Cow's Milk: The Facts
Some experts say that milk is the world's best fluid. Others recommend that adults and children over 2 years of age not drink any cow's milk. The truth lies somewhere between these 2 points of view.
What are the benefits? Dairy products are an inexpensive source of protein. They are the best source of calcium. In addition they taste good.
What are the risks of drinking cow's milk?
- First: Some infants develop mild bleeding from the intestines if offered whole milk during the first year of life. This leads to iron deficiency anemia which is one reason pediatricians recommend avoiding whole cow's milk during the first year of life. Use formula instead.
- Second: Approximately 1% of children are allergic to cow's milk protein. When they consume milk products they may develop hives, diarrhea, wheezing, or other allergic symptoms. They need to avoid cow's milk products.
- Third: Some children and many adults develop bloating and diarrhea with milk products. This is called lactose intolerance. These symptoms can be offset by adding lactase drops to the milk.
- Fourth: Children with strong risk factors for early heart attacks should avoid whole cow's milk because of the high cholesterol and saturated fat content. Skim milk is fine.
- Fifth: For children and adults who need to avoid milk because of true allergic symptoms, calcium supplementation is essential. Without adequate daily calcium, children can develop soft bones, short stature and not lay down adequate calcium to prevent osteoporosis during late adulthood.
Now, let's summarize the current recommendations for cow's milk consumption during childhood:
- During the first year of life, children should either be breast-fed or receive iron-fortified formula.
- Children 12 to 24 months of age should be given whole cow's milk.
- After 2 years of age, children should drink skim milk or low fat milk.
- The intake of milk products in moderation is not harmful.
If you have other questions about cow's milk, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 7/21/2006 8:00:41 AM
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.