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What a baby can and can’t have is one of the most searched phrases on search engines in the UK, most of the answers are straight forward and most reputable websites do a decent job of answering them. But, a question which doesn’t get answered very well or explained is whether or not babies can have semi-skimmed (green) milk safely.
We’ve decided to give the lowdown and answer the question itself and explain why this questions is contentious in the first place.
What is semi skimmed milk?
Semi skimmed milk, green milk or whatever milk you want to call it is made by removing milk fat from whole milk (blue milk) which leads it to have around 1.8% fat. For context, whole milk has around 3.5% fat, skimmed milk (red) has around 0.1%. Breastmilk has 6% as do formula milks. More on this later.
This process reduces the fat content drastically as well as the overall number of calories in the drink (fat is a lot of calories). Semi skimmed milk has fewer calories, slightly higher carbohydrates and obviously less fat. Aside from this, it is almost identical to whole milk.
So what does this all mean for babies drinking semi skimmed milk?
For the first six months of life, babies should be be exclusively breastfed, and if that’s not possible then formula milk. Even after that, breastmilk is still recommended for another few years alongside a healthy amount of solid foods. Breastmilk has around 11g of fat per 250ml as do artificial milks, whereas semi skimmed milk has 3.2g. This is almost four times less than recommended.
Fat has unfortunately attracted a negative connotation as the word ‘fat’ often means ‘obese’ to people but fat is an extremely important part of a babies diet (and adults for that matter). Fat helps the brain develop and allows the body to better absorb vitamins – without enough of it they won’t be able to extract nutrients from their milk.
Secondly, breastmilk has around 180 calories per 250ml (formula has about the same) whereas semi skimmed milk has half that at 90 – this means that a baby drinking the same amount of semi skimmed milk will get half the calories than their normal milk but still feel full.
Lastly, breastmilk has a LOT more to it than just carbs, protein and fat and semi skimmed milk has none of it. Cow’s milk is just a basic drink made for a calf without a lot of the goodness taken out through pasteurisation and so on.
All of this combined makes semi skimmed milk nowhere near as healthy or nutritious as breastmilk and even formula milk to the point where it could cause harm.
Horror story over. Back to reality – can babies have semi skimmed milk safely?
Should you give babies semi skimmed milk?
For babies under the age of 2 no – young babies and toddlers, especially newborns, really need the fat which is contained in breastmilk or formula milk as well as calories. There are plenty of other drinks and foods you can give them which makes semi skimmed milk alone a poor choice. Can they have it with cereal? Yes, absolutely, on its own it is not great, though.
If you want them drink milk, then offer them whole milk for the extra fat content and calories. Many people feel full fat milk/blue milk is the unhealthy version but it isn’t, it is the version with the most fat and calories which in isolation are not a bad thing.
However, as an occasional quick drink then no harm will come to the baby as long as they’re getting enough nutrients from other places such as breastmilk, formula milk, fruits and veggies and so on.