Introducing your baby to food other than formula or breast milk is a major milestone. Doctors previously recommended introducing whole milk to a baby at 6 months old, but research showing that early whole milk introduction can lead to health complications has now caused doctors to revise that recommendation.
Recommendation for a Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that whole milk is not recommended for a baby under 1 year old. Until age 1 a baby's primary food should be breast milk or iron-fortified formula.
Recommendations for Toddlers
The American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendations for toddlers in 2008. Most toddlers aged 12 to 24 months should drink whole milk because the fats are helpful for brain development. However, when a doctor is concerned about a toddler's weight, low-fat milk may be recommended.
A baby fed whole milk instead of breast milk or formula does not receive enough vitamin E or essential fatty acids.
According to E.E. Ziegler of the University of Iowa, a baby that gets whole milk too early in life is at risk for anemia. Three factors can contribute to this risk: the low concentration of iron in whole milk; intestinal bleeding, which occurs in 40 percent of infants who drink whole milk; and inhibition of iron absorption by the high amounts of calcium and casein in whole milk.
Whole milk consumption can lead to dehydration in a baby because of how the high concentration of protein and minerals affects kidney processing.