Best milk to feed newborn baby

Why Do Infants Need Baby Formula Instead of Cow's Milk?

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​Many parents ask why they can't feed their baby regular cow's milk instead of breastmilk or formula. There are two main reasons: Infants cannot digest cow's milk as completely or easily as they digest breastmilk or baby formula. And, more importantly, cow's milk does not contain enough of certain nutrients that babies under a year old need.

During the current baby formula shortage, it may be OK for some babies over 6 months of age to have cow’s milk for a short period of time if no formula is available. If you aren’t able to find baby formula in stock anywhere, talk with your pediatrician and read more here.

Beyond digestion

Cow's milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can stress a newborn's immature kidneys and cause severe illness at times of heat stress, fever, or diarrhea. In addition, cow's milk lacks the proper amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients that infants need. It may even cause iron-deficiency anemia in some babies, since cow's milk protein can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestine, leading to loss of blood in the stools. Cow's milk also does not contain the healthiest types of fat for growing babies. For these reasons, your baby should not receive any cow's milk (or other non-human milk or milk substitute) until they are about 12 months of age unless no alternative is available.

Once your baby turns a year old

Once your baby is past one year old, you may give them pasteurized whole cow's milk or reduced-fat (2%) milk, provided they have a balanced diet of solid foods (cereals, vegetables, fruits and meats). But limit their intake of milk to 2 cups (about 16 ounces) per day or less. More than 24 ounces a day has been associated with iron deficiency if toddlers aren't getting enough other healthy iron-rich foods. If your baby is not yet eating a broad range of solid foods, talk to your pediatrician about the best nutrition for them.

At this age, children still need a higher fat content, which is why whole vitamin D-fortified milk is recommended for most infants after one year of age. If your child is or is at risk for overweight, or if there is a family history of obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease, your pediatrician may recommend 2% (reduced-fat) milk.

Age 2 and up

Do not give your baby 1% (low-fat) or nonfat (skimmed) milk before their second birthday, as it does not contain enough fat for brain development. After two years of age, you should discuss your child's nutritional needs with your pediatrician. However, many children at this age can transition to lower-fat milk if that is what your family uses.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition (Copyright © 2022)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

How to Give It Safely

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

In this Article

  • When Can Your Baby Drink Milk?
  • Why Formula and Not Cow’s Milk?
  • How to Start Cow’s Milk for Babies
  • Types of Milk to Feed Your Child

Cow’s milk is a great source of protein, calcium, and calories for growing children. You shouldn’t give cow’s milk to your baby too early, though.

When Can Your Baby Drink Milk?

It’s best to feed your baby only breast milk until 6 months of age. If you can’t breastfeed, you can give them infant formula. You can start introducing pureed foods at 6 months, but they shouldn’t have cow’s milk until they are 12 months or older.

Sometimes babies start to wean on their own between 6 and 12 months and sometimes moms choose to wean at this time. If your or your baby wean before they are 12 months, you should give your baby infant formula.

After 12 months of age, your baby can have whole cow’s milk instead of breast milk or formula. At this age, they don’t need an infant or toddler formula.

Why Formula and Not Cow’s Milk?

Babies need the nutrients from breast milk or formula to grow. As your baby grows, your breast milk changes to meet their needs.

Breast milk also has antibodies that help protect your baby from getting sick, but breastfed babies also have a lower risk of other diseases, including:

  • Ear infections
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Cow’s milk doesn’t have the right nutrition or any of these benefits for your baby.

Iron. Cow’s milk does not have enough iron for your baby. This can lead to iron deficiency and anemia. If your baby doesn’t get enough iron, it could lead to developmental delays.

Protein. Milk also has a lot of protein. Too much protein can stress your baby’s kidneys, which aren’t developed enough yet.

Milk protein can also irritate your baby’s intestinal lining, which can cause bleeding. This can lead to blood loss in their stool.

Vitamin C. Milk is also lacking in vitamin C. Your baby needs vitamin C to help build their immune system and to absorb iron.

Fat. Cow’s milk doesn’t have the right kind of fat that babies need to grow. Fat is an important source of calories and essential vitamins for your baby.

Digestion. Your baby has a young digestive system, which means they can’t digest milk as easily as they can digest breast milk or formula.

Giving cow’s milk or other milk instead of formula or breast milk before age one can stop your baby from growing well. Don’t give your baby:

  • Evaporated milk
  • Dried milk
  • Condensed milk
  • Powdered milk
  • Rice milk
  • Oat milk
  • Almond milk
  • Any drink called “milk”

How to Start Cow’s Milk for Babies

Your baby can start drinking milk when they are 12 months old. If you are breastfeeding, you can slowly start to wean over a few weeks. The World Health Organization recommends mothers breastfeed until 2 years, but you can choose to stop earlier.

