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Ask the Pediatrician

Dr. Jennifer Shu and her team of pediatricians answer your health questions.

Dr. Jennifer Shu

Question & Answer

Question

What is the right age I can give my child a low fat milk instead of whole milk?

Answer

By: Howard J. Bennett, MD, FAAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast milk for the first year of life. If breast milk is unavailable, the infant should be fed an iron-fortified formula. Babies are transitioned to whole milk at one year of age. The AAP recommends that children stay on whole milk until two years unless there is a reason to switch the baby to low fat milk sooner. Your doctor may make this recommendation for clinical reasons or because there is a family history of obesity, heart disease, or a cholesterol problem

The reason the AAP recommends whole milk until two years of age has to do with a baby's growth and development. Infants triple their birth weight by one year and quadruple their birth weight by two years. During this period, the baby's brain and nervous system are making amazing gains in size and complexity. Because the brain and nervous system are largely composed of fat tissue, it is reasoned that the baby should have a higher fat diet during this period of time.

Whole milk contains approximately 4% milk fat. It may help to gradually switch your child from whole milk to a lower fat milk. Therefore, many doctors recommend that children get reduced fat (2%) milk for a few weeks before switching them to low fat (1%) or no fat (skim) milk.

For more information from Dr. Bennett, click here.