Baby's milk needsMonday, October 11, 2021
AT 12 months old you can begin to give your baby cow's milk and other types of milk, as by that time their diets would be varied enough to provide the required nutrients for growth. Before one-year-old, breast milk and formula would contain iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients in high enough quantities for your baby to thrive.
By age one, however, most babies would be eating a well-rounded diet that would provide much of their nutritional needs, and so can rely on other types of milk for their calcium needs.
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) says cow's milk can be used in cooking or mixed with food from around six months, but shouldn't be given as a drink to babies until they are 12 months old. This is because cow's milk does not contain enough iron to meet babies' needs.
Whole milk should be given to children until they are two years old, as they need the extra energy and vitamins it contains, the NHS said. It said semi-skimmed milk can be introduced once your child is two years old, as long as they're a good eater and they have a varied diet.
Skimmed and one per cent milk aren't suitable for children under five years old, as they don't contain enough calories.
Lower-fat milks can be used in cooking from one-year-old.
What about other milk types?
Here are some guidelines from the NHS.
You should continue to breastfeed or give your baby first infant formula until they're at least one-year-old. Breastfeeding will continue to benefit you and your baby for as long as you carry on. This is the only food or drink babies need in the first six months of their life.
It should continue to be given alongside an increasingly varied diet once you introduce solid foods from around six months.
The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to two years or longer.
The first infant formula is usually based on cow's milk and is the only suitable alternative to breast milk in the first 12 months of your baby's life. Follow-on formula isn't suitable for babies under six months. First infant formula, follow-on formula or growing-up milks aren't needed once your baby is 12 months old. You should only give your baby soya formula if a health professional advises you to.
Cow's milk can be introduced as a main drink from 12 months.
Young children shouldn't be given unpasteurised milk because of the higher risk of food poisoning.
This isn't suitable as drinks for babies under one-year-old as, like cow's milk, it doesn't contain enough iron and other nutrients babies this age need. As long as it is pasteurised, it can be used once your baby is one-year-old.
Soya drinks and other milk alternatives
You can give your child unsweetened calcium-fortified milk alternatives, such as soya, oat or almond drinks, from the age of one as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Babies and young children under five years old shouldn't be given rice drinks, because of the levels of arsenic in these products.
If your child has an allergy or intolerance to milk, talk to your paediatrician. They can advise you on suitable milk alternatives.
Fruit juice and smoothies
Fruit juices, such as orange juice, are a good source of vitamin C. However, they also contain natural sugars and acids, which can cause tooth decay.
Babies under 12 months don't need fruit juice or smoothies. If you choose to give these to your baby, dilute the juices and smoothies (one part juice to 10 parts water) and limit them to meal times.
Giving fruit juice and smoothies at mealtimes (rather than between) helps reduce the risk of tooth decay.
From five years old, you can give your child undiluted fruit juice or smoothies. Stick to no more than one glass (about 150 ml) a day, served with meals.