Milk for babies before 12 months: why avoid vaccine milk

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A nice glass of cow milk: at breakfast or as a snack it is part of the food tradition of our country, but when is the right time to introduce it in the baby's nutrition? If in the past there was not even the question and already a few months old children were offered cow's milk, today the scientific knowledge in the field of pediatric nutrition they tell us that it is better to wait for at least the first birthday.

Why avoid cow's milk before 12 months

The indications of the European Society of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Pediatric Nutrition clearly state it: “Cow's milk it should not be used as a main drink before 12 months, while small quantities are allowed in addition to food preparations "(such as mashed potatoes or bechamel, Ed.)".

The main reasons for this "ban" are two and the professor explains them to us Andrea Vania, Head of the Center for Pediatric Dietology and Nutrition of the Maternal-Child and Urological Sciences Department of the Sapienza University of the city. “The first has to do with theand proteins, which are too much in cow's milk". We now know that an excess of proteins in the first two years of life is associated with an increase in the risk of obesity in childhood: hence the attention to keeping the intake of this nutrient low and, therefore, the attention towards of a food that is particularly rich in it such as cow's milk.

Read also: Obesity and children: WHO invites us to focus on breastfeeding to prevent it

A simple calculation is enough to realize this: as Vania writes together with Luigi Nastri and Jacopo Pagani in the book Learn to eat, the right weaning with the Margherita method, around 6-8 months a baby needs about 17 grams of protein per day. But half a liter of cow's milk - and it is reasonable to think that at that age as much, if not more, a child will take - alone provides 15 grams. It means that from the point of view of proteins there should not be more room for anything else during the day: not only for protein foods such as meat, fish, legumes, eggs, but also for other types of foods such as cereals and other vegetables, which in any case a minimum of proteins contain it.


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“The second reason for avoiding cow's milk before the first birthday - continues Vania - concerns instead iron deficiency, at an age when the need for this micronutrient is very high ".

Read also: Supplements and vitamins for children

Finally, some studies suggest that the consumption of cow's milk before the year of life may favor the appearance of intestinal microhemorrhages, promoting the risk of anemia. “It is an observation that has emerged mainly from studies relating to the consumption of raw milk, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be extensible to pasteurized one as well ”underlines the nutritionist.

Breast milk is ALWAYS recommended
Before and after the year of life, breast milk is always the one recommended for babies. And the biological norm, of course, and its consumption is associated with multiple short- and long-term health benefits for mom and baby.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding not just for the first months of life (in particular he recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months) but also beyond, up to two years and more, if mother and child continue to like it.

Cow's milk after 12 months: yes but with caution

When the first candle is turned off, the recommendations to avoid cow's milk fall, as long as you use some caution. "From the point of view of nutritional requirements, not much changes between a 12-month-old and a 14-month-old baby, so the basic indication is to don't overdo itand ".

If the child is satisfied with 200-400 ml of milk per day (according to the indications of the Ministry of Health), therefore, cow's milk is fine, but if its demands are higher, it is better to make other choices. “For children who continue to consume a lot of milk even after a year, leis would be preferable growth formulas, but if you really want to stay on cow's milk this must be diluted ".

When and how much to dilute cow's milk

"The dilution of cow's milk is appropriate if the child is a heavy consumer of milk and you prefer to use this food instead of the growth formula," says Vania. "In these cases, the milk should be diluted in half with water for at least the entire second year of life ".

Gradually more "pushed" dilutions could also be a good strategy to unaccustom the child to the request of a bottle of milk in the evening, before going to sleep. “After one year of life, the baby should start taking family eating habits and parents are unlikely to drink a cup of milk before going to sleep. At the most you can keep the offer, if requested by the child, of a very small amount of milk as a pamper, no more than 30-50 cc".

Obviously, the situation is different if we are talking about breast milk: in this case the evening or night feeding has no “contraindications” of any kind.

Whole or skim milk?

"Whole, no doubt”Says the expert. “Semi-skimmed milk is not recommended for children up to three years of age, because at this stage of life there is a need for fat, more than adults need. Now, it is true that many of the fats in milk are saturated fats, therefore not the 'best', but it is equally true that if in the rest of the diet you are careful to provide the child with unsaturated fats, it is perfectly fine that there is a part of saturated fat from milk ".

Not only: skim milk also has a higher protein content (about 3,3-3,5 grams per 100 ml, against 3 grams per 100 ml of whole milk) and for this reason it is also not recommended for children.

Read also: Weaning: 40 expert answers to your questions

Fresh or long-life?

"If it is easy for the family, I would say fresh, both because the taste is generally better (even if the long-life milk available today still tastes good), and because with the conservation processes a minimum of nutrients are lost" replies Vania . Suggesting that a good middle ground could be the microfiltered cow's milk, which lasts from 7 to 10 days.

Should cow's milk be boiled?

“Cow's milk pasteurized, microfiltered or UHT should not be boiled: it can easily be consumed as it is or just heated if you prefer. Instead, what must absolutely be boiled is raw milk, however the Ministry of Health has advised against its use due to the risk of bacterial contamination ".

Growth milk: watch out for added sugars
If even after one year of life you prefer to give the baby, in the absence of breast milk, a formulated milk, Professor Vania advises to pay attention to the sugar content of the chosen formula.

“Growth milk can be a valid alternative because it has an adequate protein content and guarantees a significant intake of vitamin D, iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as DHA. But not all formulas are the same, and some actually have an excess of added sugar. The ideal would be to focus on those that contain only lactose - and not other sugars such as maltodextrin, sucrose, glucose, fructose - with a concentration of about 7 grams per 100 ml, comparable to the concentration of lactose present in breast milk ".

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