Updated: Dec 8, 2020
There is so much information out there about when to introduce cow’s milk to your baby/toddler. The most common one I have heard and found online is introducing cow’s milk after your baby turns 1. This is what we did. However, there is other research out there, that suggests it is better to introduce cow’s milk to your toddler when they turn 2. Some would even say cow’s milk is unnecessary in your child's diet. So I decided to dig deeper to find out what’s the deal with cow’s milk.
Our Experience with Introducing Cows Milk to Joshua
When Joshua was 13 months, we decided to try giving him some cows milk to see how he reacts to it. He didn't like cows milk at first, he made the funniest face the first time he tried it. So we started adding it in his scrambled eggs and cereal to slowly ease him into it. He was fine with cows milk when it is cooked and in his food, but he still didn't like drinking it on his own.
So after some research and discussing with other mums, I tried mixing it in with his formula. I started off with 30ml of cows milk and the rest formula, and when he was drinking it without a problem, I slowly increased the cow's milk proportion, until he was fully on cows milk. It seems great at first, as he didn't seem to have a bad reaction to it, no rash or throw up. So we thought, great, now we no longer need to buy formula and just buy cows milk going forward.
However, something very unexpected happened. We noticed that Joshua's quality of sleep started declining. He was doing very well beforehand, sleeping through the night most nights, and even when he does wake up at night, I only need to go in very quickly to settle him before going back to bed.
So when his sleep started to get worse, at first we just thought it was teething, but when it got really bad, we started to think, "Could it be something else?"
We started to notice that he was getting very gassy at night, and was getting harder to settle him when he woke up at night. At one point, it was so bad that he cried for 4 hours! Which is highly unusual as he hasn't been like that since he was a newborn. That is when I asked Gemma, our sleep consultant for some help.
Gemma informed us that, if Joshua refuses to get back to sleep after an hour of trying to soothe him, then it is no longer a sleep training issue, it is something else. Such as discomfort or other issues. So we started to think, what could it be?
We tried thinking of all the different issues it could be: a full diaper, hunger, nightmare, night terror, teething, illness, separation anxiety, etc. However, nothing seems to fit. Until a mum from one of my mum's group chat mentioned that in her country, they don't recommend introducing Cows milk until your child turns 2. That is when a lightbulb went off in my head - could it be cows milk?
So we decided to cut out cows milk from Joshua's diet and see what happens.
Cutting out Cows Milk from Joshua's diet
This was an uphill battle for me because my husband didn't buy this whole theory about cows' milk causing Joshua's sleep problem. (Even though he was the one who noticed that Joshua was getting very gassy at night.) It took a lot of convincing for him to stop doing that because he was insistent that I was being over paranoid, and this whole cow’s milk issue was a myth. So much so, that I needed to get advice from the baby nutritionist to prove my point!
Was it necessary to introduce cow’s milk to your baby after they turn one? Is cow’s milk necessary for your child's diet? Is milk in Joshua's scrambled eggs or cereal necessary in the morning?
Advice from Sanchita, the Baby Nutritionist
Life is funny that way. If you believe in the power of attraction, when you need certain people to appear in your life, they will appear. That is when I connected with momtrepreneur Sanchita, a Nutrition Consultant for Babies.
It was great having Sanchita's input on this matter. It definitely helped convinced my husband to stop giving Joshua cows milk all together to try out this cow's milk theory of mine.
Here is my Q& A with Sanchita:
Me: When should we introduce cows milk to your baby?
Sanchita: Cow’s milk should be introduced after 12 months and should be organic, grass-fed, and should not have A-1 casein. Other options would be sheep, buffalo, or goat’s milk. Then it can provide a great source of nutrients.
Me: What is A-1 casein?
Sanchita: All dairy contains a protein called A-2 casein. It is one of the main cow’s milk protein- comprising around 30% of the total protein. It is said that a long time ago during breeding-mutation occurred and a lot of breeding cows started producing A-1 casein. These cows became very popular as they produced more milk and much faster. A-1 casein is very difficult to digest for humans that lead to a lot of people feeling they are lactose intolerant but are actually just not able to digest the casein. Human milk also contains A-2 casein but doesn’t contain A1. A1 casein has a different formulation when it comes to the amino acid chain.
Some cow breeds that produce A-1 milk are Holstein, British Shorthorn, and Ayrshire. Holstein breed is the most common cow in Canada, USA, Australia, and Northern Europe. Cow breeds that produce A2 milk are Asian, Guernsey, Limousin, Brown Swiss, Normandes, and Jersey, and most cows in Asia, Southern Europe, and Africa.
Me: Is it necessary to introduce cows milk to your baby after they turn one? Or can we continue with formula?
