My baby is 6 months old. Breast milk is of no use now. Should I introduce cow’s milk? Will he/she drink it? What if he does not? How can a baby not have milk? Are you often plagued with these questions? If yes, then read on.

Milk, especially in India, is considered as a wonder food. A powerhouse of nutrients. Consuming milk is like an unsaid rule for both adults and kids.

NEWSFLASH: Though milk can be “GOOD FOR YOU” but it is definitely not a “NECESSITY”

Let us debunk some myths about Cow’s milk with straight facts.

  1. Myth– It is ok to introduce Cow’s milk before 1 year, as a drink, to replace Breast milk or Formula milk.
    Fact– Till 1 year, Breast milk or Formula is and should be the main source of nutrition. Nothing, not even solids, can replace them.
  1. Myth– Breast milk loses its nutritional value after 6 months.
    Fact– Breast milk definitely does not lose its nutritional value post 6 months. In fact the nutritional content changes as baby grows so that all the goals are met.
  1. Myth– Cow’s milk helps gain weight.
    Fact– Though this may be true but our goal for our child should not be to just “gain weight”. Unfortunately, health is weighed in terms of weight gain. Also, breast milk or formula milk is sufficient for healthy weight gain.
  1. Myth – Cow’s milk should be diluted, as it is difficult for the child to digest.
    Fact – There is no use of diluting cow’s milk. The reason for difficult digestion is the protein structure of cow’s milk. By diluting it, we are not changing the protein structure but only diluting the nutrients. Full fat cow’s milk without dilution should be offered. 

So now that some of the myths are cleared, lets summarize based on the child’s age.

Under 1 year-

  1. Cows milk should not be offered as a drink replacing breast milk or formula milk. Though it will seem that child is healthy and gaining weight, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and Anaemia.
  2. Small amounts can be used in food preparations.
  3. Other sources of dairy like Paneer, curd, cheese can be offered.

After 1 year-

  1. Breast milk can be given on demand whereas formula is best weaned by 1 year.
  2. Cow’s milk may or may not be offered as a drink.
  3. If offered as a drink, full fat whole milk should be offered.
  4. Plant based milk, like Soy milk, almond milk, etc are also healthy options.
  5. If child is not accepting any kind of milk, there is no need to panic and force feed. Other sources of dairy and calcium can be offered to meet the demands.

Milk should be best offered in an open cup or a straw cup. Bottles or spout cups after 1 year, hamper oral development. Milk should be plain without any added sweeteners or commercial powders. Flavouring with cardamom, kesar, etc is optional but can be done.

Let your child take the lead and decide if he/she wants to drink milk. Like I said before, milk is good for you but it is not a necessity.

Happy Weaning!!

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Dr. Malvika Sharma

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