A More Natural Approach to Parenting

Milk and Dairy

Milk May Be Hazardous to Your Child's Health

 “There’s no reason to drink cows’ milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, not humans, and we should all stop drinking it today.”
—Dr. Frank A. Oski (1932–1996),
Former Director of Pediatrics,
Johns Hopkins University

Cow in field

The American Dairy Association has succeeded in getting consumers to believe that the healthy growth of their children depends on receiving calcium from cow’s milk, and the dairy industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to convince people to drink gallons of it. However, scientific evidence contradicts claims that milk products fulfill a nutritional requirement. Additionally, dairy products have major health drawbacks.

As parents, you might want to be aware of concerns about health risks to your children from cow's milk products. These problems relate to the proteins, sugar, fat, and contaminants in dairy products, and the inadequacy of whole cow's milk for human nutrition.

Health risks from milk consumption are greatest for infants less than one year of age, in whom cow's milk can contribute to deficiencies in several nutrients, including iron, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under one year of age not receive whole cow's milk, as iron deficiency is more likely on a dairy-rich diet. Cow's milk products are very low in iron. To get the US RDA of 15 mg of iron, and infant would have to drink more than 31 quarts of milk per day. Milk can also cause blood loss from the intestinal tract, which, over time, reduces the body's iron stores.

Colic is an additional concern with milk consumption. Pediatricians learned long ago that cow's milk was often the reason for colic. Breastfeeding mothers can have colicky babies if the mothers are consuming cow's milk. The cow's antibodies can pass through the mother's bloodstream into her breast milk and to the baby.

Concerns are greatest for children during the first year, yet there are also health concerns related to milk use among older children.

Several reports link insulin-dependent diabetes to a specific protein in dairy products. A long-standing theory is that cow milk proteins stimulate production of antibodies which, over time, destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

Food allergies appear to be a common result of milk consumption, particularly in children.

Many children are unable to digest the milk sugar, lactose. This is known as lactose intolerance, and causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms in those who attempt to ingest dairy.

Most milk and dairy products contain significant amounts of saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular diseases and certain forms of cancer. The early changes of heart disease have been documented in American teenagers.

Milk contains frequent contaminants, including pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

Dairy products offer a false sense of security to those concerned about osteoporosis. In countries where dairy products are not generally consumed, such as China, there is actually less osteoporosis than in the United States. There are many good sources of calcium such as broccoli, green leafy vegetables, and beans. Even cows don't drink milk--they eat grass. New research casts grave doubt on the long-standing but poorly supported notion that dairy product consumption protects against bone loss. No consistent link has been found between the amount of calcium people consume and protection against osteoporosis.

Although dairy products are often cited by the dairy industry as being good sources of calcium to “help build strong bones,” there is much debate over whether long-term consumption of dairy products helps bones at all.

Cute little girl skipping rope

Several studies of teenagers have found that their bone health is related to their physical activity level earlier in life, but not to the amount of milk or calcium they consumed.

There is no nutritional requirement for dairy products, and consumption can result in chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and formation of atherosclerotic plaques that can lead to heart disease. If your children consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, they will meet their nutritional needs without the health risks of milk.

Although most people consider calcium to be the most important nutrient for strong bones, the fact is that good bone health is largely dependent on getting adequate vitamin D. Cow’s milk in nature contains quite low levels, and almost all liquid milk sold commercially in the United States has chemically synthesized vitamin D3 added. This is not true of other dairy products. Humans do not need to rely on milk or other parts of their diet for vitamin D, produced in the skin naturally after exposure to sunlight.

The fact is, under scientific scrutiny, the myth of the healing powers of milk loses credibility. While milk is a fundamental, life-sustaining food for the young of every species of mammal, many people are now reconsidering using cow’s milk and dairy as a form of human nourishment, realizing that there are alternatives that can replace these potentially harmful products.

Remember: All mammals drink mother's milk of their own species. No other species drinks milk beyond infancy.

Book a Consultation if you would like to discuss alternatives to milk and dairy. I work with parents nationwide.