Cows’ Milk

Overview & Description

Cows’ milk is a key part of a healthy diet for adults andfor children older than age 1. Milk provides your body with energy,protein, calcium,vitamin D, vitamin A, riboflavin, and other nutrients.Experts agree that breast-feeding is the preferred way to feed an infantfor the first year of life. But if you can’t breast-feed or don’t want to,use man-made infant formulas rather than cows’ milk to feed your baby.These formulas are usually made from cows’ milk or soy but have iron andother key nutrients added to them. Also, the protein in formula is changedto make it easier for your baby to digest. Store-bought infant formulaprovides good nutrition for a baby. But it does lack certain factors foundin breast milk that help protect a baby against infection and allergies.


Cows’ milk is a key part of most healthy diets for adultsand children older than age 1. But infants should not drink cows’milk because it does not have the right amounts of nutrients forhuman babies. Cows’ milk, after all, was intended to feed calves.

The protein in cows’ milk is not the same as that foundin human breast milk and man-made infant formulas. It is harder foran infant to digest and absorb. Also, an infant’s body has a hardtime absorbing the iron found in cows’ milk.

Once a child has reached age 1, whole cows’ milk may bestarted in place of breast milk or formula as long as the baby cantolerate it. Health experts do not advise feeding low-fat dairyproducts to children less than age 2. Two percent milk and fat-freemilk are two examples of low-fat dairy foods.

Fat does not need to be limited in the diets of childrenunder the age of 2. In fact, experts recommend whole-milk productsfor children between the ages of 1 and 2. This ensures that the childgets the amount of fat he or she needs for normal growth and developmentof the brain and nervous system. As children age, the amount ofenergy they need depends on their activity level and rate of growth.For children ages 2 to 5, low-fat or fat-free milk provides enoughnutrients for growth and development.

For many children 5 years and older, energy needs can bemet with a diet that includes fat-free milk. As children grow up,other foods may become the main source of calories and protein.During years of peak bone growth, cows’ milk provides a rich sourceof calcium and vitamin D.During the later adult years, gettingenough calcium and vitamin D in the diet continues to be key.Drinking enough milk each day can help prevent the loss of calcium from yourbones that can lead to a disease called osteoporosis.

The recommended amounts of (cows’) milk group servings you need daily are as follows:

  • None for infants age 0 to 12 months
  • Two servings for young and school-age children
  • Three servings for teenagers and young adults up to age 24
  • Two servings for adults over age 24
  • Three servings for pregnant or breast-feeding women
  • One serving equals:

  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1.5 ounces of natural cheese
  • 2 ounces of processed cheese
  • The difference between whole milk, low-fat milk, andfat-free milk and dairy products is the fat and calorie content.Fat-free milk and milk products have the same amount of vitaminsand minerals, including calcium, as whole milk. What they don’t haveis the saturated fat and extra calories. Dairy products are a keypart of your daily diet.

    Some studies have suggested a link between the early useof cows’ milk in young infants and type 1 diabetes. The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics recognizes this possible link. In response,it strongly supports breast-feeding rather than cows’ milk duringthe first year of life. There are no credible experts who say thatchildren over age 1 need to avoid milk or dairy products.

    Functions and Sources

    In what food source is the nutrient found?

    Whole milk, low-fat milk, fat-free milk, skim milk, and drypowdered milk are all forms of cows’ milk. Other products made from cows’milk include:

  • cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • ice cream
  • yogurt
  • How does the nutrient affect the body?

    Cows’ milk and dairy products are the best food sources ofcalcium and vitamin D.These nutrients help promote bone growth. Ifyou get the milk you need each day, you are more likely to maintainstrong bones throughout your life. Cows’ milk also provides the high-quality protein that young children need for healthy growth anddevelopment. Plus, milk is fortified with vitamin A, which helpspromote healthy skin, hair, bones, teeth, and mucous membranes.Vitamin A also helps you see in dim light.

    Rarely, a person might have an allergy to the protein inmilk, called lactose. Lactose allergy is more common in infants andyoung children than in adults, and most children do outgrow it.Those people who are allergic to lactose must avoid all dairyproducts. But there are other people who have a less severe reactionto milk. This condition is called lactose intolerance, and peoplewho have it can eat or drink dairy products that have mostof the lactose removed from them.

    Article type: xmedgeneral