5 lesser-known benefits of cow milk for babies
Packed with protein and calcium, cow milk is a wonderful superfood for your child! Find out the amazing health benefits of cow milk and how to introduce it to your baby.
Cow’s milk is full of calcium and protein, making it an excellent food for growing children. It is important to remember, though, that children below the age of 1 should not be given cow’s milk as an alternative to formula or breast milk. This is because babies do not have the required enzyme lactase to digest cow’s milk. Toddlers, on the other hand, can safely consume cow’s milk, a calcium-rich food, without facing any issues with digestion. Here’s everything parents need to know about feeding cow’s milk to their child and the benefits of doing so.
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Is cow’s milk good for a 2-month-old baby?
Some parents might consider supplementing their baby’s breast milk diet with cow’s milk, however, this is not advisable. Breast milk should be the exclusive food until the age of 4 months. There are times when mothers are unable to feed their infants and in such cases, formula milk is the better option. Cow’s milk has more protein, calcium, sodium, and potassium than mother’s milk. This means that your baby’s immature kidneys will be under a tremendous strain to deal with the higher concentration of minerals. The high calcium is good for a baby’s growing bones but it interferes with the absorption of iron. The side effects of cow’s milk for infants includes severe indigestion. Wait for your baby to cross the one-year milestone before they can enjoy the benefits of cow’s milk.
Benefits of cow’s milk for babies over 12 months old
Toddlers should not drink more than 2 cups of milk per day (500 ml). This includes milk in the form of curd or any other dairy products. Don’t fill your child’s tummy with too much milk else they will not be hungry enough to eat solid foods. Here are a few reasons why your toddler should be given this liquid wonder.
1. Good for growth
Cow’s milk is specially formulated towards helping their calves growing fast. The growth hormone found in cow’s milk can help your baby grow taller. Researchers attribute this increase in height to the Growth Hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) that is found in cow’s milk.
Calcium can also help children develop strong bones. While vitamin D is not usually found in milk, most fortified milk has it added. Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption and prevents rickets in young children. The stronger bones it builds at this age can even prevent osteoporosis when they are much older.
Wondering if your child’s height is normal for their age? Use our Free Child Growth Calculator and find out!
2. Stronger teeth
Phosphorus and calcium in milk help your child in the development of their teeth. Additionally, casein in milk creates a thin film over teeth and protects them from acidic foods that your child eats. This protective layer prevents calcium and phosphorous in the tooth getting leached out by the acid which can otherwise cause cavities.
3. Food for the brain
Cow’s milk is rich in vitamin B complex which is essential for the brain cells, nervous system as well as regulating sleep/wake cycles. Babies between 1 to 2 years should be given whole milk. The healthy fat in whole milk is important for neuron development. Neurons are brain cells that have a fatty covering over their branching out dendrites or nerve endings that are in touch with the next nerve cell. This is why including adequate healthy fats in your child’s diet is essential. You can also feed ghee to your baby to help them benefit from its wonderful brain-boosting qualities.
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4. Better immunity
Vitamin A in little children is vital for building immune function, vision, and cellular development. Milk is a major contributor of retinol which is pre-formed vitamin A. A low intake of vitamin A can reduce the child’s ability to fight off infections. Adding milk to your child’s diet before they start pre-school is important as they will come into contact with several new germs in this environment. Thus, a robust immune system can come in handy.
5. Promotes healthy heart
Magnesium and potassium in milk are essential minerals that act as vasodilators, pumping blood through the blood vessels to all organs. Calcium in milk also helps in building up stronger muscles in the heart and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to introduce cow’s milk to your baby?
Once your toddler is 1 year old, they are ready for cow’s milk. Some parents are apprehensive about cow’s milk as it may lead to lactose intolerance. To make sure your child is ready for milk, start by feeding it to your child a little at a time. If there is no apparent reaction then proceed to give up to 2 cups of cow milk each day.
If you need to boil the milk, make sure it is not boiled for long as overboiling milk destroys most of the nutrients. Milk can be an iron-absorption inhibitor, so it is best not to serve milk and iron-rich food in the same meal.
Children between 3 to 5 years can have up to 700 ml of milk each day. Apart from just milk, you can ensure your child meets this amount by providing them with a calcium-rich diet that includes probiotics like curd and dairy products like paneer or cheese. Switching between different food preparations can prevent your child from getting bored of milk and becoming fussy about drinking it.
Milk is one of the most nutritious foods to include in your child’s diet. For more expert advice on your child’s nutrition, download the mfine app and schedule an instant consultation with your city’s top pediatricians.