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Fortified Cow's Milk and Milk Alternatives

A 12 month old holding a small pitcher of cow’s milk. At 12 months old you can start to give your child cow’s milk that has been pasteurized and fortified with vitamin D.

Your growing child needs vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and calcium to build strong bones. Pasteurized cow’s milk that has been fortifiedcontains vitamin D. Most cow’s milk sold in stores in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. Fortified cow’s milk is a good source of both vitamin D and calcium.

When Should I Introduce My Child to Fortified Cow’s Milk?

At 12 months old (but not before), your child can be introduced to fortified cow’s milk. Before your child is 12 months old, cow’s milk may put him or her at risk for intestinal bleeding.

A 12 month old holding a small pitcher of cow’s milk. At 12 months old you can start to give your child cow’s milk that has been pasteurized and fortified with vitamin D.

How Much, How Often?

Children need a balanced and diverse diet. Fortified cow’s milk can be a part of this diet, but not the only thing. Pediatricians recommend children drink 16 to 24 ounces (2 to 3 cups) of fortified cow’s milk a day to meet calcium needs. If your child drinks too much fortified cow’s milk he or she may not be hungry for other foods with important nutrients. Some experts say that consuming too much fortified cow’s milk can make it harder for your child’s body to absorb the iron they need from foods.

Continue to follow your child’s cues to decide when he or she is hungry or full. Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse for more questions about fortified cow’s milk in his or her diet.

Whole Cow’s Milk or Lower Fat Cow’s Milks?

Children can drink whole cow’s milk. Whole cow’s milk is the same as lower fat cow’s milk except that it is higher in fat. It is important for children to get fat in their diet for healthy growth and development. If your child has excessive weight gain or a family history of obesity, high cholesterol or triglycerides, or cardiovascular disease, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about the type of cow’s milk to give. Here are things to remember:

  • Choose one that is unflavored. Flavored cow’s milk can have added sugar. Your child does not need added sugar.
  • Make sure your child’s cow’s milk is pasteurized and fortified with vitamin D.

Raw Milk

Raw milk and raw milk products from cows, goats, and sheep can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make your child very sick and can be life-threatening. Raw milk can also be called unpasteurized milk. Do not give your child raw or unpasteurized milk.

Milk Alternatives

Cow’s milk alternatives can include soy milk, tree nut milks (almond, coconut, cashew, or others), and rice milks.
If you choose a cow’s milk alternative, here are things to remember:

  • Choose one that is unflavored. Flavored cow’s milk alternatives can have added sugar. Your child does not need added sugar.
  • Choose one that is fortified with vitamin D. Check labels since vitamin content can vary between brands.
  • Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about the milk alternative you are using because the vitamins and minerals in these types of milks are different than in cow’s milk.

Visit Vitamins & Minerals to learn more about the vitamins and minerals your child needs.

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