the foreign protein can cause inflammation in some babies through an allergic reaction, Kim said.
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This allergic reaction can lead to inflammation in a baby’s intestines or microscopic bleeding in the lining of the intestine, Kim said. And the lack of iron in cow’s milk can lead to anemia. Overall, it can make babies uncomfortable or not thriving, he said.
That risk is lower in older infants, who start eating more than just formula from around 4 to 5 months, Kim added. Because milk isn’t their only source of nutrition, they’re more likely to get adequate nutrients elsewhere. Also, older babies have more mature gut, kidneys, and immune systems to tolerate the new proteins. But because newborns and infants only eat milk, it’s more important for them to be given a very careful formulation like breast milk or formula, Kim said.
However, cow’s milk for infants under the age of 1 is “not ideal and should not become routine,” the statement said said AAP. However, it’s a better option “than diluting formula or making homemade formula,” according to the AAP.
In cases where cow’s milk supplementation may be required for a short period of time, e.g. For example, during the US infant formula shortage of 2022, switch to cow’s milk slowly if possible so as not to shock the baby’s system, Kim said. And watch out for signs and symptoms of an inflammatory or allergic reaction, he added. Babies are not likely to react immediately to cow’s milk, but may gradually start spitting up or have more frequent diarrhea. In the worst case, there could be some blood in the stool due to colitis, an inflammation in the colon. Or they can swell, especially their face, and become anemic from the loss of protein in their blood, he said.
For babies who already have an aversion to dairy or need a special formula that contains only broken down proteins or amino acids, cow’s milk is probably not suitable until they are a year old. And plant-based milk, which is much lower in nutrients, isn’t an adequate nutritional replacement for every baby, Kim said. But for the vast majority of infants as young as 6 months, adding cow’s milk shouldn’t pose a problem, he said. If you have concerns about what your baby should be drinking, the AAP recommends that you speak to your pediatrician.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.
Originally published on Live Science.
Why can’t babies drink cow’s milk? Source link Why can’t babies drink cow’s milk?