Your pediatrician more than likely will recommend that you wait till after 12 months to give cow milk to your baby. Then, you noticed, while looking for baby food ideas, that yogurt and cheeses are common ingredients starting at the 6-8 months range. And that is when you become confused: isn’t yogurt and cheese basically made with cow milk???? Do not worry, there is a good explanation for it.
Why it is better to wait until after one year to introduce cow milk in your baby’s diet.
1) Cow milk is not even minimally as rich in nutrients as breast milk or formula milk. If your baby switches from breast/formula milk to cow milk, he/she will take in less nutrients (i.e. Vitamin E, EFAs essential fatty acids) that are required. Furthermore less nutrients might compromise his healthy development. At least for his first 12 months breast milk/formula milk should be his main source of food. A baby can properly survive and develop nicely during his first year just with breast or formula milk. It is recommended to introduce tiny quantities of solid food at around 6 months to slowly and gradually introduce him to the pleasure of eating food. Around the one year mark it will be easier to gradually switch from breast/formula milk to other forms of food.
2) The quantity of proteins contained in cow milk is too high to be easily digested by the baby. Her digestive system is still very fragile and is not able to digest, tolerate and absorb high quantities of proteins. With time, after one year, the baby’s digestive system develops and becomes capable of handling more complex food.
3) There is a high risk of iron deficiency. Cow milk slows down the absorption of iron by the body which causes anemia.
How yogurt and cheese differ from cow milk and why they can be offered to a baby starting from 6/8 months.
1) During the production of yogurt and cheese (culturing) the milk proteins are reduced or even eliminated. That’s why a baby’s digestive system can easily process both yogurt and cheese.
2) And the amount of lactose in yogurt and cheese is extremely low making them easy to digest.
3) A key element for the growth of bones is calcium, which yogurt and cheese provide.
4) Yogurt has an extra bonus: it contains live bacteria which are very helpful for the proper functioning of the digestive system.
Can every kind of yogurt be offered to a baby? YES
I used to give regular yogurt to my boys: nice, thick and rich in beneficial fat. Babies under one year old need fats (not low fat) to grow and develop. Unfortunately, things change when we get older 😉
What kind of cheese can I offer to my baby?
So, you can start offering cheese and yogurt to your baby from 6 months of age. But what kind of cheese?
At the beginning I would start with a delicate taste cheese (Fontina, Asiago, Provola, Colby, Monterrey Jack, Cheddar – the mild one). You can cut the cheese in tiny tiny bites and offer them to your little one or you can grate the cheese and offer the “flakes”.
If you are looking for a creamy texture and not hard cheeses for your little one, cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese are fine.
For my kids I also used aged Parmesan Cheese and Pecorino cheese, grated, stirred into their baby foo to give an extra touch of flavor (and calcium!!!)
My suggestion is to buy cheese form a cheese store or a deli that has a nice variety of good quality “real” cheese. I would definitely NOT offer to a baby packaged cheeses at all, they are loaded with artificial colors and additives.
Can every kind of cheese be offered to a baby? NO
Not cultured cheese made from raw not pasteurized milk may contain a dangerous bacteria called “listeria” that can be very harmful to babies and pregnant women. That’s why you should only offer pasteurized cheese to your baby. Brie, feta, camembert, roquefort, blue cheese are not pasteurized and should not be given to babies.
That being said, if there is a history of milk or lactose allergies in your family you should consult with your pediatrician regarding how and when to introduce dairy foods to your baby’s diet.
Please note that I’m a mom and not a pediatrician, so I’m sharing my knowledge, research and experience about baby nutrition and development. Should you have any other questions, I will be more than happy to reply!