How to Help Your Baby Embrace the Goodness of Cow’s Milk Day 2: How to Help Your Baby Embrace the Goodness of Cow Milk

How to Help Your Baby Embrace the Goodness of Cow’s Milk

Yesterday, we discussed the types of milk that can be given to babies once they cross their 1 year milestone. Today we dive deep into one of India’s favorite beverages: cow’s milk!

If parents choose to introduce cow’s milk to their baby, this article is a perfect guide. Many parents wonder or worry whether their baby will like the taste of cow’s milk and whether they will readily embrace it. This is a great milestone for any baby and parent as they transition from the phase of breast and formula milk to other forms of whole milk.

Breastfeeding Is Best

No matter how many times we say it, it’s not enough! Breastfeeding comes highly recommended by WHO for babies up to 2 years of age (if you have been breastfeeding, that is). Any introduction of supplementary milk, be it cow's milk or plant-based alternatives, should begin after the baby reaches 1 year.

If you choose to continue breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and your baby still receives at least four feeds a day, it’s not necessary to offer them any other milk.

Our Recommendation: Whole Fat Cow's Milk

Experts and nutritionists recommend introducing only whole fat cow's milk to babies 1 year onwards. Cow’s milk has plenty of nutritional benefits, including healthy fats (for brain development), calcium (for strong bones and teeth), essential calories (for healthy weight gain), and additional nutrients like Vitamin A, and fortified Vitamin D and zinc. Cow's milk is also a dense source of energy, which all growing babies need!

Things to Remember Before You Start the Transition

Here are some essential steps to help your baby smoothly transition to cow's milk:

1) Ease into it: Our suggestion is to gently guide your baby into the transition process. You can do this by introducing extremely small amounts of cow's milk (around 20-30 ml or 1-2 tablespoons a day), when your baby is 11-12 months old. What this step does is it helps babies get used to the new flavor so they find it easier to accept it in larger quantities after they turn 1. Babies are actually accustomed to the taste of the milk they've been having (formula or breast), so this gradual introduction helps them become familiar with the new flavor.

Remember, we’re not offering cow’s milk as a beverage to drink for babies under 1 year. So be mindful of the amounts. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons as mentioned above.

You can also offer the above recommended quantity of cow's milk in a small glass or straw cup to encourage your baby's drinking skills. This cow's milk should not replace their regular breast or formula feeds; it's merely a way of acquainting them with the new taste.

2) Reduce milk consumption: Unlike earlier when breast or formula feeds were the main meals, post-1 year, cow's milk is a beverage that complements the baby’s meal but it’s not the main meal. 

Your baby’s total milk consumption needs to be reduced after 1 year, so they can make space for and accept solid food readily. Also, gradually reduce the frequency of breast or formula feeds.

3) Follow the daily dairy limit: The recommended limit for your baby's total dairy consumption (includes cow's milk + breast/formula feed + any dairy product) should not exceed 500 ml or 500 grams in a day. 

To ensure a balanced diet, you can limit their daily milk intake (breast/formula and cow's milk) at 350-400 ml a day. This leaves some room for dairy products (curd, cheese, or paneer) in their meals. 

When babies consume excessive dairy, it can hinder iron absorption, lead to digestive issues, and reduce their appetite for solid foods.

4) Be patient: This transition from breast or formula milk to cow's milk can vary from one baby to another. Some may adapt, but most of them take more time and require a gradual, patient approach. 

Two Approaches That Parents Can Use

When it comes to making the transition to cow's milk, you have two main approaches to consider after your baby turns 1.

1) Quick transition

This method involves a swift switch from breast or formula feeds to cow's milk, similar to going “cold turkey.” 

But remember that this approach will only work well with certain babies. If your 1-year-old baby is already eating solid foods with enthusiasm, has independently reduced their consumption of breast/formula milk, and has been introduced to very small amounts of cow's milk during mealtime since they were 11-12 months, then this method is more likely to be successful.

2) Gradual transition

This approach is more comfortable and well-received by most babies, as it provides a gentler and more manageable shift. The process for gradual transition may vary depending on whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding (expressed breast milk or formula).

