The World Health Organisation and Health Ministry guidelines advise exclusive breastfeeding for the first twelve months as breast milk has all the nutrients essential for your baby's growth and development at this stage.
Most paediatricians advise that a toddler over 12 months of age needs to be weaned onto full cream, whole cow's milk, as it provides the necessary fats that growing toddlers need. A child under 5 should not be drinking or eating anything that is ‘low fat’.
After 12 months, you can continue breastfeeding and introducing cow milk in your baby's diet by adding a few teaspoons of milk to cook kheer, soups, dalia, halwa or custard.
Why Cow's Milk?
From one year, cow's milk plays an important role in your baby's diet, as it provides essential protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B12 and B2 (riboflavin). Many mothers prefer to begin by diluting the milk a bit, but don't do this. Adding water to the milk reduces its nutrient content and increases the risks of waterborne diseases, particularly if the water is not boiled or filtered well.
Cow's milk, like dark leafy vegetables, is a great source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, and magnesium. This is necessary to build your child's teeth and regulate her blood coagulation and muscle control. Cow's milk also provides protein for growth, as well as carbohydrates, which will give your child the energy she needs to toddle all day!
How to Introduce Cow's Milk to Your Baby?
The easiest way to introduce whole cow's milk to your baby is by combining it with your breast milk. For example, first offer your baby a sippy cup or bottle with 3/4 breast milk and 1/4 whole cow's milk for 5-7 days, then offer a half and half mix for another week, then a 3/4 cow's milk 1/4 breast milk for a final few days.
Warm the milk. Your baby is used to perfectly warmed breast milk, so you can expect they may be a little put off by cold milk. Warm it slightly before giving to your baby, and save yourself another hurdle!
2. Best Time of the Day
This may vary for each infant. If your infant is turned off by the introduction of cow’s milk initially don’t lose hope. Try cuddling him or her while your little one drinks from the bottle. Consider starting with one bottle without cow’s milk and switching mid-way to a bottle with 1-ounce of cow’s milk to see if baby notices. Perhaps when baby is sleepy he or she won’t notice the shift, so try in the early morning or as little one is getting ready for bed. There is no right or wrong time, it’s best to pick up your baby’s cues and keep trying.
3. Type of Cow's Milk
it's important that you give your one year old farm fresh whole cow's milk, and not the lower fat varieties. That's because he or she needs the higher fat and caloric content for overall growth and development. For children under two years, fats should make up about half of the total caloric intake for the day.
Do make sure that the cow's milk is pasteurised. Raw milk may contain harmful bacteria such as E-coli and salmonella.
4. Make it Special
Emphasise the importance of transition with the purchase of a ‘special’ cup or bottle and making a big deal about moving onto ‘big girl/boy’ things, but don’t draw any attention to the milk.
If you’re struggling for time and really want to help encourage your infant to take to whole cow's milk, consider blending in whole fruit—not fruit juice—into the milk. Berries, like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries also provide a healthy dose of fiber and make for a delicious milk blend.
5. Different Methods of weaning
There are a couple of different methods to adopt when you start to wean your baby from breastfeed.
Mutual Weaning – The natural adoption of anything other than breast milk, including water, juice, solid foods and other milks.
Baby Led Weaning – When your baby decides for themselves that they have had enough of breastfeeding, it can leave you feeling a bit rejected. But take this opportunity to embrace your babies choice and give new things a go.
Mother Led Weaning – Mums can decide to wean for a number of reasons, including a return to work, reduction in milk quantity, community pressure, sickness, another pregnancy, troubles with biting/sucking, medical reasons or simply a feeling that they have had enough.
6. Take it slowly
It is highly beneficial to both you and baby that you start the weaning process slowly. This protects your babies immune system, decreases the chances of intolerance and the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis in Mum. It is also considered kinder to both your own body and babies routine and diet. Dependent on your child’s age, you can wean to a cup or bottle.
If you stop breastfeeding quickly, your breasts may become engorged and susceptible to mastitis and blocked ducts. Express just enough to feel comfortable, if you express too much you will stimulate supply.
Don’t lose hope if these strategies aren’t working, and your baby just isn’t enjoying the transition from breast milk to cow’s milk. The best advice is to stay calm, trust your intuition, and let your baby lead the way. If you find yourself stressing about this transition be sure to speak with your paediatrician and possibly request to see a paediatric dietitian to help you navigate the transition.
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