Giving Baby Cow's Milk or Other Alternatives
For the first six months of your baby's life, they only need milk - either breast milk or infant formula. Both of these contain the correct balance of all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your little one will need up to this age. Don't be tempted to switch to cow's milk or any other alternative at this age as it just doesn't contain all the nutrients your baby needs and it can be difficult for young babies to digest. From six months old, your baby can have follow-on formula which contains the extra iron he or she needs at this age. Here is some advice on what milk your baby can have throughout their early years.
Can I Use Non-Cows' Milk Formula?
If, for any reason, you think your baby has an allergy or intolerance to cows' milk, it is vitally important that you speak to your Health Visitor or G.P. immediately. Special soya-based and hypo-allergenic formulas can be prescribed for your baby. Signs of a cows' milk (or lactose) intolerance can include: diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pains, a bloated stomach and wind. The symptoms of a milk allergy are very similar but can also include skin rashes and difficulty breathing.
Can I Give My Baby Cows' Milk?
Full-fat (whole) cows' milk can be used in cooking and on breakfast cereal for your baby from the age of six months. However, it is advised that cows' milk isn't offered as a main drink until he or she is at least a year old. Once your baby reaches her first birthday, whole milk is suitable and should given to children until they are two years old. Children aged two and above can be given semi-skimmed milk, as long as they have a balanced and varied diet, otherwise, it's a good idea to continue with whole milk until they are a bit older.
Skimmed milk and 1% milk should only be introduced after your child reaches the age of five, as it doesn't contain enough calories for growing children.
Other Types of Milk
Sheep's or goats' milk aren't suitable to be given as a drink to your baby before one year of age. This is because they don't contain enough nutrients to meet a growing baby's needs. Once your baby is one year old, you can choose to give him or her these milks - just check they are pasteurised and safe for young children. Rice milk (or rice drinks) is not recommended for children under the age of five as they contain inorganic arsenic. Generally, breast milk is the best choice for your baby up to the age of six months (and beyond if you are both happy to continue). If you choose not to breast feed, regular formula is the best choice for your baby. ALWAYS seek medical advice if you are thinking about switching your baby to another type of formula or if you suspect your little one has an allergy or intolerance.