I understand that we need to wait until 12 months to feed our baby's regular cow's milk. BUT, the recommendation is usually to feed them whole milk and not reduced-fat or fat-free. Why is this? My husband and I drink reduced-fat, so will I really need to start buying whole milk as well?

asked 29 Sep '09, 19:48

JBunky's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%

edited 20 Oct '09, 18:16

Dinah's gravatar image


Yes, babies do need whole milk. The fat and fatty acids for proper growth aren't present in low-fat milk. From this Health Canada page:

Skim milk is an inappropriate milk choice during the first two years (Fomon, 1997). It provides no essential fatty acids and has a very low energy density. To meet energy needs, an infant would have to drink very large volumes of this milk. With high intakes, protein and solute intake would be significantly higher than the infant needs. Partially skimmed milk (1% or 2% fat) is also low in essential fatty acids and energy. To meet energy and essential fatty acid needs, the infant would have to eat a wide variety and adequate quantity of other foods. Approximately 15% of Canadian infants are on 2% milk around 1 year of age. Although there is no clear indication of negative consequences, there is no medical or nutritional indication to recommend the routine use of partially skimmed milk, other than convenience. There is, however, a theoretical risk of growth faltering and essential fatty acid deficiency when partially skimmed milk provides a significant component of the infants' daily intake. Therefore, while whole cow's milk (3.25% butterfat) continues to be recommended for the second year of life, 2% milk may be an acceptable alternative provided that the child is eating a variety of foods and growing at an acceptable rate.


answered 29 Sep '09, 20:41

dave0's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%

This reference suggests that Whole Milk for 12-24 months then a reduced fat milk from then. The implication is that 12-24 month olds need the extra fat that is in the whole milk.


answered 29 Sep '09, 20:20

Colin's gravatar image

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As parents, you're probably trying to lose some weight. Especially the new mom. Reduced fat milk is a good choice there. But at 12 months, you're still much more concerned with helping your baby gain weight. Whole milk is just a better fit.

My family goes through about a gallon of 2% per week for myself, my wife, and my three-year-old. We also keep a separate gallon of whole milk just for the one year old, and he drinks about as much milk as the rest of us together.


answered 30 Sep '09, 02:03

Joel%20Coehoorn%201's gravatar image

Joel Coehoorn 1
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The fatty acids are a big part of it but equally its a calorie issue. Growing toddlers need the extra calories in whole milk. My daughter has heart disease and as a result, she has really high caloric needs so we top her whole milk bottles up with whipping cream - yes 35% whipping cream. She gets one oz of that in a 7 oz bottle! That one oz has 100 extra calories. We work with dieticians at Sick Kids in Toronto. Each child is different and has different needs but whole milk is especially important to toddlers as they are learning to eat grown up food and are so much more active then when they were babies.


answered 01 Oct '09, 02:06

dreamerisme's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

Babies aren't (generally) on diets and get plenty of exercise - fat (and the rest of the goodness) are needed by your body, as long as you don't have too much of it.

Incidentally, if you're doing enough exercise, there's no reason why you shouldn't drink full fat milk.


answered 18 May '10, 10:47

Mungo's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%


I don't even know if this matters or what the other options would be, but I recently learned that milk in general contains opium. This is cow's milk, human's milk, etc. The reason for this is so that an infant will be "addicted" to their mother's milk and therefore will be given the correct nutrients to grow. Milk is designed to put large amounts of weight on babies, so drinking milk after the first year can put you and baby at risk for obesity. We are the only species on earth that drinks milk after the first year of age and it's completely unnecessary. We are taught that we need it for protein, but there is protein in other foods which are much easily digested. If you want more sources for this, you should read "Skinny Bitch" and/or "Eat To Live". Very good books and very interesting.


answered 30 Sep '09, 20:58

Jackie's gravatar image

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Thanks for including the references to the two books at the end Jackie, we appreciate that (good to know where the info comes from)!

(30 Sep '09, 21:11) Scott ♦♦

No, milk doesn't contain opium. The casein proteins in milk gets broken down in the human stomach, and one of the products is casomorphin, which is an opioid. Opioids are not necessarily bad, either -- for example, endorphins produced within the human body are also opioids. From what I can find, there's not much in the way of research accessible to the layman that explains what function (good or bad) casomorphin might perform. Most of the information I've found seems to be junk science that assumes casomorphin == opioid == opium == addictive == bad without any actual proof.

(30 Sep '09, 21:44) dave0

-1: I was determined once I got home to try and find some references one way or another on this. Oddly, there is a movie called "Milk and Opium" but it seems to have nothing to do with it. There is a quote from the Skinny Bitch here: http://www.peertrainer.com/LoungeCommunityThread.aspx?ForumID=1&ThreadID=80547 but that clearly talks about opiates, not opium. Also, calling it an opiate in this case is incorrect, as that means it has to be from a poppy plant. The correct term is opioid. So the Skinny Bitch is wrong. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casein

(30 Sep '09, 23:02) Scott ♦♦

Something to consider. We are often concerned about what would be in cow's milk; however, we rarely consider the extra hormones and medications that are in breast milk. For instance, many moms are put on Tylenol 3 while in the hospital after given birth and for several days afterwards. Tylenol 3 contains codeine (also an opiate). – Tammy 0 secs ago

(01 Oct '09, 02:18) Tammy ♦♦
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Asked: 29 Sep '09, 19:48

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Last updated: 18 May '10, 10:47