How to Introduce Your Child to Cow’s Milk
There are many milestones throughout your child’s first and second year of life that revolve around food. One of the most important [and talked about] is when and how to introduce your child to cow’s milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend cow’s milk before your child’s first year of life because it doesn’t have the optimal amounts of a variety of nutrients [like iron] your baby needs for proper growth and development during the first year. After one year of age, an introduction to full-fat cow’s milk is something you can do when you and your toddler are ready.
Related: Feeding Your 2 to 5 Year Old
- If your toddler is eating a balanced diet of solid foods, such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein foods, then he’s ready for milk if he is at least 12 months of age and has not shown symptoms of being allergic to cow’s milk.
- Gradually add milk into your child’s diet as you are weaning him from breastmilk or infant formula. Start by switching a cup of milk a day with formula or breastfeeding. Or adding cow’s milk to morning oatmeal or cereal.
- Once you’ve changed one bottle or cup from formula and breastmilk to cow’s milk, you can continue making the switch throughout the day.
Type of Milk:
- Whole milk is generally recommended because your toddler needs the extra fat for his growing body and healthy brain development.
- If he’s overweight or has other health risks, talk to your pediatrician to see if you should switch to low-fat milk.
- Once your toddler turns 2, you can make the switch from full-fat to low-fat or 2% milk. He will be getting healthy fats from other foods in his diet and is not as reliant on the healthy fats in full-fat milk.
- To ensure your toddler is meeting his daily calcium needs, offer about two cups of milk a day. A suggested rule of thumb to follow is to serve a ½ cup of milk with meals!
- Do your best to stay within the three cup amount, as often times drinking too much milk means he might be too full to eat other nourishing foods.
Why Cow’s Milk:
- Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and helps regulate blood clotting and muscle control. And it’s one of the few sources of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and is crucial for bone growth. Almost all cow’s milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D.
Related: Dairy Nutrition Facts
Milk also provides protein for growth, as well as carbohydrates, which will give your child the energy he needs to toddle all day. Like all new foods, if your toddler is unsure about the taste or timing of when you introduce cow’s milk, continued exposure is key. Just be sure to start introducing in small amounts and with other favorite foods so your child will learn to love the taste and nutrition you’re offering!