Sachita: Babies do not need cow's milk. Yes - raw organic A-2 cow's milk is great because it has all the nutrients a baby needs - it is a superfood. Unfortunately, today the milk we get is not fresh, highly pasteurized meaning it not only kills the bad bacteria but also the good ones and because of mass production, it has a protein that many humans can't digest. We normally look to cow’s milk to provide us with complete nutrients. However, today we are lucky to find more sources for calcium and protein that can provide sufficient nutrients- like sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds.
Me: What is Organic A-2 cow's milk? And where can we get it? Is it available in Hong Kong?
Sachita: A-2 cow’s milk is milk that has been bred from a cow that doesn’t produce milk with A1 casein in it. Unfortunately, I have tried reaching out to many milk producing companies in Hong Kong but they themselves are unable to answer this question. Therefore, I am still on the hunt for a A-2 milk in Hong Kong. For now, I do not offer my kids cow’s milk. The best option if you are keen to introduce milk is to look out for a small, local farm that you can get the milk from fresh.
Me: Is it safe to drink raw cows milk?
Sachita: Raw cow’s milk has vitamin c, calcium, folate, B12, A, iron, iodine, minerals - but a lot of the milk available to us today has killed all these nutrients.
Pasteurized cow’s milk is very difficult for babies to digest and causes their immune system to create a defensive response. Pasteurization kills lactase (an enzyme helping digestion of lactose, damages fats, and denatures proteins. It is a high allergy food and is one of the major causes for earaches, constipation, eczema, and cold symptoms.
A lot of people are worried that raw cow’s milk is not safe as a reason a lot of milk is pasteurized to kill all the bad bacteria. Studies show that these statements are completely exaggerated. Any food that is not handled properly can cause illness - including pasteurized milk. Raw milk actually helps strengthen the immune system. FDA sites that raw milk can cause a few infections such as Listeria monocytogenes. A 2003 report found that there were more cases of getting this pathogen from deli meats and pasteurized milk.
Me: How much milk (cows milk or formula) should a child be consuming after they turn 1?
Sachita: In the first year of life, breastmilk/formula is the main source of nutrition. Post 1 year, the amount of dairy a toddler should have should be limited to around 400 ml a day. This is because post one year, solids ( food ) should be the primary source of nutrition. If you give a toddler too much milk this can reduce their meal intake and can also lead to the body not being able to absorb iron.
Me: After a baby or Toddler consumes cows milk, how long does it take for them to pass out from their system? For example, if they have cows milk with their cereal in the morning, can it still effect their sleep at night?
Sanchita: Yes, cow’s milk and yogurt and any dairy if given on its own, it can actually keep kids awake. It has a protein called tyrosine, which is known as a waker upper. Dairy must be served with carbs and fats to help counter this. I know many of us love to feed our kids yogurt in the evening – but just be aware that this might be keeping them awake.
Cow’s milk in cereal, if it is a good source of milk, is fine as long as it is balanced with a fat and protein. If we don't balance it out with protein and fat then it can lead to troubled sleep or crankiness throughout the day. So for example with the cereal and milk would need to add some protein like peanut butter and some coconut milk instead of fat.
Breakfast is actually the most important meal that helps babies fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Me: As pasteurized cows milk is not great for digestion and if mums don't want to continue with formula. What are the other options to replace breast milk?
Sanchita: The best option for babies to replace breast milk is with nutrient-densed food. No liquid can replace breast milk as none provide as much nutrients.
Me: What type of nutrient-dense food would you suggest?
Sachita: To build a balanced meal you need to look at a combination of carbs, protein, and fat. Meat is a great source of nutrients for babies and easy to digest. Foods high in fats such as avocado, coconut milk, fish are also very important for growing kids.
Whether you decide to give your child cows milk or not, it is a very personal choice. Your child could be completely fine with digesting cows milk, but I thought it is an interesting point of view to share in case you are in a similar situation as us.
As for us, we have cut out cows milk completely from Joshua's diet, and his sleep has improved since then. (Thank God!)
I still give Joshua a very small amount of dairy products, such as butter in his mash potatoes or toast, but that is it. We will reintroduce cows milk to Joshua again after he turns 2 and see how he reacts to it.
If you want to get in contact with Sanchita for more advice on this topic or about children's nutrition in general, please find her contact details below.
Telephone: +852 9125 9533
Would you like more posts on Children's nutrition, meal prep, and weaning? If so please let me know. I hope you enjoyed my blog post today, I will keep working on different topics that might interest you. If you have specific topics that you would like me to cover. Please don't hesitate to contact me via email, and I will work on it.
Sending you love & positive thoughts,