This video blog is a long time coming because it's such a common question from parents, and rightly so. There's a ton of contradictory information on the topic of cow dairy and whether or not it should be the first choice after weaning from breast milk or formula. Your pediatrician tells you one thing, but you read another, and then your experience tells you something entirely different. So what's a parent to do?
My best advice is to do your own research and then ultimately listen to your gut, but I'm here to share what's worked for us.
Disclaimer: Before I get into it, if you are giving your child cow's milk or you gave your child cow's milk and they're all grown up and doing great, please don't feel bad about my post. You've done your best, and I have no doubt, you're doing what works for your family. This post is NOT intended to make you feel bad about your choices – I'm simply here to inform. Heck, until I was around 10 years old, we'd have a glass of milk with dinner because this kind of information wasn't available and my parents just didn't know. They were following their doctor's advice and Canada's Food Guide at the time. Once I stopped drinking cow's milk (in my 20s), I immediately looked less puffy, my digestion improved and some aches and pains I had disappeared too.
If you look to Canada's Food Guide to see how it was updated, you'll notice it was recently revamped and dairy was removed as a food group. In fact, the food groups were removed entirely in favour of showing a balanced plate of healthy food. This is great to see because dairy is simply not a requirement to be healthy!
That being said, if you dig a little deeper into the food guide, the government is still recommending homo milk cow's milk for babies and toddlers and infant cereal as a suggestion for a first food. The cow milk recommendation is misguided when you consider a whopping 60–65% of people cannot even digest the main milk sugar in milk. And infant cereal, a highly processed grain cereal, as an ideal first food? Oh boy.
If you need some suggestions for baby food introduction, I have a wonderful post here. Vienna's first food was actually bone broth and her first solid food was avocado. She LOVED bone broth, but avocado took a little to get used to. Now, she absolutely loves avocado, especially The Everything Guac or this Creamy Avocado Pasta.
This brings me to my latest video where I share why I don't recommend cow dairy to children and why it's just not necessary. I have summarized my points below.
Here's a brief summary of the points I talk about in my video.
1. Despite what television commercials have told us, there's no evidence that milk does the body good. In countries such as India, Japan and Peru where calcium consumption doesn't exceed 300 mg per day, they have the lowest incidence of bone fractures. Those countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption have the highest rates of fractures. These studies don't paint the full picture, but they do call our dairy consumption into question.
2. Homogenization and pasteurization are not good things. Homogenization changes the natural structure of the fat globules. There's no nutritional benefit to homogenized milk – it's purely for aesthetic reasons – and it makes up 99.9% of the milk sold in grocery stores. When milk is homogenized it's pushed through a filter at an insanely high pressure, which makes the fat globules 10 times smaller and allows them to be evenly dispersed.
The image on the left is before homogenization and the image on the right shows the after. You can see how the structure of the fat has been altered. These teeny tiny fat molecules can now bypass proper digestion all together and are one of the main reasons many people can consume skim milk but not milk with any fat, because their fat-digesting enzymes can't easily break down this fat.
Depending on your age, you might recall glass milk bottles that had a schlop of fat at the top – that would have been non-homogenized milk, so if you're going to drink milk, look for that stuff.
Homogenization also alters the proteins in the milk and may even trigger autoimmune diseases. This could be why many people find relief from their autoimmune conditions when they eliminate dairy, among other reasons.
Pasteurization is a whole other beast. It kills all the microorganisms (good and bad) and most of the nutrients. Good bacteria actually aids in the digestion of the milk sugars, which is why many people can't tolerate cow milk but can eat yogurt with no problem because there are beneficial microbes. Of course, the advantage is that the bad bacteria are removed. Pasteurization diminishes the vitamins in milk such as B6, B12 and vitamin C. Ironically, there have been more reports of food poisoning over the years from pasteurized milk compared to raw milk.
3. Protein in cow milk is made up of mostly A1 casein protein, among other proteins. This milk protein is inflammatory to the body and the cause of milk allergies. As I discuss in my video there is far less casein A1 in goat and sheep milk, which is predominantly A2 protein, making it a better option if you still want to give your child dairy milk. Research has shown that dairy is implicated with eczema and acne. If your child suffers from either condition, I recommend you remove all forms of dairy from their diet.
4. 65% of the world's population is lactose intolerant. That's roughly 4.8 billion people who do not have the enzyme necessary to digest lactose, the main milk sugar. Interestingly, choosing fermented dairy instead that contains a strain of microbes called lactobacillus acidophilus aids in the digestion of lactose. This is why people who can't tolerate cow milk may be fine with fermented dairy products like kefir or yogurt.
5. Calcium is important for bone and teeth health. Due to the dairy industry's influence, many have been led to believe that cow milk is the only source of calcium when in fact, milk is only one of many sources of calcium. Also keep in mind that yes, calcium is important for bone health but vitamin D is just as important.
It is important to get calcium on a daily basis through the diet. There are many non-dairy sources of calcium including:
Knowing all this, you may wonder, but what about raw milk? In Canada, it's not legal to sell or buy raw milk, but you're correct in thinking that it would be far more nutritious.
My final thoughts are if you're going to consume milk, look for certified organic, grass-fed non-homogenized milk.
Organic milk has been found in research to have lower pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and higher omega-3 fatty acid. That's a good thing!
I know this is a lot of information to digest, and if you're a parent reading this, there's no right or wrong answer. Simply take some time to evaluate this information as well as the guidance from other nutrition experts, and you'll come to the best decision for your family.
Any questions, please post below!