Cow's milk - infants
If your child is under 1 year old, you should not feed your baby cow's milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Cow's milk does not provide enough:
Your baby's system cannot handle the high levels of these nutrients in cow's milk:
It is also hard for your baby to digest the protein and fat in cow's milk.
To provide the best diet and nutrition for your infant, the AAP recommends:
- If possible, you should feed your baby breast milk for at least the first 6 months of life.
- You should give your baby only breast milk or iron-fortified formula during the first 12 months of life, not cow's milk.
- Starting at age 6 months, you may add solid foods to your baby's diet.
If breastfeeding is not possible, infant formulas provide a healthy diet for your infant.
Whether you use breast milk or formula, your baby may have colic and be fussy. These are common problems in all babies. Cow's milk formulas usually do not cause these symptoms, so it may not help if you switch to a different formula. If your baby has ongoing colic, talk with your health care provider.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding; Johnston M, Landers S, Noble L, Szucs K, Viehmann L. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. PMID: 22371471 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22371471/.
Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NN, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.
Stuebe AM. Population health and informed feeding decisions. In: Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM, eds. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 6.
Review Date: 8/10/2021
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.