When Can Babies Drink Milk?

Team Peanut
Team Peanutlast year4 min read

Skim, whole, almond, oat… when can babies drink milk?

When Can Babies Drink Milk?

Once your baby reaches a certain age, cow’s milk or other fortified plant milks can provide your little one with some important ingredients they need to grow strong and healthy, including protein, calcium and vitamin D. But the timing is important–introducing it too early can cause digestive and other issues.

So when can babies drink milk? And what about milk alternatives like almond or oat? Let’s take a look.

When can babies drink cow’s milk?

The short answer is you shouldn’t introduce cow’s milk into your child’s diet until they are 12 months old.

It can be harmful to their health and does not contain the necessary nutrients for their growth and development. So if you’re wondering can I give my 10-month-old whole milk?, the answer is, not yet!

The WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months of your baby’s life.

That’s because breastmilk is purpose-built to provide the nourishment your baby needs to grow and develop. It also contains antibodies to help stave off infection and illness.

If you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, formula is also a great option. Formula is very different from straight-up cow’s milk and is specially made for baby’s nutritional needs.

All babies should drink only breastmilk or formula for the first six months. At six months, you can introduce solid foods–fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and beans–to your baby’s diet. But breastmilk or formula should still provide the bulk of their calories until 12 months.

What happens if you give a baby cow’s milk too early?

As this study explains, giving your baby cow’s milk too early can be dangerous because:

  • It does not contain the necessary amount of nutrients to help your baby grow in their first year of life. Of particular concern is the iron content. If your baby does not get enough iron in these earlier months, they may be at risk of developing anemia.
  • Their developing kidneys are not equipped to handle the onslaught of proteins and minerals that cow’s milk contains. This can lead to dehydration as they try to get rid of this extra content when they pee. Sometimes, this can lead to severe illness.
  • In some babies, drinking cow’s milk may cause intestinal blood loss where they lose a significant amount of blood in their feces.

Plus, early exposure to cow’s milk may also increase your child’s risk of type 1 diabetes and their chances of developing an allergy to milk proteins.

All in all, it’s best to wait.

When can babies drink whole milk?

Once you do introduce cow’s milk, whole milk is the best option, as it contains more fat to support those growing bodies.

It’s a good idea to steer clear of unpasteurized milk, though, as it may contain harmful bacteria that can make your child sick.

And what about the other milk options? Here’s the deal:

When can babies drink almond milk?

According to the CDC, the same age restrictions apply here. Wait until your baby is a year old before giving them almond milk, as it doesn’t have the fat and protein content to support their very early needs.

This rule applies for oat, cashew, rice, coconut, and soy milks.

When you get going on a dairy substitute, choose one that is unflavored, unsweetened, and fortified with Vitamin D and calcium.

How to transition from formula to milk

When the time is right, here’s the plan: do it slowly.

Mix one part prepared formula or breastmilk with one part whole milk. You can gradually decrease the amount of formula or breastmilk and increase the amount of whole milk.

This transition may take a while–sometimes months, especially for breastfed babies who are still nursing.

Once your baby has fully transitioned from breastmilk or formula to cow’s milk, the goal is to have them drink about 16 oz of milk a day.

Good luck on this journey. If you need support, reach out to your Peanut community. This road is so much better traveled together.

More on food and drink for babies:
16 Tasty and Healthy Snacks for Babies
Best Baby Food Recipes
What are the Best First Foods for a Baby?
How Many Ounces Should a Baby Eat? A Chart
The Best First Finger Foods for Baby
Best Finger Foods for a Baby
Prune Juice for a Baby: Good or Bad Idea?
When Can Babies Have Water?
When Can Babies Have Yogurt?
When Can Babies Eat Eggs?
Can Babies Eat Fish?
Can Babies Eat Hummus?
When Can Babies Eat Baby Food?
What to Know About Peanut Butter for Babies

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