Two percent milk for baby?

My seven-month-old son has been on two percent milk with the recommendation of our doctor. Should I be concerned he is not getting enough calcium? He gets about 18 ounces a day.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

A baby less than one year old needs 600 mg. of calcium a day. One cup of milk (8oz.) has almost 300 mg. of calcium. Therefore, your son is getting all the calcium he needs from the 18 ounces.

There are some concerns about drinking two percent milk instead of breastmilk or formula that you should at least be aware of. It is unusual for a baby to be weaned to cow's milk at such an early age, especially to a low fat variety. Because of the high solute level in cows milk the body has to use fluid to help dilute the load on the kidneys. In a very small infant, this can lead to dehydration. Breastmilk and formula are very high in fat and low in protein compared to cow's milk, and better suited to the needs of an infant.

By switching to two percent you have also reduced his fat intake, which may make it more difficult for him to get all the calories he needs during the course of the day. Be sure he gets plenty of fat in the rest of his diet. Also, if you discontinued an iron fortified formula, be sure you have some other source of iron supplementation in his diet. The most likely place for this is iron fortified baby cereal, assuming that he is eating solids. Cow's milk has limited amounts of essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin C, zinc, and perhaps other trace substances. These reasons have led the American Academy of Pediatrics against recommending the intake of cow's milk as s baby's main fluid intake in the first 12 months of life.

Of course it sounds like you have an important reason why this recommendation does not apply in the case of your son. However, you want to be sure you have exhausted other ways of treating his constipation before weaning from such an important food as formula, especially when the substitute is not as adequate in some important nutrients.

I do not want to cause unnecessary worry, but I do think you may want to talk to your pediatrician about why two percent milk has been recommended. At the same time pay special attention to your son's fat, iron and fluid intake.

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