For Healthcare Professionals only

Early Introduction Of Cow's Milk

The normal and the preferred way to feed infants is breast milk. Renowned associations like AAP (American academy of Pediatrics) and ESPGHAN (European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition) recommend that infants should not be fed cow's milk before 12 months of age.

  • Despite recommendation, in India supplementation of breast milk begins much early with the introduction of cow's milk (TNS Survey, 2013).
  • Instead of breast milk, animal’s milk consumption during childhood is more wide spread than infant formulas but poor practices such as dilution are reported.
  • Approximately 38% of babies begin cow's milk after 3 months of age (TNS Survey,2013).
Early Introduction Of Cow's Milk figure 1
Early Introduction Of Cow's Milk figure 2
  • In India cultural believes influences animal milk consumption. Bovine milk is considered to be, the next best substitute for mother's milk from generations and is reinforced by family members like mothers or mother-in-law. Misconception that there is no milk for first 24 hours after delivery, insufficient lactation, perception that mother is too tired to feed baby for some time after long birth triggers adoption of bovine milk. Mothers also initiate bovine milk from beginning itself to accustom the child drinking milk (Mayuri et al.2012).
Early Introduction Of Cow's Milk figure 3

It is well know that early introduction of whole cow's milk may lead to iron deficiency anemia. Cow's milk is also difficult to digest and may increase stress on kidney. Early exposure to cow's milk proteins increases the risk of developing allergy to milk proteins. Knowing the above facts it becomes essential to educate mothers on necessity of breastfeeding infants for optimal health. If breast milk is not available, it is preferred to use iron-fortified formulas rather than whole cow's milk during the first year of life.


  1. TNS survey (2013) “Unravelling Baby Nutrition-India U&A 2013 report for DBN India”
  2. Ministry of Home Affairs “Annual Health Survey (AHS) 2010 – 2011
  3. Mayuri, M., V. Garg, C. Mukherji, D. Aggarwal and S. Ganguly (2012) “Bovine Milk Usage and Feeding Practices for Infants in India”, Indian J Public Health, 56(1): 75-81
  4. Patel (2012) “Determinants of inappropriate complementary feeding practices in young children in India: secondary analysis of National Family Health Survey 2005-2006”, Matern Child Nutr., 8 Suppl 1: 28-44