As you stop breastfeeding, you will make less breast milk. You can wean your baby off formula and switch to cow’s milk, too.

To give your child cow’s milk:

  • Use whole milk that’s fortified with vitamin D.
  • Start by replacing one feeding per day with a sippy cup or a regular cup of whole cow’s milk. If your baby doesn’t like it, mix 1/2 cow’s milk and 1/2 breast milk or formula. Slowly lower the ratio over time.
  • Slowly replace other feedings with cow’s milk until you are no longer breastfeeding or using formula.

Take a few weeks to wean. This slowly introduces your child to the new milk and helps your body adjust. Suddenly stopping breastfeeding can cause swollen and sore breasts.

If your baby doesn’t use a bottle, start with sippy cups or cups instead of bottles. It’s best to have your baby stop using bottles by 12 months of age. Babies shouldn’t go to sleep with bottles because it can lead to cavities.

Types of Milk to Feed Your Child

Your child needs a specific kind of cow’s milk to make sure they get everything they need. It should be:

  • Whole milk
  • Fortified with vitamin D
  • Pasteurized
  • Unflavored
  • Not raw

Flavored milk has too much sugar for children.

If your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, you can give milk alternatives like soy, almond, or oat milk. They should be:

  • Unsweetened
  • Unflavoured
  • Fortified with calcium
  • Fortified with vitamin D

If you give any of these alternatives to your child, talk to your doctor about nutrition. These milks have different vitamins. You might need to add other foods to keep their diet balanced.

Your child can have at least 2 servings of whole milk every day, or about 8 to 10 ounces. These should be served as drinks and not as meals. Limit the amount of milk they drink to no more than 24 ounces of whole milk in 1 day. Once your child turns 2, they can switch to 2% milk.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding habits or nutrition, talk to your doctor.

The best food for a baby is mother's milk!

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The best food for a baby is mother's milk!

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed babies, mother's milk is the optimal food for newborns, contains the nutrients necessary for the healthy development of children and antibodies that help protect babies from common childhood diseases.

Mother's milk is physiologically intended for the child, which even the most modern artificial milk formula cannot provide.

First, breast milk is a defense against various infections. As recent studies show, mother's milk contains leukocytes and many anti-infective factors that complement the newborn's immune system.⠀

Secondly, special enzymes, whey proteins of mother's milk are processed by the gastrointestinal tract without consequences for the baby's body (optimal digestibility is ensured).⠀

Thirdly, a stable emotional background is provided for mother and child. Breastfeeding is not just a process of introducing food into the body, but also a close psychological closeness of the baby and his mother. Proven is the fact of the active production of endorphins (they are also called hormones of happiness) by the body of a woman during breastfeeding. The child, feeling the close presence of the mother, is calm and cries less. Breastfeeding helps to establish psychological contact with the child, to guess his needs.

It is very important that the baby is put to the breast within the first hour after birth. After all, a few drops of colostrum will ensure the colonization of the intestines with beneficial microflora, and form the immunity of the newborn from the first minutes of life. The baby needs to be fed on demand. The amount of milk in the breast is regulated by the supply-demand system. It is very important not to skip night feeding, it stimulates the production of the hormone prolactin. Milk is almost 80% - 90% water, so you should not supplement your child with water.

The first time a newborn is breastfed a few hours after birth. Usually by this time the baby already shows a desire to eat, but if this does not happen, it should be applied to the breast.

New mothers are worried that immediately after giving birth they have little milk, and this will not be enough for the newborn. You should know that the first portions are colostrum, rich in nutrients. Attaching a newborn to the breast is the best stimulator of milk production (lactation), and after two or three days the amount of milk will increase significantly.

In some cases, for medical reasons, mother and child may be separated, in which case the child is fed with mother's expressed milk.

Signs of incipient hunger are:

With a pronounced feeling of hunger, the child may cry, do not bring him to hunger. Do not allow breaks in feeding for more than four hours.

Important: In the first few days after birth, babies lose weight even if they eat enough. This is completely normal and should not be worried.

In accordance with the principles of so-called natural parenting, in the first weeks after the birth of a baby, the behavior of both the mother and her child should be based on instincts. According to this concept, the behavior should be as follows: the mother gives the baby a breast at the first sign of anxiety. The baby takes the breast in order to quench his thirst, hunger, fall asleep, relax, calm down, feel the closeness of his mother. The mother does not deny the baby the breast when he needs it, so the baby gets the opportunity to stimulate full lactation. During the first days of life, a newborn baby can even “hang” on the chest, slowly sucking it in half-asleep. The feeling of unity with his mother, the feeling of her warmth and smell help him adapt to a new, unfamiliar world. Nighttime applications are especially important, from 3 to 8 hours. If a lack of milk is suspected, the mother can feed the baby more often, paying attention to the fact that during this period the baby has 2-3 attachments to the breast.

