When Can Babies Have Dairy Products And How Much To Give Them

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Deciding when can babies have dairy products can be quite a tricky conundrumiXA concern or question that is often challenging to solve. for most parents. Many people out here have lactose intoleranceiXA condition when the body cannot digest lactose (sugar commonly found in milk and other dairy products). , and you would want to know if your baby is one of them. If you are weaningiXThe process of transforming your baby’s diet from breastmilk to solids and other liquids. your baby from breastmilk, you may be concerned about how much dairy is okay for your baby to consume or what kinds of dairy products would be suitable for your little one.

It is normal to have these concerns, and you may want to find out all the answers before you decide to introduce your little one to dairy products. Keep reading to understand if dairy products are okay to introduce to your baby and in which quantities.

In This Article

When Can You Start Giving Dairy Products To Your Baby?

1. Whole/ cow milk:

Introduce whole cow milk after the baby is one year old
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Cow’s milk is not recommended for babies under 12 months as it could lead to iron deficiency, dehydration, and allergy (1).

You may begin giving whole milk after the baby completes one year. The high-fat content in whole milk helps in the baby’s brain development. Once the baby completes two years, you can give him low-fat milk (2).

Cow’s milk contains calcium and is one of the very few sources of vitamin D, both of which are required for healthy bones and teeth.

protip_icon Quick tip
Avoid sippy cups and offer babies milk in open cups. An open cup helps babies learn to sip and doesn’t harm their teeth (8).

2. Yogurt:

You can begin giving yogurt to your baby as early as eight months (3), provided there is no familial history of allergies. Yogurt is a good source of nutrition (protein, fat, calcium, potassium, etc.,) for your baby, and its easy on the tummy. The active cultures in the yogurt break down the lactose and protein, making them easy to digest. It also has vitamin D.

The active cultures in the yogurt break down the lactose and protein, making them easy to digest. It also has vitamin D.

Go for whole milk yogurt instead of a low-fat one, so that your baby gets the required amount of fat.

Offer plain yogurt that is naturally sweetened with fruit pulp or juice instead of artificial sweeteners.

If your baby is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy, eczemaiXA skin condition that causes itchy, red, and scaly patches on the skin due to various factors such as allergies, genetics, or stress. , or asthma, then you need to check with a pediatrician.

Once you confirm that your baby is not allergic to yogurt, you may try these combinations to make it interesting for your baby:

  • Yogurt with fruits or veggies
  • Yogurt with bananas
  • Yogurt with applesauce
  • Sweet potato mixed with yogurt
  • Boiled and mashed carrots topped with yogurt
  • Yogurt-based smoothies

3. Cheese:

If your baby has been feeding on breastmilk or formula and does not have a milk allergy, then you can introduce cheese after eight months of age (4).

Shred or melt the cheese and spread it on bread, veggies, or meat. You can also give sweet potato and cheese mash.

For starters, you may use the lighter cheese variants such as Colby, Jack, and American. Choose the ones which have low salt content.

A baby’s diet should include dairy to help them meet their calorie needs but you can’t give them in excess quantities.

protip_icon Quick tip
Grate or cut cheese into thin slices for babies. Also, do not give them processed cheese slices or spread, as they are high in sodium (9).

How Much Dairy Can You Give To Your Baby?

Try yogurt for babies who cannot digest milk well
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Introduce the foods in small quantities, and gradually increase the portions.

Dairy productRecommended quantityTips
Whole milkNot more than 24oz (5)Give them whole milk for the first two years
Yogurt8oz (2)Your child may take time to develop a liking for a new food but don’t discontinue feeding just because he is not eating
CheeseHalf ounceMonitor your baby while eating to avoid choking

The US Department of Agriculture recommends 480 milliliters (16oz) of dairy products a day for infants of two to three years. Feeding dairy products beyond the recommended limits might decrease the baby’s appetite for other foods.

If your child has difficulty having whole milk, then you can feed him yogurt and cheese. But you should not replace breastmilk or formula with cow milk. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating suggests that foods such as ice cream and butter should be avoided for babies because they are low in important nutrients. However, after consulting with a pediatrician, these foods can be offered in moderation.

Why Should You Not Substitute Breastmilk/formula With Cow’s Milk?

Cow milk may trigger milk allergy in your child
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You shouldn’t substitute breast milk/formula with cow’s milk or introduce cow milk to babies in the first 12 months for the following reasons:

  • Cow’s milk lacks essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin E that the breast milk/ formula contains.
  • The lack of iron in cow’s milk causes iron-deficiency anemia, especially if fed between four to six months of age.
  • The high levels of nutrients such as protein and caseiniXA predominant protein found in milk and its products. lead to higher urine concentration, resulting in dehydration.
  • Your baby is prone to milk allergy in the first year.

However, you can mix cereal with cow’s milk and also use it in cooked recipes. When you cook any food along with milk, the proteins are broken down and hence it is safe for babies older than eight months.

Once your baby turns one year old, you can give him cow’s milk along with complementary solid foods(such as veggies, fruits, and finger food).

What If Your Baby Has Dairy Allergies?

Vomiting may be a sign of dairy allergy
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If there is a familial history of milk or dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, then you should not introduce dairy in any form until your baby turns one year. There is a reduced risk of developing allergies after one year.

