How bad is cow's milk for babies & young children? PETA says real bad!

Is cow’s milk really this dangerous for babies & toddlers?

PETA PDF Ad says

I dunno, but you should keep in mind that Dr. Spock also advocated vegitarianism for children, so some of his views are non-mainstream.

I’m not a doctor.

I have always heard from responsible medical or dietary experts that human milk is the very best substance for human babies (unless the mother is ill with some disease she could pass on the the infant). Human milk, like the milk of any other mammal, also contains fat, and has no fiber or complex carbs IIRC.

IMHO the quoted organizations are exaggerating. If cow’s milk were such a deadly poison, Europe would have been depopulated long ago.

It’s true that many, if not most, human *adults * lack the enzymes to digest any kind of milk, not just cow’s milk. But it’s not poison.

Obviously, PETA has an extreme agenda, and I’ll not soon be relying on them for dietary advice.

Well, I’m glad this comes from PETA and not some fringe advocacy group.

Young kids need lots of fats to help brain development. The fact that milk is high in fat is a good thing for young children.

So does breathing. Living with cigarette smoke, premature contact with peanut proteins, stuffing a kid full of processed sugars and bran-less wheat flour (heh…“Zombies ate my bran!”) goes a lot farther (further?) toward bringing on these conditions.

In all fairness, I have heard from sources I trust that milk and what flour are evil for adults as they contribute to intestinal disoprders and osteoporosis. But soda pop is bad too. And an diet that leans too heavily on any one food group or whatever they call 'em these days.

And Dr. Spock is so passe’. Brazelton’s your man now.

WHat they say is not exactly untrue, per se. The problem is that any and every food you eat has just as many “problems”.

First, some definitions. Children under the age of one who aren’t being breastfed need formula, not milk. Formula is specially formulated to mimic mother’s milk as closely as possible. The formula could be of several varieties: cow’s milk based; cow’s milk based but lactose-free; soymilk-based; or specialty formulas for children with a variety of allergies or other problems.

This is agreed upon by pretty much everyone, including the the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After the age of one, most children can be transitioned to real cow’s milk. The exceptions are those who are allergic to milk or lactose intolerance or have one of a few rare ailments.

The allergic population is a small percentage of children, but it’s necessary for them to use an alternative, say soy or rice milk. Fortunately, however, the majority of young children with dairy allergies grow out of them by the age or two or three. They can be tested at that point with small quantities of milk, or, even better, yogurt. When they can accept it with no symptoms they will be able to fully drink milk again. A tiny minority will remain allergic and an even tinier minority will have anaphylactic reactions. These children should be kept off of milk for the rest of their lives.

Very young children almost never get what it called primary lactose intolerance, which is a permanent loss of the lactase enzyme that digests lactose. However, any gastrointestinal stress, including the common but misnamed “stomach flu” can knock out the lactase making ability for a few weeks until the intestines heal. Soymilk makes for a good temporary stopgap until milk can be put back to the system.

The other ailments are too individualistic and rare to go into here.

There is some controversy over the type of cow’s milk that children should get. Some people say that children need fat to grow, so whole milk is fine. Others say that lowfat or even nonfat milks help to combat obesity. I think the decision needs to be made child by child based on their activity, feeding patterns, genetic heritage, and disposition. But cow’s milk in some variety is fine.

As for the cites from PETA and DumpDairy, all I can say is that:

Spock joined in with other pediatricians, mostly vegetarians, to recommend breastfeeding and not milk use for children under the age of one, not a permanent ban, exactly the stance of the AAP I mentioned above.

the research director for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation said she was “very uncomfortable taking a stand against dairy products for young children.”

cow’s milk is 4% lactose, which is indeed a complex carbohydrate because it is a complex sugar

the relation between drinking milk and preventing osteoporosis is a shaky one, but that’s for adults. Drinking milk’s calcium as a child is still the best way known to create a legacy of strong bones that will respond better as an adult.

As I said in another recent thread about milk: PETA lies. Always has, always will.

Cite to dispel milk is poison-style lies: Milk Is Not for Every Body: Living With Lactose Intolerance, by Steve Carper.

But nature did not design cows milk for human consumption. That’s why things such as vitamin d have to be added to make somewhat healthy.

So there is bound to be side effects.

No, they add vitamin D because we can’t make it on our own, it is important and most people dont bother with taking vitamin suppliments.

