When Should I Introduce Cow’s Milk to my Baby

Glass of milk on white background. When should I introduce cow's milk to my baby.

Your growing baby has many nutritional needs, and knowing when to introduce certain foods can be confusing. For strong bones, your baby needs vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamin D. Whole, pasteurized cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. Many parents have questions about when and how to introduce cow’s milk. You may be wondering “when should I introduce cow’s milk to my baby”? Keep reading to learn more!


Why is Cow’s Milk Important for My Baby?

For strong bones, your baby needs vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamin D. Whole, pasteurized cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients are important to prevent a disease known as Rickets, this is the softening of bones, which can lead to bow legs, stunted growth, and weak muscles (1). For more information on vitamin D, check out our blog post Baby’s Vitamin D Needs


When Can I Offer My Baby Cow’s Milk?

Cow’s milk should only be introduced when your baby is 12 months or older. This is because some nutrients are insufficiently present in cow’s milk. Futhermore, infants have a difficult time digesting the protein and fat in cow’s milk (2). Introducing cow’s milk to your baby before the age of 12 months increases your child’s risk of intestinal bleeding (3).This is because cow’s milk has too many proteins and minerals for your baby’s kidney to handle (3).  

Infants under nine months shouldn’t consume cow’s milk since it is (4):

  • low in iron 
  • may replace foods high in iron 
  • may prevent iron absorption
  • has minimal necessary fat content


What if My Baby Has a Milk Allergy?

Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), is one of the most common food allergies in babies, and will likely be present much earlier than 12 months (5). If your baby has CMPA, it’s important to work with a Registered Dietitian individually who can create an individualized plan for reintroducing milk and other dairy products. A dietitian can also help decide which milk alternatives are right for your baby to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients they need. Click here to book a call with one of our dietitians. 

Dairy Recommendations for Babies

Including dairy products, such as cow’s milk, in your little one’s diet is important. Babies one year of age and older should be offered up to 2 cups (500 mL) or 16 ounces of milk each day (3) It’s important that dairy intake be varied, as a child who consumes too much cow’s milk might not be as hungry for other foods that contain vital nutrients (2). Too much cow’s milk may make it more difficult for your child’s body to absorb the iron they need from their diet (2).


Final Notes from The Nest

Introducing cow’s milk can be done safely at 12 months of age (remember to consider corrected age if your baby was born prematurely). Including all forms of dairy is important for offering key nutrients in different forms. And although cow’s milk is important, too much can be harmful. you have more questions about offering milk to your baby, don’t hesitate to book a free call with a Registered Dietitian at The Nest.

Article Written by Victoria Bouchard

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  1. Solid Starts [Internet]. Brooklyn: Solid Starts LLC; c2019-2022 [cited 2022 Aug 22]. Water for Babies and Toddlers; [about 11 screens]. Available from:
  2. Grueger B. Weaning from the breast. Paediatr Child Health. 2013;18(4):210.
  3. Alberta Health Services. Nutrition guideline: healthy infants and young children water [Internet]. Edmonton (AB): Alberta Health Services; 2013 [cited 2022 Aug 22]. 5 p. Available from:
  4. Naqvi, N. Should fruit juice be introduced to an infant’s diet? If so, when and how? Unlock Food. Dietitians of Canada. 2022.