The newest guidelines reviewing when to introduce allergens to babies suggest that all foods – including dairy- can be introduced at 6 months. There’s no greater risk that your child will develop an allergy if you introduce a food at 6 months instead of 12 months (and actually earlier might be better!). I recommend starting dairy with plain full fat yogurt. You can mix in a fruit puree for flavour, if you like. Then grated cheese that your child can pick up on his own. Followed by full fat cows milk. However for fluid milk, It IS recommended to wait to feed your baby cows milk as their main milk source until they are 9-12 months old. This isn’t related to allergy, but to iron status. Cows milk is low in iron, and can inhibit iron absorption.
So when can you introduce milk as a main milk source for your baby? Is 9 months better, or 12 months? It depends on how much they eat. Do you have a baby that eats plenty of solids and gets lots of iron from their diet? Then it’s ok to introduce cows milk regularly at 9 months. If your baby doesn’t love solids and subsists mostly on breast milk or formula, then wait until they are 12 months.
Once your baby is taking cows milk, 2-3 cups per day is a maximum. Higher intakes can be again associated with low iron status and anemia. Often toddlers really, really like milk and will drink it all day. The parent claims their child is a picky eater, and it’s quick to spot the problem: he drinks 6 cups of milk per day, of course isn’t hungry for other food! One way to slow down milk intake is to just offer it at meals, in an open cup, as opposed to a sippy cup or bottle. It’s so easy for little ones to toddle around all day sipping on a cup or milk from the bottle or sippy -which will also get you in trouble with your dentist.
And just to note, if you are nursing, you don’t need cows milk at all. It makes sense that milk from mom is always more nutritious than milk from a cow, right?!