Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?

By Sally Fallon Morell

The biggest concern parents have about making homemade formula is that it is based on raw milk which, according to medical orthodoxy, is a source of contamination and disease. The only possible way to protect our children, they say, is to be sure the milk is pasteurized.

The chart shown in the article Reported Outbreaks of Food Borne Illness was drawn up for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote on permitting raw milk in the County. (The vote was favorable, by the way, and raw milk is once again available in Los Angeles.) Except for a brief hiatus in 1990, raw milk has always been for sale commercially in California, usually in health food stores, although I can remember a period when it was even sold in grocery stores. Millions of people consumed commercial raw milk during that period and although the health department kept an eagle eye open for any possible evidence of harm, not a single incidence was reported. During the same period, there were many instances of contamination in pasteurized milk, some of which resulted in death. There have also been many instances of contamination of other foods, including baby formula. In fact, if we withdrew from the market every food type responsible for a case of food poisoning, there would be virtually nothing left to eat. But only raw milk has been singled out for general removal from the food supply.

Both raw and pasteurized milk harbor bacteria but the bacteria in raw milk is the healthy bacteria of lactic-acid fermentation while the bacteria in pasteurized milk is the bacteria of spoilage. And the overall bacteria count of milk produced under clean conditions is much lower than that of pasteurized milk. Both raw and pasteurized milk contain E. coli, normally a benign microorganism. The most likely source of the new strains of virulent E. coli is genetically engineered soy, fed to cows in large commercial dairies. If there is any type of milk likely to harbor these virulent breeds, it is commercial pasteurized milk.

Back in the days when scientists at our universities did real research, they compared the health of children fed raw or pasteurized milk. Children fed raw milk have more resistance to TB, scurvy, flu, diphtheria, pneumonia, asthma, allergic skin problems and tooth decay. In addition, their growth and calcium absorption was superior. (See: Abstracts on the Effect of Pasteurization on the Nutritional Value of Milk.)

Of course, as with all foods, raw milk must come from healthy cows and be carefully handled and stored. The same technology that we use to pasteurize our milk also allows us to keep raw milk fresh and clean. If you are buying directly from a farmer, be sure that the cows are mostly on pasture and that the barn is kept clean. The milk should go directly from the milking machine into a stainless steel tank or clean containers and be kept chilled. It should be used within a period of one week, after which it will begin to go sour (although it is not dangerous when it does so). With these precautions, raw milk is not only healthy but a safe food for all members of the family, even babies.

To find raw milk in your area, use our Real Milk Finder or contact your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This article appeared in the Fall 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. 

Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (with Mary G. Enig, PhD), a well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods with a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. She joined forces with Enig again to write Eat Fat, Lose Fat, and has authored numerous articles on the subject of diet and health. The President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk, Sally is also a journalist, chef, nutrition researcher, homemaker, and community activist. Her four healthy children were raised on whole foods including butter, cream, eggs and meat.

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17 thoughts on “Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?

  1. How many months old does a baby have to be to give them straight raw cow’s/goat’s milk? I saw the recipe for baby formula but my grandson is being breast fed but when my daughter is done, not sure when that will be, he’s 3 months now, I’d like her to start with raw milk for him. Thank you

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  3. If I have the option of buying raw milk from a small farmer who does not do any testing on their milk, is this too much of a risk? This farmer wants to start a cow share but it doesn’t sound like they will be doing any testing on their milk. Is this common? I want to be sure it is safe for my babies to drink but wasn’t sure if just making sure that the environment is clean where the cows are milked is enough.

  4. I really enjoy raw milk and have great friends who have cow shares. Can I give the raw milk to my 11 month old by itself? Does it have to be in a formula?

  5. even if you put it in a formula is still going to be raw milk not to mention putting it in a formula only adds calories to the milk

    • I’m not quite sure of what you’re after here, but yes, the point of making a “raw milk formula” is that the milk in it is raw and remains raw, and we advocate that very strongly. Two, yes, likely the calorie total in the formula is higher than the total calories in an equivalent amount of raw milk alone. That’s not a problem.

  6. My baby is one year old now and has cow milk allergy. I have stopped feeding him all the dairy products and soy and animal protein on doctors advice since the baby is 7 months old. Now, can I start giving him raw buffalo milk ? Have given him pasteurized buffalo milk for 2 days and I didn’t see any chronic reactions. Pls advice.

  7. My grandson is seven months old, he has symptoms and allergic reactions to proteins in whey formula and soy formula. for a better life, are there any options for him.

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