A breastfed child receives all the nutrients for harmonious growth and development.

Nutritional adequacy is measured by monthly weight gain.

The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation and WHO recommend continued breastfeeding for up to two years or more. Up to 6 months, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended (after 6 months, complementary foods should be introduced; after a year, mother's milk is recommended as additional nutrition). Doctors explain this by its exceptional importance for the formation of immunity, the proper functioning of internal organs, the development of the skeleton and teeth. Mother's milk helps to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of teething. Children develop the correct bite.

You can learn more about maintaining breastfeeding in the Healthy Baby Room. Reception by appointment in EMIAS.

Author of the article Olga Nikolaevna Kuznetsova, head of the department for organizing medical care for minors in educational institutions.

Breastfeeding a newborn | What to Expect in the First Week

The first week of a baby's life is a wonderful but hectic time, especially if you haven't breastfed before. Our breastfeeding tips will help you settle in as quickly as possible

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The first time after giving birth, mothers are often confused. The body is still recovering, and you are already starting to get to know your newborn baby. The emotional state during this period can be unstable, especially between the second and fifth day, when many women have milk 1 and at the same time postpartum depression begins 2 . In addition, others often expect (and demand) that a woman come to her senses as soon as possible and become a “super mom”. But the best thing to do this first week is just to be with your baby and get breastfeeding going.

When should I start breastfeeding my newborn?

Try to breastfeed your baby within the first hour after birth. When a baby latch onto the breast and sucks rhythmically, it stimulates the mammary gland cells and starts milk production. 1 It's not for nothing that this time is called the “magic hour”!

“Ideally, the baby should be placed on the mother's stomach immediately after birth so that it can immediately attach to the breast. He won't necessarily eat, but he should be able to,” explains Cathy Garbin, an internationally recognized expert on breastfeeding.

“Hold your baby and let him find the breast on his own and put the nipple in his mouth. This is called the breast-seeking reflex. On the Internet you can watch videos that show what this process looks like. If the baby does not latch onto the nipple on its own, the midwife will help to properly attach it to the breast. But for starters, it’s good to give the baby the opportunity to do it on their own. In this case, the optimal position for the mother is reclining. ”

Don't spend that special first hour of your baby's life weighing and swaddling, or at least wait until he's suckling for the first time. Enjoy hugs and close skin-to-skin contact. This promotes the production of oxytocin, the hormone of love, in you and your baby, and oxytocin plays a key role in the supply of the first breast milk - colostrum. 3

“As soon as the obstetricians were convinced that our son was healthy, the three of us — me, my husband and our baby — were left to give us the opportunity to get to know each other. It was a very special hour - an hour of awkwardness, turbulent emotions and bliss. During this time, I breastfed my son twice, ”recalls Ellie, a mother of two from the UK.

Did you know that breastfeeding helps to recover after childbirth? This is because oxytocin stimulates uterine contractions. In the first hours after childbirth, this contributes to the natural release of the placenta and reduces blood loss. 4

What should I do if the birth did not go according to plan?

If you had a cesarean section or other complications during childbirth,
You can still establish skin-to-skin contact with your baby and breastfeed him in the first hours after birth.

“If you can't hold your baby, have your partner do it for you and ensure skin-to-skin contact with the baby. This will give the baby a sense of security, care and warmth so that he can hold on until you recover, ”Katie advises.

If the baby is unable to breastfeed, it is advisable to start expressing milk as early as possible and do so as often as possible until the baby is able to feed on its own. “While breastfeeding in the first hours after birth lays an excellent foundation for the future, it is not so important,” Cathy reassures. “It is much more important to start lactation so that in the future, if necessary, you can start breastfeeding.

To start milk production, you can express milk manually or use a breast pump, which can be given to you at the maternity hospital. 5 And it will be possible to feed a child with expressed precious colostrum. This is especially important if the baby was born premature or weak, since breast milk is extremely healthy.

If a baby is born prematurely or has a medical condition and cannot be breastfed immediately, this is no reason to stop breastfeeding in the future. “I have worked with many new mothers who were unable to breastfeed their baby for the first six weeks due to preterm labor or other reasons. Nevertheless, all of them later successfully switched to breastfeeding,” says Kathy.

Does the baby latch on correctly?

