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Cow's milk - infants

Cow's milk is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children under 1 year old. Infants fed whole cow's milk don't get enough vitamin E, iron, and essential fatty acids. They also get too much protein, sodium, and potassium. These levels may be too high for the infant's system to handle. Also, whole cow's milk protein and fat are more difficult for an infant to digest and absorb.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula during the first 12 months of life. Between ages 4 - 6 months, certain solid foods may be added. Breast milk or iron-fortified formula, along with age-appropriate solid foods and juices during the first year of life, provides more balanced nutrition.

Almost all babies and infants do well on these formulas, if they are used. Fussiness and colic are common problems. Most of the time, cow's milk formulas are not the cause of these symptoms and switching to a different formula is not needed.

Iron-fortified infant formula or breast milk should be used until a child is 1 year old.

See also: Infant formulas

Update Date: 8/2/2011

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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