Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paleo Kids: Cow's Milk is for a Baby Cow

Your baby turned one! Yay! And now Mr. Doctor is telling you to start giving your baby some cow's milk.

You ask why. 

And you watch the doctor flex his brain muscles and tell you that your baby needs plenty of fat and calcium and vitamins and all that other stuff that you just can't get from a better source. says:

Milk is an important part of a toddler's diet because it provides calcium and vitamin D, which help build strong bones. Kids under age 2 should drink whole milk for the dietary fats needed for normal growth and brain development. When your child is 2, you can probably make the switch to low-fat or nonfat milk, but talk with your doctor before doing so.

HOGWASH! It's all hogwash and here is why.

First of all...can I just point out the obvious? Low-fat or nonfat milk??? WHY??? It doesn't matter what age you are, you need fat and plenty of it!!!!

Now, let's talk about dietary fat for a moment. Because whole cow's milk isn't the only source for healthy fat.  We know that, right? Where else can you get toddler friendly, easy to digest fat?

  • Milk from a human (if you're still lactating/feeding)
  • Coconut milk - make sure you get the organic, full fat canned stuff. 
  • Mashed Avocados
  • Pastured egg yolks
  • Organic virgin coconut oil
  • High quality omega 3 fish oil - just add it to a bit of applesauce or pureed baby food and she'll never know. 
  • Pureed grass-fed fatty cuts of meat or wild caught fatty fish like salmon

So that's settled. You can get plenty of brain building super fats from sources that are non-dairy. What about calcium? Isn't dairy a great source for it? No...not really. It's not bio-available in the body. Calcium needs a happy, calm, alkaline environment to get absorbed in the body. Dairy happens to be quite acidic. When you consume dairy, the body ends up leaching calcium from your bones to digest your meal. In the end, you don't get much, if any calcium from that cup of milk. You can read more about calcium and dairy at Living Paleo.

So what foods will prevent my precious child from calcium deficiency?

  • Bone broth!
  • Green leafy veggies like kale, spinach, turnip and collard greens (be sure to cook them)
  • Fortified organic orange juice...if you must. 
  • Almond, Brazil Nut, Sesame Seed Butters

My kid also needs Vitamin D! You're right. And it's pretty dang vital for a whole heck of a lot of reasons. You need it for proper calcium absorption and immune function. Did you know that Vitamin D has antibiotic properties? Read more about vitamin D at Mark's Daily Apple.

It's recommended to get plenty of sunshine (that's right, go play outside with your kids!), eat a healthy and balanced diet, and supplement. Vitamin D isn't easy to get. We'd be fine if we all lived in a sunshine-y place and were permitted walk around naked at high noon. But many of us don't, and walking around in our birthday suits isn't usually acceptable in our society. I can recommend a few toddler friendly supplements, but remember, as a parent, it's your job to do the research and figure which one will work best for your child.
If your kiddo is old enough for a chewable, Marilyn likes Animal Parade. I'm not too keen on the guar gum in them, but sometimes you just have to take the good with the "this is still kind of yuck".

Still not convinced? 

"Dairy provokes an inflammatory response in the gut, which can adversely effect how you digest and absorb not just dairy products, but all your food. Furthermore, this chronic inflammation can cause “microperforation” (tiny holes) of the intestinal lining, allowing dairy proteins and other foreign substances to cross into the bloodstream (where they do not belong). This causes an immune response as the body attacks these foreign proteins, and is linked to autoimmune conditions such as asthma, lupus, allergies, arthritis, psoriasis and acne." 

You can read more about that from The Dairy Manifesto at Whole9Life

Now, I know some of y'll are primal and have no issues with dairy. And Mark Sisson tells us that dairy is okay if we can stomach it. And if you can, then by all means, consume. I won't deny that I think it's yummy. Butter is glorious. Heavy cream is a dream. So, if you still want to give your child some dairy, then, okay, fine. But pretty please get your hands on some grass-fed organic dairy. And if you can get the raw stuff, that is even better.


  1. I like your post a lot. I agree plenty with all you stataments. I think the missing point is that Human Babies need Human Milk for at LEAST two whole years.
    Human Mammas makes the what our species needs for our babies, we tailored our milk to our particular baby in every single particular time.

  2. Excellent info and shared this on my page! Thank you.

  3. My pediatrician recently told me that at 12 months I needed to start whole milk for my daughter who is currently 9 months old. She said calcium and fat were needed and I shouldn't opt out of dairy after I told her that my husband and I had been removing dairy from our diet. Right now, my baby is breastfed and I don't mind continuing till a year and a half, but I want another baby soon and it seems like we're having a hard time getting pregnant while breastfeeding. That's why I'd rather not go past a year and a half breastfeeding my daughter. If she's not getting breastmilk after 18 months, is it still okay to opt out of cows milk? I've read that toddlers need milk of one sort or another for the first few years. Is that true?

    1. I'd appreciate an answer to that too! My last baby refused to nurse after she had the flu at 11 months (though we really tried!), and is now a super-super picky eater. Lactose-free milk and cheese often seem the only proteins I can get in her, and she's already underweight so I worry about her not getting enough of everything if we try taking her off milk, but I'm curious if casein could be causing some of her refusal of other foods somehow?


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