Berkeley Parents Advice about Eating
Whole Milk vs. Low fat Milk
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Moving From Formula To Whole Milk
I would like to take a kind of survey - my mother-in-law insists that
kids need WHOLE milk until they are 5 years old - they need the fat, and I
have heard from friends and doctors that 2% is fine after 2 years. Anyone
know of any "reports" that I can show her. And how important is whole milk
up until age 2? What are your feelings.
I've looked at the newsletter suggested websites before, but there is no
specific info. Thanks
What I am wondering is why not have whole milk until they are 5...or even
My pediatrician told me to use whole milk for the added calories needed. He
didn't suggest any specific age to stop. He told me to use whatever the
family was comfortable with. Some people don't like the taste of milk. As
long as they are halthy and they are continuing to growth in a normal curve,
it doesn't matter.
My son had no problem going from breast milk to cow's milk so this was never
an issue. My daughter went from breastmilk to Carnation formula at nine
months because the doctor didn't want her starting on milk just yet (she was
a preemie and he was worried about a possible reaction). By the time she
started drinking cow's milk (which she never had a problem with either), we
had finally switched to 2%. It took my family a long time to do this because
we all liked the taste of milk. We drink 2% exclusively now, but can't
switch to 1% (too salty - they add salt for flavor) or nonfat (no taste at
all, like a white crayon dipped in water). We could get our calcium from
cheese or other dairy products, but we drink milk because we enjoy it.
It really is whatever you and your family are comfortable with. As long as
there are no health issues, give them what you want to give them. It's just
a matter of calories and taste. The bottom line is they are your kids and
you will do what you think is best.
Our pediatrician told us to give whole milk until age 2, 2% until age
5, 1% or nonfat after that. The fat is definitely important to
neurological development, but there is evidence that fat build-ups in
the arteries that may, eventually, lead to problems much later in
life can show up as early as 2 years of age in babies whose family
history leads to a very strong genetic risk for heart disease. So
just be sensible about fat intake -- dont go overboard with
restrictions, but don't allow unrestricted access, either.
As a pediatric nurse of many years, I was always taught that children
should have whole milk until they were 5 years old. But THAT was in
the "olden " days. Now it seems our children have more fat, and
calories in their diets, so 2% is fine after 2 years, as long as they
are staying on their growth percentile.
our pediatrician was very clear that switching to 2% milk at age 2 was
beneficial, and our daughter accepted this without fuss ... we did
some blending for a few weeks till she was used to it.
When our parents raised us, the words "high cholesterol" were not in
anyone's vocabulary ... but there is current awareness that keeping
kids on high fat diets can lead to an early start on occluded
Whole milk is recommended for children up to 2 years of age. It is crucial
for growth and proper development. I work in the Food Service Department at
Children's Hospital, and I also am a graduate student of nutrition.
I don't know of any reports that I can tell you about, but our
toddler's doctor recommended 2% milk after she turned 1. He says that
toddlers don't need the same amount of fat as infants. He says it's
much healthier for them to drink 2% or even nonfat after they turn 2
and that milk intake should be limited no more than 16 ozs. She's been
drinking lower fat milk since her first birthday and it hasn't
affected her growth rate.
I don't see the rationale behind recommending low-fat milk or any other
kind of low-fat food for babies and young children. If anything, you
want to increase their fat - the most recent studies I've seen in
my Science Week indicate that fat is involved in brain development,
even up to kindergarten age as I recall.
Our one year old daughter is weening herself from mom's breast milk, and
we are starting to introduce her to cow's milk. My wife and I disagree
on the fat content that is best for our daughter. I have heard that fat
helps in the development of the brain and other systems, and my wife is
worried about having an obese child. We are both slim, and our daughter
is about 50th percentile in weight. Should we use whole milk or reduced
This is a question you really should be asking your pediatrician. I am
fairly confident that s/he will recommend whole milk for a child of that
age. A child in the 50% weight percentile is unlikely to be in any
immediate danger of obesity, and it seems counterproductive to be
worrying about obesity in the absence of any actual problem. Babies
(and children and adults) need a certain amount of fat for good health
and proper development. But ask your doctor.
Re: lowfat or full fat milk: Please give your daughter whole milk.
Infants can absolutely use the normal fat content in it and the lowfat
versions, although convenient for adults watching their weight, are not
the whole food product. Milk has a healthy proportion of fat, protein
and carbohydrate just as is. You may also want to buy organic milk or at
least the brands that don't have growth hormone in them: both Clover
Stornetta and Trader Joe's claim to be "bovine growth hormone free."
A baby should be given whole milk until at least 2 years old. If your wife
is worried about your ONE YEAR OLD becoming obese, I think the problem is
most decidedly your wife's. She obviously has food issues that could be
damaging if passed on to your daughter. Would your wife feel the same way if
you had a son? Probably not. It's heartbreaking to think that your wife is
already concerned about making your sweet, innocent baby conform to the
unrealistic, sexualized standards placed on a woman's body in this society.
Please don't give your 1-year old lowfat milk! Your wife is wrong and you
are right that kids need the fat for brain development, etc. It's essential.
You can start her on lowfat or nonfat milk when she's 2, but not before!
Here's a quote from the Web site BabyCenter
After your child is 1 year old, you can start giving her whole milk to drink
(no low- or nonfat milk until she's 2, though).
Here's a quote from the health site My Life Path
(A caution for parents with infants: Fat is a critical nutrient for brain
the first two years of life, so infants should never been placed on a
Breast milk is very high in fat, as is infant formula. It's important never
low-fat or skim milk in the first two years of life.)
Ask your doctor -- he or she will tell you the same thing. If your wife is
worried about obesity, she should focus on limiting the junk food, avoid
taking your child to fast-food places, offer healthy snacks, and limit the
juice. Don't use juice boxes. It just fills her up on empty calories. If you
must give juice, dilute it by half. Don't let her get accustomed to full-on
juice. And of course encourage your daughter to run around and be active.
In many cultures, healthy children are raised without any other milk than
mothers' breast milk. Soy milk is another option.
From my reading and study, the body recognizes best the "real thing" which is
whole, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk (Clarevale's is sold at Wild Oats and
Whole Foods now). Mother's milk is quite high in fat for the very reason you
state: development of the the brain. Plus so may minerals (like calcium) need
fat to be absorbed. For more reading on this topic, see Sally Fallon's
fantastically informative book, NOURISHING TRADITIONS. She writes
compellingly about the body's effective metabolism of unadulterated animal
fats as compared to the vegetable oils that proliferate in the standard
american diet (S.A.D.) today, leading to/causing many chronic illnesses
(including obesity). She also offers a really fine non-allergenic alternative
to mother's milk. You might also find pediatrician Lendon Smith's FEED YOUR
KIDS RIGHT (1979) helpful. Good luck!
For the dad who does not want to feed his young child reduced fat milk
products, here is an excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy
Staatement on Cholesterol in Childhood to support your point.
Nutrient Recommendations *(See 4/98 Errata)
No restriction of fat or cholesterol is recommended for infants <2 years when
rapid growth and development require high energy intakes. A precise percentage
of dietary intake from fat that supports normal growth and development while
maximally reducing atherosclerosis risk is unknown. Therefore, a range of
appropriate values, averaged over several days for a child or adolescent, is
recommended based on the scientific information available. Because concerns
have been expressed that some parents and their children may overinterpret
the need to restrict their fat intakes, a lower limit of fat intake is
suggested by this Committee. The Committee recognizes that children 2 to 5
years of age are selective in their food choices. After 2 years of age,
children and adolescents should gradually adopt a diet that, by ~5
ears of age, contains <30% of calories and <20% from fat. As they begin
to consume fewer calories from fat, children should replace these
calories by eating more grain products, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk
products or other calcium-rich foods, beans, lean meat, poultry, fish, or
other protein-rich foods. These recommendations are for average intakes over
several days, so that if foods high in total fat, saturated fat, and
cholesterol are eaten, they can be compensated for by eating less of these
nutrients at other times. Because no single food item provides all the
essential nutrients in the amounts needed, choosing a wide variety of food
from all the food groups will ensure an adequate diet.
The following appeared in the UCB Parents Advice Line, Jan 4, 2000: "From my
reading and study, the body recognizes best the 'real thing' which is whole,
unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk..."
I was dismayed to see this advice implying that children be given
unpasterized (raw) milk. The danger of raw milk containing infectious agents
such as salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7, and listeria is well
documented. These diseases can kill children. Pregnant women are also
particularly vulnerable. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
urges consumers to avoid raw/unpasteurized milk. There are essentially zero
health benefits from drinking raw milk (especially when compared with
pasteurized organic milk products), but there are considerable risks.
A nice summary of raw milk risks appears in the iVillage Parent's Place.
Some other relevant information (including a sample of reports of food
poisoning outbreaks in California due to raw milk consumption) is listed
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR--produced by the CDC) Dec 18,
1988-Epidemiologic notes and reports update--listeriosis and pasteurized
MMWR, May 16, 1986--Epidemiologic notes and reports--Campylobacter outbreak
associated with raw milk provided on a dairy tour--California
MMWR, Oct 5, 1984--Epidemiologic notes and reports--Campylobacter outbreak
associated with certified raw milk products--California
MMWR, April 13, 1984--Salmonella dublin and raw milk
consumption--California. (80% of the cases in the prior year had been
hospitalized, and 26% died).
Unpasteurized milk: The hazards of a health fetish. M. Potter in the
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 1984, v 252, pp.
The epidemiology of raw milk-associated foodborne disease outbreaks reported
in the United States, 1973 through 1992. ML Headrick, et al. in the
American Journal of Public Health, 1998, v. 88, pp. 1219-1221.
One could include dozens more...Hope this helps correct a misperception.
Spock says don't give babies (I think less than age two) low-fat milk,
only whole, because the higher protein to fat ratio in low-fat milk is too
much for their kidneys to handle.
I appreciate the writer's concern about unpasteurized milk. But I would
like to offer the following from Sally Fallon's NURTURING TRADITIONS (1995):
Pasteurization is no guarantee of cleanliness. All outbreaks of
contaminated milk in recent decades-- and there have been many--have occurred
in pasteurized milk. This includes a 1984 outbreak in Illinois that struck
14, 216 people causing at least one death. The salmonella strain in that batch
of pasteurized milk was found to be genetically resistant to both
penicillin and tetracycline. Raw milk contains lactic-acid-producing bacteria
which protect against pathogens. Pasteurization destroys these helpful
organisms, leaving the finished product devoid of any protective mechanism
should undesirable bacteria inadvertently contaminate the supply.
But that's not all that pasteurization does to milk. Heat alters milk's
amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less
available; it promotes rancity of unsaturated fatty acids and causes
vitamin loss. Pasteurization alters milk's mineral components such as calcium,
chlorine, magensium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulphur as well
as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence
that pasteurization alters lactase, maing it more readily absorbable. This
and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to
produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized
socities has been linked to diabetes.
Last, but not least, pasteurization destroys all enzymes in the milk--in
fact, the test for successful pasteurization is absence of enzymes. These
enzymes help the body assimilate all body-building factors, including calcium.
After pasteurization, chemicals may be added to suppress odor and restore
taste. Artificial vitamin D, shown to be toxic to arteries and kidneys, is
Fat is indeed crucial to neurological development. Our pediatrician
told us to go with full fat milk products until the age of 2 (at least), and
then switch to 2%. As for obesity, training in good eating habits is
the most important thing you can do to prevent it: limit junk foods, eat
healthy snacks, respect mealtimes, etc. Try not to limit food intake,
however (offer healthy alternatives if your child wants a snack) and
never, never put a child on a diet or make him or her go hungry!
The opinions and statements expressed on this page
are those of parents who belong to the
UC Berkeley Parents Network and
should not be taken as a position of or endorsement by the
University of California, Berkeley.