Correct breastfeeding is a prerequisite for successful breastfeeding 6 , as it determines how effectively the baby will suckle milk, and therefore grow and develop. Latching on the breast incorrectly can cause sore or damaged nipples, so don't hesitate to ask your doctor to check that your baby is properly attached to the breast, even if you are told that everything is fine and you do not see obvious problems - especially while you are in the hospital.

“While I was in the hospital, I called the doctor at every feed and asked me to check if I was breastfeeding correctly,” says Emma, ​​mother of two from Australia. - There were several cases when it seemed to me that everything seemed to be right, but it was painful to feed, and the doctor helped me take the baby off the breast and attach it correctly. By the time I was discharged, I had already learned to do it confidently.”

When applying to the breast, point the nipple towards the palate. This will allow the baby to take the nipple and part of the areola under it into their mouth. It will be easier for him to suck if he has both the nipple and part of the areola around in his mouth. 6

“When a baby latch on properly, it doesn't cause discomfort and it causes a pulling sensation, not pain,” explains Cathy. - The baby's mouth is wide open, the lower lip may be slightly turned outward, and the upper one lies comfortably on the chest. The body language of the child indicates that he is comfortable. There isn't much milk at this early stage, so you probably won't notice your baby swallowing, but he will suckle a lot and nurse frequently."

How often should a newborn be fed?

The frequency and duration of breastfeeding in the first week can vary greatly. “The first 24 hours of life are completely different for different children. Someone sleeps a lot (after all, childbirth is tiring!), And someone often eats, says Katie. - Such a variety greatly confuses young mothers. Everyone gives different advice, so it's important to remember that every mother and child is different."

“Colostrum is thicker than mature breast milk and is produced in smaller quantities, but has many benefits. When the baby eats colostrum, he learns to suck, swallow and breathe until milk begins to flow in more volume, ”explains Cathy.

Milk usually arrives on the second or fourth day after birth. Until this time, the baby is applied to the breast 8-12 times a day (and sometimes more often!), including at night. 7 Feeding may take 10-15 minutes at this stage, or 45 minutes or even an hour, as the baby is just beginning to develop the muscles and coordination to suckle effectively.

“At first, the intensity of feeding is very high, often higher than many people realize, and this is shocking to most new mothers,” says Cathy. - Sometimes mom has no time to go to the toilet, take a shower and have a snack. It usually comes as a surprise."

Camilla, a mother from Australia, experienced this. “The first week, Frankie ate every two hours, day and night, and each time it took half an hour to an hour to feed,” she recalls. “My husband and I were completely exhausted!”

Should I feed my newborn on a schedule?

The good news is that frequent feeding promotes lactation and stimulates milk production. 7 The more your baby eats, the more milk you will have. Therefore, forget about feeding your newborn on a schedule - this way he will have less chance of feeding. Try to feed your baby when he signals that he is hungry 8 :

  • tossing and turning in his sleep;
  • opens eyes;
  • turns his head if he feels a touch on his cheek;
  • sticks out tongue;
  • groans;
  • licks lips;
  • sucks fingers;
  • is naughty;
  • whimpers;
  • is crying.

Crying is the last sign of hunger, so when in doubt, just offer your baby the breast. If he bursts into tears, it will be more difficult to feed him, especially at first, when both of you are just learning how to do it. As your baby grows, he will likely eat less frequently and take less time to feed, so breastfeeding will seem more predictable.

Does breastfeeding hurt?

You may have heard that breastfeeding is not painful at all, but in fact, in the first days, many new mothers experience discomfort. And this is not at all surprising, given that the nipples are not used to such frequent and strong sucking.

“Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable for the first couple of days – your body and your baby are just getting used to it. If a baby eats for too long and does not latch well, the sensations are almost the same as from unworn new shoes, Cathy compares. Just as tight shoes can rub your feet, improper suckling can damage your nipples. Prevention is always better than cure, so if the pain persists after a few days of feeding, contact a lactation consultant or healthcare professional.”

Maria, a mother from Canada, agrees: “Although my son seemed to latch onto the breast well, he damaged his nipples while feeding, and I was in pain. As it turned out, the reason was a shortened frenulum of the tongue. The breastfeeding specialists at our city clinic have been of great help in diagnosis and treatment.”

In addition, you may experience period-like cramps in the early days after breastfeeding, especially if this is not your first baby. This is the so-called postpartum pain. The fact is that oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding, contributes to further contraction of the uterus to restore its normal size. 4

When milk arrives, the breasts usually become fuller, firmer and larger than before delivery. In some women, the breasts swell, harden and become very sensitive - swelling of the mammary glands occurs. 10 Frequent breastfeeding relieves these symptoms. For more breast care tips, read our article What is Breast Swelling?

