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In order for a child to grow in a normal, stable manner, among other things, they need to get the required nutrients in their daily nutrition because food is not the only factor that supports growth. While WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months and together with complementary foods at least until two years, not all mothers have that option. That’s why some turn to cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk has been found to contain high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can stress a child’s immature kidneys and cause serious damage1. In addition, cow’s milk lacks the proper amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients that toddlers need1.
As part of a varied and balanced diet; fortified milk powder can be a better alternative to cow’s milk for children from 1-3 years as it contains the following nutrients:
In Egypt, 38% of the children under 5 years old have iron deficiency and find it difficult to get the required daily intake of iron2. But why is iron so important?
Health benefits3 of iron:
- Iron contributes to the normal cognitive development of children.
- Iron plays a part in the normal formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
Children with iron deficiency are usually less physically active and develop slower4. It can also affect their concentration resulting in shorter attention spans as well as poor academic performance4. Children with iron deficiency can also experience fatigue and weakness4
Cow’s milk is not recommended to be introduced to toddlers (1 –3 years) because the iron in Cow’s milk isn’t easily absorbed and can even be the cause of iron deficiency in children3,5.
In fact, 166 cow’s milk cups of 250ml are needed to cover a child’s iron needs. However, to ensure that your toddler is getting their needed daily dose of iron, only two cups of 250 ml fortified milk are needed.
Vitamin C contributes to the normal functioning4 of the immune system. This makes it an important nutrient for the body.
Omega 3 (DHA):
Omega 3 (DHA) plays a role in normal brain development7. One of the advantages of fortified milk is that it contains omega 3 fatty acids that contribute to the child’s brain development.
One of the reasons Zinc is important for a child is because it contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system8.
Calcium and Vitamin D:
Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for normal growth and bone development in children. While vitamin D is evident in foods such as salmon and tuna, it is usually difficult to get the needed dosage of vitamin D, especially for toddlers9. Choosing fortified milk that includes a sufficient dose of vitamin D plays a part in normal growth and bone development in children.
Sources used in this article:
1- . Consumption of cow’s milk as a cause of iron deficiency in infants and toddlers. Nutr Rev 2011; 69 Suppl 1: S37-42
2- Afaf A. Tawfik t al. Anemia and Iron Deficiency Anemia in Egypt. IOSR Journal Of Pharmacy 2015 ; 5(4) : 30-34
3- Wessling-Resnick M. Iron. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler RG, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:176-88.
4- Canadian Paediatric Society. Iron needs of babies and children. Paediatr Child Health 2007; 12(4)
5- P. Tounian et al. Iron in Nutrition. Archives de Pédiatrie 2017; 24:5 S23-5S31
6- Anita C. Carr and Silvia Maggini. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 2017; 9(11):1211
7- Saskia JM Osendarp. The role of omega-3 fatty acids in child development. OCL 2011 ; 18(6) : 307–313
8- Ian Darnton-Hill. Zinc supplementation and growth in children. July 2013- World Health Organization (WHO)
9- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010
Further reading: Recipes for Babies From 12 to 24 Months Old