For breastfeeding moms:

  • At around 11-12 months, start introducing small quantities of cow's milk alongside your baby's meals. As your baby starts to accept cow's milk, gradually increase the amount offered. Simultaneously, begin reducing the number of breastfeeds you provide.
  • After your baby turns 1, begin to eliminate one breastfeed at a time. For example, if you're currently giving seven feeds in a day, identify the one feed that's the easiest to skip and start omitting that feed. While doing so, introduce cow's milk in small quantities. With time, as your baby responds positively to this transition, you can reduce more breastfeeds and increase the quantity of cow's milk.
  • As mentioned earlier, if you wish to continue breastfeeding and are offering your baby at least 4 feeding sessions in a day, then introducing cow's milk is not a must. Trust your instincts and adapt your approach to what works best for you and your baby's daily routine. Even a single breastfeed a day can provide valuable benefits, and the remaining feeds can be replaced with cow's milk as needed. 

For bottle-feeding moms:

This approach is tailored for mothers offering bottle feeds, whether it's expressed breast milk or formula, to their babies.

  • Start initially by mixing cow's milk with the breast/formula milk you typically use in the bottle. Gradually reduce the quantity of breast/formula milk while increasing the cow's milk. For example, start with a combination pattern of 25% cow's milk and 75% breast/formula milk.
  • Once your baby comfortably accepts this, you can try 50% cow's milk and 50% breast/formula milk. After a few days, reduce the breast/formula milk to 25% while increasing cow's milk to 75%. Finally, you can fully transition to using only cow's milk in their bottle.

The choice between these two approaches should align with your baby's temperament, preferences, and your own comfort. Remember that every baby is unique, and the transition may take time. Be patient, trust your instincts, and find a method that best suits your baby's needs and your family's routine.

Last Tips for Parents & Caregivers

1) Serve milk at room temperature: Babies are used to drinking breast or formula milk, which are usually at a slightly warmer temperature. Offering cow's milk at a similar temperature can help your baby adjust more comfortably. If the milk is refrigerated, gently warm it up before serving.

2) Incorporate milk into meals and snacks: Offer milk during mealtimes or snack breaks rather than in between meals. This allows your baby to access milk in a relaxed, no-pressure environment. Initially, encourage your little one to take small sips, gradually increasing their intake over time.

3) Embrace dairy in all forms: While introducing cow's milk, don't forget to include other products like cheese, yogurt, and paneer in your baby's diet. 

4) Set an example: If you drink milk and/or are not lactose-intolerant, you can model drinking milk yourself in front of your baby. Use a straw cup or open cup and sip from it. Babies often want to emulate adults, so this can help them feel more excited to enjoy milk as part of their routine.

5) Transition from bottle to straw or open cup: This is the topic of our next article, so stay tuned. But do encourage your baby to make the switch from a bottle to a straw or open cup. This transition is important for developing essential skills they will need for life. 

Let’s Talk About Allergies, Constipation, or General Dislike

Allergies or intolerance: Milk is a common allergenic food. As you start offering larger quantities of milk, children may exhibit signs of allergies or intolerances. Always stay observant and attentive for any allergic reactions or intolerance symptoms.

Constipation: One reason for this could also be excessive milk consumption. When babies begin consuming more significant quantities of milk, they may experience temporary constipation. This typically occurs as their digestive system adapts to the change. Do monitor your baby's overall fluid intake and diet. If constipation persists or you have concerns, consult your pediatrician.

General dislike: Many babies may not immediately take to the taste of milk, which can be concerning for parents. If your baby doesn't seem to favor milk, don’t worry much. Instead, incorporate dairy products into their meals or fulfill their nutritional requirements. Ensure you offer a variety of foods rich in calcium, fat, and protein.

Our recommendation is: don’t worry if your baby isn't initially fond of milk. Continue offering it as part of their diet, providing opportunities for them to explore and accept it. 

Over time, they are likely to grow accustomed to it. If concerns persist, feel free to seek guidance from a nutritionist or dietitian to ensure your baby's nutritional needs are met.

Learn the right ways to nourish from experts