Why should infants not drink cow's milk?
The nutrient composition of cow's milk is specific to a baby calf and not to a human baby. Cow's milk has a higher level of protein to meet the rapid growth needs of calves. This level, called the renal solute load, is too high for a human baby and could overload a baby's kidneys resulting in serious health problems. It is harder to digest and could also cause intestinal blood loss. Cow's milk contains butterfat which is a very saturated fat and also more difficult to digest. As is commonly known, animal saturated fat contributes to heart disease. Butterfat also does not provide the appropriate amounts or balance of essential fatty acids. Although the carbohydrate in cow's milk is lactose, the same type of carbohydrate in mother's milk, the level is lower than in breast milk. Cow's milk is also deficient in iron, which could result in iron deficiency anemia. It is also lacking in copper, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Human breast milk is the ideal food for a human baby. For those babies who cannot or do not receive breast milk, the first choice of formula is a dairy-based formula made from cow's milk that has been modified to better suit the nutrient needs of a baby. Human milk serves as the model for the composition of formula, but formulas at present still do not contain many of the unique compositional features of breast milk. Breast milk contains hormones, immunologic agents, essential fatty acids, and enzymes to help with digestion.
Modifications that are now made in cow's milk to make a baby formula closer in nutrient composition to breast milk include:
- Reducing the protein content. Baby's Only Organic® dairy formula is made with organic non-fat dried cow's milk at appropriate levels.
- Replacing the butterfat in cow's milk, which is highly saturated, to a proper mixture of vegetable oils that provide the appropriate balance of saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Baby's Only Organic® dairy formula is made with organic high oleic sunflower oil, organic coconut oil, and organic soybean oil. This blend also provides the correct balance of the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid needed by the body to make DHA and ARA. These fatty acids are important for brain function and visual acuity.
- Adding appropriate carbohydrates to bring the total carbohydrate content closer to mother's milk. The carbohydrate composition of Baby's Only Organic® dairy formula consists of 65% organic brown rice syrup and 35% naturally occurring lactose which comes in with the organic non-fat dried cow's milk.
- Adding some vitamins and minerals in the appropriate amounts needed by a baby to grow and develop.
Although human milk and cow's milk contain cholesterol, formulas at present do not contain cholesterol until additional research is done to document the safety and efficacy of doing so. We do not add cholesterol to the blend of organic oils we use to meet the fatty acid requirements and they do not naturally contain cholesterol. There is currently no recommendation on the amount of cholesterol to be fed during early childhood. In fact, the Academy of Pediatrics has not issued any statement regarding whether cholesterol should be added to baby formula. Cholesterol is made by the body in the liver and the intestinal tract and babies have the ability to manufacture amounts needed to support growth and development.
If a parent is considering use of whole cow's milk because of difficulties with formula or for cost reasons, this may signal a greater importance to seek guidance and receive proper nutritional advice appropriate for a baby. Consult the child's healthcare professional for advice.