Introducing dairy

Introducing dairy products into your child’s diet is an important step. Here’s how to make the addition of this new food group go smoothly.

Cow’s milk does not contain an adequate amount of iron and can be hard for little stomachs to digest, so it is not recommended until after one year, when other foods containing iron are a part of your baby’s diet. Dairy products, such as grated cheese, plain yogurt and cottage cheese, are a terrific source of energy, calcium and protein and can be introduced around six months.

But, according to Diane Sacks, a paediatrician at North York General Hospital in Toronto, any time you modify an infant’s diet, such as changing milks, it’s not unusual to have some problems. These could include a change in bowel habits, rashes, vomiting or abdominal pain.

If your baby has an adverse reaction, Sacks recommends going back to breast milk or an iron-fortified formula for a few weeks, and then start reintroducing whole milk at a slower pace – even as little as 1 mL at each feeding. If his symptoms recur, speak to your doctor about a milk substitute. Soy milk is usually the first alternative doctors try, but about 30 percent of milk-intolerant people also have trouble digesting soy. After that, your doctor may turn to less common alternatives, such as rice milk. The important thing is to provide your baby with calories, vitamin D and protein, all of which he would normally get from milk.

Did you know? According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, after 12 months of age your baby should not take in more than 720 mL (24 oz) of milk products per day. Too much milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia.