5 reasons why you should NOT be giving cow's milk to your newborn

5 reasons why you should NOT be giving cow's milk to your newborn

If you're giving cow's milk to your infant, you need to stop now. Here's why

There are many traditional infant practices that are still being followed by many new mothers, but the truth is that they are doing more harm to your baby than good.

One such practice that is rampantly followed across India is giving cow's milk to newborns as it is a common perception that cow's milk is the next best thing after breastmilk. However, that if far from the truth.

"Cow's milk should not be given to a newborn at any cost as it is hard on the baby's immature digestive system. Besides, it might also contain harmful bacteria that can result in an infection. Only when the baby's gut is a little mature and developed should you be introducing cow's milk to your baby that too when he is at least a year old. Before that the best thing that a mother can give her baby is breastmilk as it contains the required antibodies and the nutrients to suit your baby's growing needs," says Dr Rahul Manchanda, consulting doctor and head, Gynae Endoscopic Surgeon, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi.

If you're still not convinced, here are five reasons why you should not be giving cow's milk to your newborn according to science:

1 It's difficult to digest

Infants, especially newborns, can't digest cow's milk due to its high concentration of protein and minerals, which can harm your baby's immature digestive system and still developing kidneys, says Dr Manchanda.

Besides, unlike common perception cow's milk does not have the right amounts of iron, vitamin C and nutrients that can supplement a newborn's ever growing needs.

2. It might cause an iron deficiency in newborns

Research says that cow's milk may even result in anaemia in babies as it can irritate the lining of the digestive tract leading to an intestinal infection and simultaneous blood loss. As it is low in iron content, it makes difficult for the infant to obtain the amounts of iron needed for growth.

baby drinking

A second mechanism is the occult intestinal blood loss, which occurs in about 40 percent of normal infants during feeding of cow's milk. While lactose intolerance is rare in infants, some toddlers and older children can develop diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain, because of their inability to digest the lactose sugar in milk

3. It might trigger an allergy in infants

Early exposure to cow’s milk proteins increases the risk of developing allergy to milk proteins. Scientists say that if human milk is not available, it is preferred that iron-fortified formulas rather than whole cow’s milk be used during the first year of life.

Protein provides approximately 7 percent of the calories in human milk and 20 percent of the calories in whole cow’s milk. Although the amounts of whey protein are similar, whole cow’s milk contains six to seven times as much casein as does human milk. The high casein content of whole cow’s milk is undesirable because casein forms a tough, hard to digest curd that is difficult for young infants to digest.

Continue reading on the next page to know why cow's milk can never match the nutritional content of breast milk!

The amino acids taurine and cystine are present in much higher concentrations in human milk than in whole cow’s milk. These amino acids may be essential for premature infants.

Besides, some infants might also develop diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain, because of their inability to digest cow's milk. The allergic proteins may seep through the irritated intestinal lining into the bloodstream and cause an allergic reaction, such as a runny nose, wheezing, rashes and ear infections.

4. It does not contain the right amount of fat

Cow's milk is also low on fat, which you can easily make out from its thin consistency. Doctors say that infants under the age two require all the fat they can get to meet their nutritional requirements and supplement their ever growing needs. This is another reason why cow's milk should not be given to newborns.

5. It can never match the nutritional content of breastmilk

Nothing in this world can match the nutritional content of breastmilk. It is a well-known fact that breast milk is crucial for the health of newborns and acts as a shield against various illnesses. Most doctors and even WHO recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life in the interest of building their immunity.

Also Read: Top 7 Indian baby care myths busted

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