When can babies have cows miThisthis is a question I see on many forums and a question I am often asked.
A general rule of thumb is, that your baby can start having standard cows milk and dairy products from the time you start solids. (As long as you have started solids at an appropriate age)
At this time there is some debate around the best time to start solids. All guidelines recommend not starting before 17 weeks, and not delaying past 26 weeks.
You can introduce standard cow's milk and dairy products to your baby if:
- they are aged between 17 and 26 weeks or over 26 weeks,
- they do not have an already diagnosed allergy to cows milk protein,
- and you have made the decision to start solids/complementary foods
If you meet these 3 criteria it is fine to use standard cows milk or dairy products in the solid food that you offer them. i.e on cereals, in custards or as an ingredient in foods you prepare or purchase.
From an allergy perspective, the general consensus from the professional allergy bodies around the world is that delaying the introduction of potential allergy foods such as cows milk is NOT protective against the development of allergy and that early introduction may be protective. I have summarised the international guidelines around starting solids and the allergy foods you can find that article here.
Do I have to heat or cook cow's milk I give my baby?
Cow's milk that is offered at meal times in solids/complementary foods does not need to be cooked or heated. i.e if you are adding milk to a cereal it does not need to be cooked or heated unless you want too. Other dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese are also fine to offer babies that do not have a cows milk allergy.
At what age can my baby have standard cows milk instead of breast milk or formula?
Cow's milk should not be offered as a 'milk feed' until your child is over one year of age. Until this time all 'milk feeds' should either be breast milk or an appropriate infant formula.
If you are looking for further information on when to start solids; Here is an article I have written which summarises the various guidelines and research on this topic.