How often does the newborn urinate and defecate?

What goes into the body must go back out. Colostrum
has a laxative effect, helping to eliminate meconium - the original feces. It looks a little scary - black and sticky, like tar. 11 But don't worry, it won't always be like this. Breastfed babies usually have a slightly sweet smell of stool.

How many times a day you need to change diapers and how the contents should look like, see below.

Day one

  • Frequency: once or more.
  • Colour: greenish black.
  • Texture: sticky like tar.

Second day

  • Frequency: twice or more.
  • Colour: dark greenish brown.
  • Texture: less sticky.

Day three

  • Frequency: twice or more.
  • Colour: greenish brown to brownish yellow.
  • Texture: non-sticky.

Fourth day and then the entire first month

  • Frequency: twice or more.
  • Color: yellow (feces should turn yellow no later than by the end of the fourth day).
  • Texture: grainy (like mustard with grains interspersed). Leaky and watery.

The baby's urine should be light yellow. On average, babies urinate once a day for the first two days. Starting around the third day, the number of wet diapers increases to three, and from the fifth day onwards, diapers have to be changed five times a day or more often. In addition, during the first few days, the weight of wet diapers increases. 11

Is the baby getting enough breast milk?

Since very little milk is produced at first,
You may feel that your baby is not getting enough milk. But if you feed your baby on demand, you will produce exactly as much milk as he needs. If you want to keep the process under control, be guided by the frequency of diaper changes above. If your baby soils less diapers, check with your doctor.

“For the first three or four weeks, most babies only eat and sleep. If the child is worried and constantly asks for a breast, you should consult with your doctor, ”Katie recommends.

Sometimes the baby may vomit after feeding. If the vomit is the color of milk, this is not a cause for concern. But if there are orange, red, green, brown or black blotches in it, or the child vomits with a "fountain", consult a doctor. You should also consult a doctor if the baby has a high temperature, the fontanel (soft spot on the head) has sunk, blood is found in the stool, and also if the weight recorded at birth has not recovered within two weeks. 11

But if there are no frightening symptoms and the baby is growing at a normal pace, then he has enough milk. Soon you will both get used to breastfeeding and establish a more stable routine.

For the next step in breastfeeding, see Breastfeeding in the First Month: What to Expect.


1 Pang WW, Hartmann PE. Initiation of human lactation: secretory differentiation and secretory activation. J9 Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia 2007;12(4):211-221. - Pang, W.W., Hartmann, P.I., "Lactation initiation in the lactating mother: secretory differentiation and secretory activation." W Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2007;12(4):211-221.

2 Shashi R et al. Postpartum psychiatric disorders: Early diagnosis and management. Indian J Psychiatry . 2015; 57( Suppl 2): S 216– S 221. - Shashi R. et al., Postnatal mental disorders: early diagnosis and treatment. Indian J Saikiatri. 2015; 57(App 2):S216-S221.

3 Moberg KU, Prime DK. Oxytocin effects in mothers and infants during breastfeeding. Infant . 2013;9(6):201-206. - Moberg K, Prime DK, "The effects of oxytocin on mother and child during breastfeeding." Infant. 2013;9(6):201-206.

4 Sobhy SI, Mohame NA. The effect of early initiation of breast feeding on the amount of vaginal blood loss during the fourth stage of labor. J Egypt Public Health Assoc . 2004;79(1-2):1-12. - Sobhi SI, Moham NA, "Early initiation of breastfeeding and its effect on vaginal bleeding in the fourth stage of labor." F Egyptian Public Health Assoc. 2004;79(1-2):1-2.

5 Meier PP et al. Which breast pump for which mother: an evidence-based approach to individualizing breast pump technology. J Perinatol . 2016;36(7):493. - Meyer P.P. et al., Breastpump Selection: A Scientific Approach to Customizing Pumping Technology. Zh Perinatol (Journal of Perinatology). 2016;36(7):493-499.

6 Cadwell K. Latching - On and Suckling of the Healthy Term Neonate: Breastfeeding Assessment. J Midwifery & Women s Health . 2007;52(6):638-642. — Cadwell, K., "Latching and sucking in healthy newborns: evaluation of breastfeeding." F Midwifery Women Health. 2007;52(6):638-642.

7 Kent JC et al. Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production. 2012;41(1):114-121. - Kent J.S. et al., "Principles for Maintaining and Increasing Milk Production". J Obstet Ginecol Neoneutal Nurs. 2012;41(1):114-121.

8 Australian Breastfeeding Association [ Internet ].

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