If there is no history of milk allergies, you could try the regular method of waiting for three days after introducing a dairy food and not giving any other new food in those three days. This way, you will be able to know if your baby is allergic to dairy.

Some common symptoms of allergy are:

  • Red itchy patches
  • Swelling of lips or eyes
  • Vomiting within two hours of eating the new food

If you see any of the above symptoms in your baby, stop giving him the new food and check with your doctor immediately.

A mother of two alerts about the possible triggers of milk allergy. She explains that children with milk allergy need not consume milk or milk products to show signs of allergy, but there may be other sources too. She says, “We avoided giving Ryken any dairy or any new major allergens. After months of being careful, I had realized that dairy is everywhere — in all sorts of processed foods and also in little tikes’ hands (as milk, cheese, crackers) as they played, sat for storytimes, or accompanied their parents on errands. Ryken would sometimes develop random hives on his face while we were out shopping or in another public place. I became very careful about pre-wiping the surfaces for shopping carts, restaurant tabletops, and public play areas to minimize possible reactions (i).”

protip_icon Point to consider
If a baby is at higher risk of serious allergic reaction, the allergist may prescribe an epinephrineiXA hormone typically used in a medicine form to treat severe allergic reactions. auto-injector (10).

Things To Remember

Introduce one new food at a time to babies to rule out allergies
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Here are some handy tips you need to know before introducing dairy food to your baby:

  • Consult your doctor before introducing dairy products.
  • Babies who are allergic to dairy products are prone to be allergic to foods like soy.
  • Introduce one new food at a time, so that you can identify the allergy-causing food.
  • Lactose intolerance is rare in babies. But, even if your child is lactose intolerant, it may be fine for him to have yogurt because the active cultures present in it break down the lactose, making it’s digestion easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why can babies have cheese but not milk?

While babies can eat specific cheese, they are not allowed to drink cow’s milk until 12 months. This is because cheese is fermented, so the milk’s harder-to-digest protein becomes partially broken down into lactic acid (6), allowing it to be easily digestible for babies. However, babies cannot digest milk properly.

2. Why can’t babies have anything other than breast milk?

The WHO and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding your baby until six months and not giving any solid feeds or water. Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients required for a baby’s growth and development before six months. It helps prevent infections, such as diarrhea, which can develop in babies from introducing foods or fluids (7).

3. Should I be concerned about lactose intolerance in babies?

Lactose intolerance in babies is relatively uncommon and usually not a cause for concern. If your baby is lactose intolerant, your healthcare professional may suggest temporarily eliminating or reducing dairy products containing lactose. They may recommend switching to a lactose-free formula if you are formula-feeding.

4. Can babies have plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk?

Yes. Babies above 12 months can consume plant-based milk as a substitute for cow’s milk (11). These alternatives generally have lower protein and calorie levels. However, they are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Parents should consult their pediatrician to find the most suitable option for their baby’s requirements (12).

5. What are the alternatives to dairy for babies who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk?

Fortified soy milk or soy-milk-based formula is an effective dairy alternative that can offer several essential nutrients to babies. However, some children with milk allergies may also be allergic to soy. Typically, these allergies resolve by age one. In cases where dairy and soy are not viable, healthcare professionals can recommend protein and calcium-fortified plant-based milk. They may also recommend using lactose-free or hypoallergenic formulas, such as extensively hydrolyzed formulas with proteins other than cow’s milk that are easier to digest (2).

While you plan to wean your baby off breast milk or formula, you must be thinking, when can babies have dairy? Most parents introduce dairy products such as cow milk, yogurt, cheese, etc., to their babies after they reach 12 months. However, you may include plain yogurt and light cheese in your baby’s diet after 8 months and take your doctor’s consent, but it is best to initiate cow’s milk only after one year. Nevertheless, if you have a family history of dairy allergies, you must avoid dairy until one year or try feeding in smaller amounts initially to check for any adverse reactions in your baby.

Infographic: Important Points To Remember About Dairy For Babies

Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth. When introducing dairy products to infants, it’s important to do so gradually and to be vigilant for any signs of allergy or intolerance. If your family has a history of allergies, it may be wise to consult a doctor before introducing dairy. For more information on this, refer to the following infographic.

when can you start giving dairy products to your baby (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Infants less than 12 months should not be given cow’s milk.
  • After one year, babies can have whole milk, and after two years, they can have low-fat milk.
  • If there is no family history of allergies, yogurt can be introduced to infants as early as eight months.
  • Cheese can be introduced to babies who have been fed breastmilk or formula and do not have a milk allergy, after eight months.
  • Infants aged 2-3 years should consume 16 oz of dairy products per day.
when can babies have dairy_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Cow’s milk should not be consumed by babies under the age of one. View this video to have a thorough understanding of the reasons for this advice.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Alexander KC Leung and Reginald S Sauve; (2003); Whole cow’s milk in infancy.
  2. Cow’s milk and children
  3. Baby Feeding Guide: What Dairy Can They Eat?
  4. Introducing Solid Foods to Infants.
  5. Making the Switch to Cow’s Milk for 1-year-olds.
  6. Cheesy Science.
  7. Feeding your baby: When to start with solid foods.
  8. Your baby does not need a sippy cup.
  9. Yogurt, cheese and milk.
  10. Milk Allergy in Infants.
  11. Cow’s Milk and Milk Alternatives.
  12. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs.
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