[note taking advantage of the Fair Use regulations…]

Technically the molecule called vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin because it can be produced by exposure of the skin (higher animals and humans) to ultraviolet light or sunlight. The skin of many animals and man has a high concentration of the sterol cholesterol which is converted by enzymes in the skin to the sterol 7-dehydrocholesterol. Exposure of skin (including human skin) to sunlight for regular intervals results in the photochemical conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3. This sunlight- generated vitamin D3 is a precursor of the steroid hormone 1a,25(OH)2D3. Under these circumstances vitamin D3 is not a vitamin because it has been produced by the body (with the assistance of sunlight). However, if the animal or man lives in the absence of sunlight (e.g., Alaska in the winter) or exclusively indoors, then there is indeed an absolute regular requirement for the fat soluble vitamin D, that must be met through proper dietary intake.

Therefore for nutritional and public health reasons, vitamin D3 continues to be classified even today in 2000 officially as a vitamin. Thus many vitamin capsules and food sources including cows milk are supplemented with vitamin D3 to improve their nutritional value. In the 1940’s this milk supplementation process reduced the incidence rate of juvenile rickets by 85% in the United States.

The american obssession with ‘hygenic’ living is why many of our foods and beverages are fortified, to whit bread and milk … in the 40s when rickets was a serious concern and most kids were starting to be bottle babies, they added it to a beverage that pretty much every parent in the country was bound and determined to force the kids to drink as part of a ‘hygenic’ diet. Not sure if you are american or not, but I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and was damned near forcefed a carton of milk by the school system every blasted day because there was a major push for ‘scholastic nutrition programs’ which included having every kid in school have a meal at midday. If you had a family income under a certain amount per annum, the lunch was free, otherwise the cost of the school lunch was subsidised by the government to keep the cost per meal under $1US. That program continues today [ask me about the time I spent working for US Foodservice as the USDA liason, making commodities available to schools and other institutions like prisons…OY]

America just has a continued compulsion to add micronutrients to EVERYTHING, whether it needs it or not [i refuse to buy vitamin water and fortified sports drinks, I eat a balanced enough diet I dont need the useless cost, and I like plain tap water…]

[QUOTE=Exapno Mapcase]
There is some controversy over the type of cow’s milk that children should get. Some people say that children need fat to grow, so whole milk is fine. Others say that lowfat or even nonfat milks help to combat obesity. I think the decision needs to be made child by child based on their activity, feeding patterns, genetic heritage, and disposition. But cow’s milk in some variety is fine


It’s my understanding that it’s not that children need the fat to grow, but that it’s necessary for brain development. Our pediatrician told us to give our child full fat milk until he was two, at which point we could switch to low fat or skim (this is after he turned 1…before that he was on breastmilk, then formula).

We gave our child milk-based formula for most of his first year. There was recently a study that showed that soy-based formulas may not be an ideal alternative to milk-based. Cite. They’re not saying it’s harmful, but there are definite effects. I read another article recently (although I couldn’t find it online, but the study I just cited was mentioned in it) that said that soy-based products may not be entirely safe for regular consumption by adults.

So…I guess my point is that we could probably find issues with most food products, but I feel perfectly safe giving my toddler whole milk.


PETA *would * cite Dr. Spock.

As many people have already pointed out, human milk is the best thing for growing young human babies. That doesn’t mean that cow’s milk is evil.

Like aruvqan has already said, vitamin D is added to milk because you need it to utilize the calcium in the milk and you might not be getting enough sunlight to make your own. They add vitamin A just on the off chance that you aren’t eating enough colorful vegetables. It’s the fat-soluable way to prevent night blindness.

But, milk of any kind was never intended to be a super food. All mammalian milks are low in iron. It is hypothesized (by my professors, but still a hypothesis by peps in the know) that the iron deficiency encourages the young animal to try eating new things when it is old enough to get around, thereby aiding in weaning so the mother doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life feeding the offspring. This theory is linked to the idea that iron deficiency may be linked to the desire to eat dirt. So yeah, it’s all theory, but the fact still remains that no milk is designed as a complete food. Like others have said, though, nothing is an all-in-one food item for every stage of life. Cow’s milk happens to be pretty good for kids over 1 year old and it’s relatively easy to get.

By side effects, I presume you mean the list of complaints PETA and DumpMilk refer to. Notice how they don’t say just how frequent these side effects are. They don’t even appear to have any cites, the reader is just supposed to accept this wisdom they hand down from on high. I’ve got a friend who can’t digest lettuce. Apple juice gives me the runs. Everyone is going to react to a given item slightly different from the next guy. Doesn’t mean it’s all evil.

