Cows' milk is a key part of a healthy diet for adults and
for children older than age 1. Milk provides your body with energy,
vitamin D, vitamin A, riboflavin, and other nutrients.
Experts agree that breast-feeding is the preferred way to feed an infant
for the first year of life. But if you can't breast-feed or don't want to,
use man-made infant formulas rather than cows' milk to feed your baby.
These formulas are usually made from cows' milk or soy but have iron and
other key nutrients added to them. Also, the protein in formula is changed
to make it easier for your baby to digest. Store-bought infant formula
provides good nutrition for a baby. But it does lack certain factors found
in breast milk that help protect a baby against infection and allergies.
Cows' milk is a key part of most healthy diets for adults
and children older than age 1. But infants should not drink cows'
milk because it does not have the right amounts of nutrients for
human babies. Cows' milk, after all, was intended to feed calves.
The protein in cows' milk is not the same as that found
in human breast milk and man-made infant formulas. It is harder for
an infant to digest and absorb. Also, an infant's body has a hard
time absorbing the iron found in cows' milk.
Once a child has reached age 1, whole cows' milk may be
started in place of breast milk or formula as long as the baby can
tolerate it. Health experts do not advise feeding low-fat dairy
products to children less than age 2. Two percent milk and fat-free
milk are two examples of low-fat dairy foods.
Fat does not need to be limited in the diets of children
under the age of 2. In fact, experts recommend whole-milk products
for children between the ages of 1 and 2. This ensures that the child
gets the amount of fat he or she needs for normal growth and development
of the brain and nervous system. As children age, the amount of
energy they need depends on their activity level and rate of growth.
For children ages 2 to 5, low-fat or fat-free milk provides enough
nutrients for growth and development.
For many children 5 years and older, energy needs can be
met with a diet that includes fat-free milk. As children grow up,
other foods may become the main source of calories and protein.
During years of peak bone growth, cows' milk provides a rich source
of calcium and vitamin D.
During the later adult years, getting
enough calcium and vitamin D in the diet continues to be key.
Drinking enough milk each day can help prevent the loss of calcium from your
bones that can lead to a disease called osteoporosis.
The recommended amounts of (cows') milk group servings you need daily are as follows:
None for infants age 0 to 12 months
Two servings for young and school-age children
Three servings for teenagers and young adults up to age 24
Two servings for adults over age 24
Three servings for pregnant or breast-feeding women
One serving equals:
1 cup of milk or yogurt
1.5 ounces of natural cheese
2 ounces of processed cheese
The difference between whole milk, low-fat milk, and
fat-free milk and dairy products is the fat and calorie content.
Fat-free milk and milk products have the same amount of vitamins
and minerals, including calcium, as whole milk. What they don't have
is the saturated fat and extra calories. Dairy products are a key
part of your daily diet.
Some studies have suggested a link between the early use
of cows' milk in young infants and type 1 diabetes. The American
Academy of Pediatrics recognizes this possible link. In response,
it strongly supports breast-feeding rather than cows' milk during
the first year of life. There are no credible experts who say that
children over age 1 need to avoid milk or dairy products.