Dairy products are everywhere it seems, and they’re often marketed for babies and kids. But should babies even have dairy? It wasn’t that long ago that the advice was to wait to serve any kind of dairy until at least a year. But that’s changed! The current recommendation is to continue to wait until after 1 to give milk to drink, but other sources of dairy, and even cow’s milk to cook with, are fine at around 6 months!
Babies should not drink cow’s milk before 1
If you’ve heard that babies shouldn’t drink milk before 1, then you heard correctly. Before one, babies should only be drinking breast milk or formula and a little bit of water with meals. That’s it!
Cow’s milk doesn’t include nutrients in the correct amounts to help fuel your baby’s rapidly developing body. If they’re drinking milk, they aren’t drinking breast milk or formula, and that’s what actually has what they need.
Babies CAN have dairy before 1
While you shouldn’t give your baby cow’s milk to drink, it is perfectly fine to give them dairy products. You can even cook with milk, or any milk substitute of your choice. Dairy is okay to serve from the very first bites of food around 6 months.
Dairy as an allergen
Milk is actually one of the top 8 allergens around the world. Recent research has shown that in order to help prevent food allergies, we should serve allergenic foods early and often to our babies. This means that not only is it okay to serve dairy products, it’s actually a good idea!
What kind of dairy products should you serve
A great place to start is with yogurt. It’s a great baby-friendly food that you can serve regardless of whether you have chosen to do baby led weaning or a more traditional method. But there’s no need to get any special baby-specific products. In fact, those are often worse nutritionally than just plain yogurt. For help with choosing the best yogurt for babies, head here.
Cheese can be a tricky food for babies, as it can be fairly high in sodium. The goal is to keep the daily sodium amount to under 200mg for babies under 1. Many versions of cheese have that amount of sodium in just a few slices! For some ideas of what kind of cheese is best for babies, head to this article.
The bottom line for when can babies have dairy
Dairy can be a great way to get your baby high-calorie and high-fat foods that they need for optimal development. As long as you aren’t providing your baby with cow’s milk to drink before the age of 1, then other forms of dairy like cheese, yogurt, and even milk as an ingredient, are perfectly fine to use right from 6 months when your baby starts solid foods.