If they’re really going to object to milk, they should talk about how modern production methods aren’t terribly nice to the cow, which is probably the root of their furvor. But, they know that arguement won’t convince a large number of people, so they’re inflating these “health” scare issues. It’s like Bush’s Abstinence Only programs claiming that HIV can be spread through sweat

Human milk for human babies!


I don’t think it’s poison, but I also don’t think it’s the perfect, necessary food that the Dairy Board would have us believe. Yes, it has calcium, which is tolerably bioavailable, but so do many other foods. It has protein, but so do many other foods. It has fat, etc.

When I went to the Kluge Center at University of Virginia, I butted heads continually with the nutritionist. She was absolutely adamant that my child consume 15 oz of cow’s milk every day, for the calcium. I, equally adamant, asked her to suggest other sources of calcium, as I do not care to base my child’s diet so heavily on cow’s milk (she was sensitive to cow’s milk protein as an infant). I said “What if I were a vegan, and raising my child as a vegan? What would you recommend I do?” She said “I’d recommend you not be a vegan.” Wrong answer. For god’s sake. I recognise the nutritional options presented by cow’s milk, but I think people can get too dependent on it, to the detriment of a balanced diet. To this day, my kids don’t get that much milk. But they do get a balanced diet, and they’re not hungry. I guess I assume it’s enough.

As for soy…I’d have to be very desperate to consider soy-based formula for a child. An 8 oz glass of soy milk a day contains enough phytoestrogens to mess up my menstrual cycle but good. What might it do to the sexual development of a child 1/6 or 1/8 my size, who consumes nothing else?

I would say it was definitely the correct answer, although not in that specific situation. I’ve yet to see a single compelling argument that someone should follow strict veganism, as humans have evolved as omnivores and in nature there are many essentials we get from meat.

I can see some strong benefits to a very limited meat intake, and certainly a strong preference to meats like chicken over meats like beef, but if I were a nutritionist I would have told you the same thing. I think it borders on the negligent to raise a child a vegan.

I think the other issue is that cows milk, like human breastmilk, is not universally identical. If you cow has been given antibiotics, hormones etc, they’ll be in the milk. If that bothers you, buy organic milk. If animal welfare and intensive farming bothers you, you can get milk from sources approved for humane farming methods. If your cow has been a grass diet it will have slightly different milk to one fed on corn, silage or some manufactured feed. If your milk has been fortified it will have exta vitamns etc in it, if it hasn’t, it won’t.

My mother complains that the full-fat milk in Ireland is too creamy and heavy, something she dislikes after growing up in Africa where the cows eat a diet that doesn’t produce such creamy milk, so she buys skimmed milk. My grandmother only drinks milk at times of the year when the animals eat grass, as the silage they are fed in the winter means that winter milk upsets her stomach. My aunt developed an allergy to cow milk protein during one of her pregnancies, so she drinks goats milk or soy.

In parts of the world cow, goat and camel milk are the staple food stuffs, supplemented with grain. Few of the people who live on that diet will die of obesity, or allergies, mostly because they die of malnutrition instead. Milk is not a complete food, but it has its uses as part of a balanced diet (as a nomadic herder, you’re not getting that balanced diet, but you’d die a lot sooner without the milk). If you’re drinking excess calories in milk (or coca-cola, for that matter) you have to eat fewer, that’s the simple truth.

Don’t give very small children cows milk, don’t give small children skimmed milk, and don’t give small children “raw” or unpasteurised milk. It’s a cheap, efficient way of getting calories, protein and calcium, no one is saying it’s ALL you should feed your child or that drinking vast amounts of it will be fantatic for their health.
Everything in moderation.

In any event, I’ve found that the number of soy milks that don’t rely on sugar and additives to be palatable approaches zero. Sugar is a major contributor to obesity and is a bigger evil in my mind than cow’s milk.


Personally, I won’t drink anything that hasn’t come from Ling-ling, my com-panda. They say panda’s milk is the rarest fluid in the world…

No, PETA would cite Mr. Spock. :wink:

Good point, but soy milk has a bunch of other goodies that justify adding just about anything in an effort to make it a viable product. It occurs to me that the people who’d use soy milk are less likely to consume high-sugar products enjoyed by non-soy-milk-drinking humans resulting a lower net sugar consumption, and they’re probably more likely to get off their butts an exercise it off.

'course all that’ll change once the Coka Cola people get ahold of it and start marketing a modified form of it as a healthy enrgy drink…