This is one of the many questions I receive through messages from fellow moms. They want to know if what we have always been told is the actual truth when it comes to switching your babies to cows milk.
It goes like this: your baby turns one year old, and your pediatrician gives you the green light to introduce cows milk. You take that suggestion and possibly don’t even question whether it is the best option for your child or if there are other milk options? ( As a spoiler alert, there ARE other options…there are of course non-dairy options like coconut, oat, hemp, and other nut milks to consider. However, today i’ll just focus on addressing the options when it comes to the 3 categories that most are concerned about: protein, fat and calcium.)
Cows milk has been the standard of care for years upon years built on the fact they need to continue to get enough fats, protein and calcium if you have stopped breastfeeding or giving them formula. There are numerous moms that continue to breastfeed or give formula past 12 months of age, so giving them another form of milk is not something they think about until if and when they do ween and begin to consider a form of transitional milk for their growing toddler.
This blog is NOT intended to tell you how to raise your baby or what method is best to feed them when discussing breastfeeding or formula and beyond. It is simply information to give you options when transitioning them to a form of milk and WHY cows milk is NOT the only option, and why I believe it’s not the healthy one.
The typical argument or questions I get regarding this are, ” I thought you had to give a baby cows milk because it’s the only way they will receive the fat, protein and calcium they need to sustain and grow.” Let’s address a few factors on what conventional cows milk does within the body, and then I’ll give you my best milk recommendation for babies/toddlers.
- Conventional cow milk is one of the top food allergies within children and adults. It is one of the hardest things for our gut to process and digest, as it contains casein and a sugar called lactose. A majority of us do not contain enough of the enzymes called “lactase” to break the lactose down which causes some to become “lactose intolerant.” – The journal of allergy and clinical immunology
- Cow milk is Pro-Inflammatory. It creates thicker mucus and saliva which can also lead to more congestion, sinus issues, inflammation, eczema, ear infections, acne, bloating, gas and constipation.- Italian journal of pediatrics & International journal of dermatology
- Conventional cow milk contains antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids. If you take a deep look into our traditional cow factories, you will see they are pumped full of these to treat infections, speed up the growth process, and fatten the calves/cows. Consider this, whatever is injected into or given to the cow, is also consumed by those who drink their milk. (* This could diminish in cows who are grass-fed, grain-free farm cows where no antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids are used. Standard of care is very different in conventional large factory raised cows, and small family-owned grass-fed cows.)
- Cow milk contains higher amounts of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factors), that are known to increase chances of different types of cancer. – Proc Nutr Soc & PubMed
- Even organic cows milk has been found to contain just as much, or even higher amounts of hormones like estradiol and progesterone. –Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
- Dairy has been linked to increase risk of autoimmune disorders, ovarian, & prostate cancer. – The American journal of clinical nutrition
- Cow milk protein could play a role in triggering Type 1 diabetes through molecular mimicry. – Diabetes Care
With all of the harmful effects and potential risks of drinking conventional cows milk, I personally chose to not give our children cows milk when they were babies, and will continue to steer clear as they get older.
Here is what we have personally chosen to give our young boys, and what I recommend to any of my nutrition clients that are seeking an alternative milk that still provides outstanding nourishment to their children.
Goat or Sheep milk
- Goat milk is the closest and most similar form to human milk
- Goat milk is easier on the gut to digest, as the protein molecules are smaller and easier to digest
- Goat milk has more potassium than cow milk
Let’s compare Cow and Goat milk in protein, fat and calcium:
Cow milk contains 8 grams of protein per cup, Goat milk contains 8-9 grams per cup.
Cow milk contains 305 mg of calcium per cup, Goat milk contains 327 mg of calcium per cup.
*You can also boost calcium in healthy foods like Avocado, fruits, fish, nuts and leafy greens. These foods should become a part of their healthy diet anyway, but take ease knowing they provide calcium to your little ones.
*I also believe its crucial to ensure babies and toddlers have optimal Vitamin D3 levels as this nutrient works with calcium to build stronger bones while boosting the immune system too.
Cow milk contains 8-9 grams of fat per cup, Goat milk contains about 10 grams of fat per one cup
Goat milk provides all the same, if not better amounts of all PROTEIN, CALCIUM and FAT.
Sheep milk contains even HIGHER amounts of all protein, fat and calcium than cow and goat milk!
Calcium: 473 mg per one cup
Protein: 15 grams per one cup
Fat: 17 grams per one cup.
**Some might suggest this is a bit high, which makes goat milk a good middle ground option. If you have access to an organic local farm that provides sheep milk, that could be one to consider if you really prefer it over goat milk. Sheep milk can also can be harder to come by as goat milk might be easier to find in your local healthfood store.
So, is it a nutritional myth that babies MUST have cows milk to nourish their bodies? Yes, in my professional opinion we have been led to believe cows milk is the only and best option for way too long.
Goat or sheep’s milk …those will “do a body good. “