Milk in Infancy – Boon or Bane ?
Dr Ravi Gupta
Frequently asked questions by parents- How much milk should my child take? He does not eat any solid food, so I give him Milk? My child won’t drink milk, what should I do?
All of these questions may sound familiar ! Let us try to resolve some of these queries.
Before we answer these questions let us go through the composition of Cow milk available in Indian markets as Packets/ Tetra Packs or from Dairies. Average composition per 100 ml is as follows: Protein – 3.2gm, Fat- 4.1 gm, Lactose( Milk sugar)- 4.4 gm, Calcium-120 mg and Energy -67 kcal.
Milk intake in Infancy ( Newborn to One year of age) :
A newborn on exclusive Formula can take upto 150 ml/kg/day of Milk and babies are on an exclusive milk diet for the first 4 to 6 months. Solids are usually added around 6 months as per WHO recommendation. Breast milk is recommended upto 2 years. Cow milk is advised to be started after 12 months as it is very low in Iron, does not have the right mix of protein and fat for right growth in Infancy and it is very high in Sodium. Also some infants may develop allergic reactions to cow milk protein.However, one can use a little amount of cow milk for making Kheer, Custard, Raita etc.
Milk is a wonderful source of calcium, but excessive intake can cause problems.
Firstly, it is very calorie dense..One liter of milk contains 670 kcal. Recommended dietary allowance ( RDA) of calories for young children is 1200 – 1400 kcal/day. If a child has consumed 1 liter of milk in a day, he has consumed 50% of calories from one source only.
Secondly, it has too much calcium. RDA fir Calcium for 1-9 year olds is 600mg/day. 1 liter of milk contains 1200 mg of calcium which is double of RDA. Excessive calcium reduces Iron absorption making the child more fussy and irritable. So the usual recommendation is to reduce milk from around one liter at one year to 400 ml at the age of 2 years. Child should be fed from cup /glass after one year of age and should be Bottle free at 2 years
My child won’t drink milk, should I worry? : Don’t worry as there are alternatively good sources of Calcium like Cheddar cheese, yogurt , paneer etc. Baked Beans and Tinned Salmon are other good sources of Calcium.
Remember, the key to Good nutrition is a variety of Foods and drinks to make a diet balanced and nourishing.