Starting your baby on whole milk marks an exciting milestone! Around the time you are celebrating your little one’s first birthday, whole dairy milk traditionally makes its entrance into the diet.
Making the transition does not need to occur at precisely one year. It is around that time when the supply of breastmilk may be dwindling, and you are sick of buying formula.
It is also around the time when your baby’s nutritional needs are changing.
At this age, babies receive all the nutrients they need from their diet of solid foods and whole milk. Whole milk plays an important part in a child’s development.
Whole cow milk is high in calcium, vitamin D, dietary fat, and protein, which help your baby develop and stay healthy.
Although making the switch may have its challenges. Drinking whole milk can cause constipation in your toddler.
This article will share advice on adding whole milk to children’s diets along with how to help relieve uncomfortable constipation.
Why Do Babies Drink Whole Milk?
At a year old, the solid foods your baby has begun eating over the past few months provide a variety of the vitamins and minerals your little one needs.
Pediatricians recommend that solid foods be supplemented with whole cow’s milk because it also contains a variety of nutrients your baby needs for healthy development.
Whole milk ensures that your baby is getting enough of these essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, protein, dietary fat, vitamins A, D, B12, and potassium.
Save the Whole Milk For the Littles Over 12 Months
Babies younger than 12 months will drink breastmilk or formula because they contain certain essential nutrients your baby needs in the first months of life, such as zinc and vitamin E.
It is not recommended for infants to drink whole milk because their new digestive systems cannot yet absorb and process the milk’s protein and fat content.
It can also lead to iron deficiency anemia and place extra pressure on their little kidneys. Around 12 months, they’re able to digest whole milk and absorb those nutrients.
Avoid the Low Fat Milk
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that parents should avoid giving their babies low-fat milk until they are at least two years old.
Skimmed milk is not recommended until the age of five (www.healthychildren.org). Skim milk should not be given to children younger than two years old because it is lower in essential nutrients like dietary fats, which help in brain development.
From the ages of 12 months to 24 months, your baby’s body and brain are growing quickly. Fat is fundamental to this fast growth. It also helps your baby get those kissable cheeks and arms!
Transitioning From Breast Milk or Formula to Whole Milk
While some babies easily transition from breast milk or formula to whole milk, other babies resist at first because of the unfamiliar taste. Remember, the transition does not need to happen overnight! Here are some ways to make the transition easier:
- Mix whole milk with your baby’s formula or breast milk. Start with a small amount of whole milk. Your child might not even notice the difference! Over time, slowly increase the amount of whole milk and reduce the formula to help your baby get used to the taste. The goal is to transition to 100% whole milk over a couple of weeks.
- Warm the whole milk by placing the baby bottle containing milk in warm water. Do not microwave milk because it can heat unevenly and result in overly hot temperatures. Check the milk’s temperature before serving to make sure it’s not too hot for your little one. Do not leave warmed milk out for over two hours because bacteria can multiply and spoil.
- Sneak whole milk into meals such as cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, soups, pudding, and mac and cheese.
- Offer milk between meals as part of a healthy snack for your growing child. If you offer milk during a meal like lunch, your child might choose to fill up on the milk rather than the other foods offered. Let’s try to take this time to work on their palates and the number of food items they will eat!
- Feed your child yogurt, cheese, ricotta, soy milk, as these foods are dairy equivalents (www.eatright.org).
Avoid sweetening the milk with sugar, although it may be tempting if your baby doesn’t seem interested in it.
Your baby may refuse plain milk in the future, and it is best to limit too much sugar intake for young children.
Talk to your pediatrician if your little one is still resisting drinking whole milk.
How Much and How Often Should I Give My Baby Whole Milk?
The AAP recommends babies between the ages of 12-24 months to drink 2-3 cups of whole cow’s milk per day, which is about 16-24 ounces. If you give your baby more than 24 ounces, they might not be hungry for other healthy foods and miss out on additional nutrients.
There is no one correct way for how often to give your baby milk, as long as you don’t exceed the AAP’s maximum recommendation. Many parents like to give it with meals and during snack time.
You might also try serving the milk in a regular cup as opposed to a bottle or sippy cup. Drinking from a cup is a skill that your child can start practicing at age 1.
This developmental skill benefits your little one’s teeth health and jaw development.
Constipation Due to Whole Milk Consumption
In some babies, drinking whole milk can cause constipation. If you notice bowel movements don’t happen as often as usual, are hard and dry, or are larger than normal, your toddler may have constipation.
Another sign is showing avoidance of having a bowel movement or crying during a bowel movement. There is no exact amount of stools your baby should be passing per day because each baby has their own “normal.”
Some babies make bowel movements several times a day, while others go every 2-3 days. When switching from formula to whole milk, observe your baby’s demeanor and stool for any changes.
If constipation issues occur, make sure you do not give your child more than 24 ounces of whole milk per day.
Additionally, check that the solid foods in your child’s diet include enough fiber. High fiber foods include raw vegetables, apples, bananas, prunes, beans, and foods made with whole grains and bran.
You might consider using a stool softener to help your baby’s discomfort after talking with a pediatrician.
Giving your baby a little pear juice is one way to assist with constipation. According to the AAP, the sugar in pear juice isn’t easily digested. The body then brings fluid to the intestines, which helps soften stools.
Prune juice, in small amounts, has also been used to relieve constipation and get the digestive tract moving. It may be given in small doses after your baby turns a year old. Before introducing juices into the diet to prompt bowel movements, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Should I Give My Baby Other Beverages?
The AAP recommends that young children get only 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day. However, the best options are to stick with milk and water. Juice, even 100% fruit juice, contains lots of sugar.
If you are concerned about your baby getting enough vitamin C, include lots of fruits in his solid foods diet instead of juices.
Concerns About Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergies
According to the AAP, only 2-3 percent of infants are allergic to milk, and most outgrow it. A food allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a specific food protein.
It is very uncommon for babies to be lactose intolerant because all babies are born with the enzyme lactase. This enzyme then decreases as your child grows.
If your child is allergic to whole milk or is lactose intolerant, there are alternative products for your baby, including those made from soy or rice. These plant-based options are fortified with iron, calcium, and protein.
Before purchasing, check the nutritional label for added sugars and corn syrup. It is important to discuss alternatives with your pediatrician before deciding on what to offer.
How Does Whole Milk Fit Into My Child’s Diet?
A healthy diet consists of dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. For more information on evidence-based dietary recommendations, head over to www.choosemyplate.gov.
As your baby turns a year old, their diet is changing to meet nutritional needs and development. As you make the change from formula to whole milk, remember that while milk is essential, it is no longer the star of the show in the diet.
Make sure that you provide your baby with balanced, healthy meals and snacks. This exciting transition can be a time to explore new foods and enjoy mealtimes with your family.
Happy eating & drinking!