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Baby Milk Recommendations Changed

2% Milk OK for Weaned Babies at Risk of Becoming Overweight
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WebMD Health News

July 11, 2008 -- There's been a major change in baby nutrition advice, but it's gone nearly unnoticed.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendation that weaned babies be fed whole milk until they're 2 years old.

Instead, after weaning, kids at risk of being overweight -- or whose families have a history of obesity, heart disease, or high cholesterol -- should get reduced-fat 2% milk between 12 months and 2 years of age.

It's a big change. Because dietary fats are important for early brain development, whole milk was considered essential for weaned babies up to age 2 years. But recent studies have found that kids given reduced-fat milk developed normally.

After their second birthday, all kids should be switched to low-fat 1% milk, says AAP spokeswoman Tanya R. Altmann, MD. Altmann is also an advisor to the National Dairy Council, which represents the dairy industry.

"This is for children who are overweight or at risk of overweight, or with a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease," Altmann tells WebMD. "Children do need a certain amount of fat for brain development. But children now are getting too much fat from other sources. Dairy is very important for child development. Children and adults who consume low-fat dairy products are healthier. So we still recommend three servings a day of low-fat milk over age 2."

The advice came as part of the AAP's recent recommendations for cholesterol screening for children. But the milk advice got lost in the uproar over advice to give cholesterol-lowering drugs to some kids as young as 8 years old.

That controversy quickly quelled when parents realized that the AAP suggested using medication only as a last resort for the less than 1% of kids with disastrously high cholesterol levels.

The new milk recommendations affect far more children, notes Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, director of nutrition for WebMD.

The AAP recommendations appear in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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