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Ask NurseGail.com: Do Kids Need Cow’s Milk?
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Ask NurseGail.com: Do Kids Need Cow’s Milk?

If it's not your own mother's milk, and you are eating solid food, then you don't need it.
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In response to a recent post about dairy, one of our readers asked, “Do kids need cow’s milk?”  Cynthia Jaffe, a family nurse practitioner and author of the original article, explains why children don’t need dairy.


As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I treat kids with digestive disturbances, fatigue, eczema, and other inflammatory conditions who are sometimes unresponsive to medications.  When this happens, I consider milk to be the culprit and I start a non-dairy trial of switching from cow’s milk to substitutes like almond milk fortified with vitamins and protein.  In many cases this works and the child is found to have an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk.

Allergy to cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and young children, with 2.5% of children under 3 allergic to milk.  According to a 2007 study, kids aren’t outgrowing cow’s milk allergies as easily as we thought.  The researchers followed more than 800 kids for 15 years and found cow’s milk allergies persisting into school age and beyond for the majority of patients.

There is also the issue of milk intolerance, or more specifically, lactose intolerance.  Approximately 30 million Americans have some degree of lactose intolerance by the time they are 20.  Lactose intolerance isn’t life threatening, but it can cause symptoms such as abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and nausea.

So why are we still giving our kids cow’s milk and other dairy products especially when we live in a modern world full of nutritional options?  Believe me, dairy isn’t the exclusive or best source of calcium especially when allergies and intolerance are at play.

Here are some kid-friendly calcium-rich non-diary foods to try:

  • Tofu (sneak it into everything)
  • Bok choy (make a tofu stir fry)
  • Collard greens, spinach, broccoli (I know this is a hard one, but try adding to a frittata)
  • Sardines (mash them and use in fish cakes)
  • Kale chips
  • Cabbage (make cole slaw)
  • Almond butter instead of peanut butter
  • Beans
  • Sweet potato baked fries
  • Hummus or chickpea dip
  • Fortified soy, rice, almond, or coconut milk
  • Fortified orange juice

TAKE HOME MESSAGE (my little rant)

Humans are the only animals that drink the milk of another animal over the course of a lifetime.  We certainly don’t drink our own mother’s milk into adulthood, so why would we drink the mother’s milk of another animal?  They aren’t substitutes for one another.  Cows have vastly different metabolism (they grow to be 2000 pounds!) and limited neurologic functioning (they have limited intelligence).  Cow’s milk contains the building blocks for an animal that will have a low IQ and grow to be over 10 times the size of a human adult.  Not to mention that mother’s milk isn’t necessary for a child who is eating solid food and that cow’s milk is processed and may contain unnecessary added hormones and antibiotics.  Our kids are not baby cows. Let’s not feed them as though they are.

To read more about how the dairy industry has convinced us that milk is the perfect food, click HERE.

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