The Skinny on Dairy

I know I speak for quite a few ladies out there when I say that having anything other than skimmed milk has always been the unthinkable. The idea of all those ‘extra’ calories has led me to make the guy at Vida swear under oath that he really did use the skinny milk in my morning latte. Yet more and more studies have paid tribute to the fact that full fat has a number of health benefits including a lighter load on carbohydrates (make way for the Banting movement!)

Whatever your preferred choice, when it comes to your baby it’s quite simple how you should go about making choices. Ask yourself “Does it provide my baby with the best building blocks to function and develop?”  

Full fat dairy is rich with fatty acids and the essential vitamins A,D,E and K that get stripped down in skimmed and low fat alternatives. These fatty acids are what keep your little one feeling fuller for longer while essential vitamins are required for building immune systems, neutralising the effects of damaging free radicals and keeping bones healthy. Not to mention that fats are essential for brain development and maintaining energy levels. It would therefore make sense that full fat options are more likely to result in a happy, fuller and more satisfied baba – which means a whole lot more sleep for you!

When it’s time for your baby to be introduced to protein, (6 months and up) my advice is to opt for plain full fat dairy wherever possible and skip the skimmed or sweetened varieties. We want nutritionally packed options versus nutritionally empty ones. Rather wait until your baby is two years of age before introducing low fat dairy choices. For more information on introducing milk into your baby’s diet read more here Got milk?

Have fun with flavours in dairy by adding fruit combinations to yoghurt or cottage cheese for something sweet or hard cheeses to veg/meat combos for something savoury. If you would prefer to opt for flavoured yoghurts, be mindful of food labels to make sure you are buying ones that have only been sweetened with added fruit (you’ll be shocked to see how many are loaded with sugar).

My tip: cheese makes a great (and easy) snack that’s ideal for little fingers to experiment with new and exciting textures. Kiri  and Laughing Cow cheese wedges with mini rice crackers are a great snack and wonderful for sensory exploration, which is vital for ensuring a happy and healthy relationship with food.

The above advice should never replace the advice of your paediatrician, nurse or GP.

Got milk?

While cows’ milk used to be given to babies ‘straight up’ by mothers (many of whom are our own parents) only a few years ago, more recent research now advises against introducing it to your baby unless they are a year old.

One of the reasons that experts recommend that cow’s milk only be introduced to baby from 12 months is because that many are concerned that moms will use cows’ milk (or soy, goat’s milk or rice milk) to replace breast milk or formula, both of which are nutritionally superior for young babies. If that is the case babies run the risk of developing anaemia given that cows’ milk prevents the absorption of iron, which is essential for your baby’s development.

Another reason is that cows’ milk is high in both potassium and sodium, which are not well tolerated by immature kidneys when consumed in large quantities. The reason why cheese and yoghurt are safe to introduce from 6 months is because both are easier to digest than cow’s milk.

From a year, whole milk can be introduced as a drink provided your baby was not on soy or hypoallergenic formula. Cow’s milk can be viewed as one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods around; fatty acids, carbohydrates, all essential amino acids (the body’s building blocks that can only be derived from food), calcium, vitamins B2 and B12 and phosphorous. Goat’s milk is similar nutritionally to cow’s milk, while soy milk and rice milk are little less nutritionally beneficial but healthy alternatives nonetheless.

As long as cows’ milk (or any other milk) is in no way, being used to replace either formula or breast milk, it is safe to include pasteurised milk, in small amounts in meals for your little one (provided that your baba or you/your partner are not lactose intolerant). For more information on lactose intolerance read further on my “Lactose-Free Living” post).

In the meantime, a splash of milk, other than breast or formula, in baby’s cereal, scrambled eggs, desserts or even in veggies will do no harm – in fact, getting baby used to as many things as possible when they are little is the best way to pave the way for an easy-going eater.

*This information should never replace the advice from your paediatrician, nurse or GP.