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Cow's milk is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children under 1 year old. Infants fed whole cow's milk don't get enough vitamin E , iron , and essential fatty acids. They also get too much protein , sodium, and potassium. These levels may be too high for the infant's system to handle. Also, whole cow's milk protein and fat are more difficult for an infant to digest and absorb.

Cow's milk can have dramatic effects on the infant's iron levels. Infants fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula have normal iron levels. Studies show infants often have low iron levels when started on cow's milk at 6 months of age.

For the best infant nutrition, pick the right milk source and eventually introduce the infant to solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula during the first 12 months of life. Between ages 4 - 6 months, certain solid foods may be added. Breast milk or iron-fortified formula, along with age-appropriate solid foods and juices during the first year of life, provides more balanced nutrition.

Skim or 2% milk:

Under 1 year of age, skim and 2% (low-fat) milk have no place in the diet. They supply too much protein, potassium, and sodium and not enough calories for the growing infant. Children also need the fat for proper growth and development, including brain development.

Low-fat milk is not the answer for an overweight baby. The best diet is the same as that of a normal weight infant; the only difference is in the amount. Talk to a registered dietitian or doctor about your child's diet. Slightly reducing calories will allow the infant to "grow into his weight" without a rapid change in body fat. Rapid weight loss can be dangerous, particularly in a small child. Reducing fat too much might not leave enough energy stores for the infant to fight a serious illness. Many doctors question the serious, unknown consequences of a rapid loss of fat.

Suggested Intake - Infants:

  • Breast Milk:
    • Every 1-3 hrs for infants 0-3 months
    • Every 2-4 hrs for infants 4-5 months
    • Every 3-4 hrs for infants 6-8 months
    • Every 4-5 hrs for infants 9-12 months
  • Iron-fortified Formula (per day):
    • 18-40 oz. for infants 0-3 months
    • 24-45 oz. for infants 4-5 months
    • 24-37 oz. for infants 6-8 months
    • 24-31 oz. for infants 9-12 months
  • Dairy:
    • None for infants 0-3 months
    • None for infants 4-5 months
    • None for infants 6-8 months
    • Small servings for infants 9-12 months
    • 16-20 oz. whole milk for toddlers 1-2 years
Suggested intake - children 2 - 5 years:
  • Cow's milk
    • 6 servings/day
    • 1 serving equals:
      • 1/2 cup milk, yogurt, pudding
      • 3/4 oz. cheese
      • 1 cup cottage cheese

Suggested intake - teens and adults (the equivalent of one of the following is recommended):

  • Milk/yogurt (1 cup)
    • 3-4 servings/day
  • 1 1/2 oz. natural cheese
    • 2-3 servings/day
  • 2 oz. processed cheese
    • 4 servings/day
See also: Infant formulas

Review Date: 8/15/2007
Reviewed By: Rachel A. Lewis, MD, FAAP, Columbia University Pediatric Faculty Practice, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100