Skim, whole, almond, oat… just when can babies drink milk?
Once your baby reaches one, 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.
In this article: 📝
- When should I switch my baby to milk?
- What happens if you give a baby cow’s milk too early?
- When can babies drink whole milk?
- How to transition from formula to milk
When should I switch my baby to milk?
The short answer is you shouldn’t introduce cow’s milk into your child’s diet as a beverage 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.
“Cow’s milk can displace other nutrients in the diet,” explains Barnes, “and can be hard on young kidneys to digest due to the protein content (babies don’t actually need much protein).”
It is safe to use it as an ingredient though – for example if you are making pancakes or muffins, you can use cows milk in the batter.
So if you’re wondering can I give my 10-month-old whole milk?, the answer is, as a beverage 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 as a beverage 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.
- 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.
Again, this is all relates to when cow’s milk is given as a beverage.
A couple ounces a day as an ingredient would not lead to these issues.
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.
So low-fat, non-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed cow’s milk aren’t quite right for baby’s growing body.
It’s also a good idea to steer clear of unpasteurized milk, though, as it may contain harmful bacteria that can make your child sick.
A fortified fresh whole milk like Arla Big Milk is enriched with nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin A and Iron to further support your toddler’s growth and development.
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.
“Almond milk is fine,” says Barnes, “but it’s usually not much more nutritious than water.
It lacks the protein of cow or soy milk – which are generally the two best options for a complete nutritional profile.”
Alternative milks can also be high in added sugar and oil (to make them taste good and creamy).
So, if you’re going down the dairy substitute path, choose one that is unflavored, unsweetened, and fortified with Vitamin D and calcium.
When can babies drink oat milk?
It’s recommended to wait until your baby is 1 year old before giving them oat milk, as it doesn’t have the fat and protein content to support their very early needs.
When a baby is young, fat and protein are important for their growth and development.
Oat milk may not provide enough of these vital nutrients until you’ve got a toddler on your hands.
When you’re ready to introduce oat milk, make sure it is unflavored, unsweetened, and fortified with Vitamin D and calcium.
This will help make sure your baby is getting the nutrition they need for their growth and development.
Oat milk can be an excellent alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking for a dairy substitute.
It’s important to still talk to your pediatrician before introducing any new food or drink to your baby.
They will be able to give you specific advice on when the right time is to start introducing oat milk into your baby’s diet.
When can babies drink soy milk?
Babies can start drinking soy milk once they are 1 year old.
Before that, their body doesn’t have the fat and protein content to support their needs.
When selecting a soy milk, you should make sure it is unflavored, unsweetened, and fortified with Vitamin D and calcium.
This will ensure your little one gets the necessary nutrients!
So wait until your baby is a year old before giving them soy milk.
But don’t forget to consult with your pediatrician before making any changes to your baby’s diet.
When can babies drink coconut milk?
It’s important to wait until your baby is at least 1 year old before giving them coconut milk.
While coconut milk is delicious and a great alternative to dairy milk, it isn’t suitable for children under a year old because, just like with other dairy substitutes, it doesn’t have enough fat and nutrients for them.
So opt for an unsweetened, nutrient-fortified coconut milk if you’re going down that route.
It’s also important to remember that all foods should be introduced one at a time, and coconut milk should be given in small amounts at first to check for any allergies or intolerances.
If you have any questions about when and how to introduce coconut milk to your baby, it’s best to ask your pediatrician for more specific advice.
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 – high fat content is best for growing brains.
You can gradually decrease the amount of formula or breast milk and increase the amount of whole milk.
This transition may take a while – sometimes months, especially for breastfed babies who are still nursing.
And if baby doesn’t like milk, don’t worry!
“Milk can be a great way to cover your nutritional bases and make sure they’re getting some protein, fat, vitamin D, and calcium,” explains Barnes, “but it isn’t the only way for them to get those things!
If your baby has fully transitioned from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk – and is loving it – Kacie recommends “no more than two to three servings of milk or dairy per day so that they aren’t overdoing it and missing out on other important nutrients in their diet.”
Good luck on this journey.
If you need support, reach out to your Peanut community.
This road is so much better traveled together.