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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33 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.

    • I would pay a visit to the farm and take a look at the animals. Ask the farmers how they fed the cows, where does the cows’ food come from, how does they manage disease, how often do the cows get sick, etc. If I like the farm, I would feel comfortable drinking their milk. I would also try drinking the milk for a couple weeks to notice any effects in my body before feeding that milk to my baby.

  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.

  8. Hello, have a quick question for anyone that can help;
    I have just started feeding my 5 month old RAW Cow milk mixed with a teaspoon of cereal to add sweetness, I had been told by many different family members that it was the best switch–from breast milk– He now is having a bowel movement every time he eats it though…5 times today… Not sure if that is the change in diet or what but is this something I should worry about??

    • Response from Sally Fallon Morell: Five months is WAY to young to give cereal, and may account for the frequent bowel movements (although a bowel movement after each bottle of formula is normal). The milk should be sweetened with lactose, as per the formula recipe.–Sally

      • WIC still advises starting babies on rice cereal at 4-6 mos, but I was pleasantly surprised when my pediatrician recommended us NOT to use it. His recommendation was pureed vegetables, fruits, and meats. Perhaps mainstream medicine is beginning realizing how poor a recommendation starting babies on cereals is.

      • 5 months is certainly not “WAY too young,” every baby is different and some babies are too hungry to satisfy with just breast milk or formula by the time they are as young as 4 months

        • It certainly is if you know anything about what Sally is trying to do by her nourishing traditions whole foods for babies. Grains are not digested easily by baby until at least 1 year of age and only then after they have been properly prepared by soaking them. Bone broths, meat broths, soft boiled egg yolk are great at 4 months, not cereal.

  9. I am a breadtfeeding mother of an 11 week old who has food sensitivity to egg, wheat, soy, and dairy. I know that raw milk is not processed so I was wondering if drink raw cows milk would he be sensitive to it as well?

    • Sally Fallon Morell replies: You will just have to try. Be sure the milk is full fat and from pastured cows. Start slowly–less than 1/4 cup, and build up. You should also be eating meat, liver, etc and hopefully you can tolerate butter.

  10. I have nursed my kid for 17 months. She has had yogurt, cheese since turning one years old. I recently weaned her off and began giving her raw cow’s milk.

    What I am curious to know, with your help, is is it normal for a child to develop a response to the cow’s milk? I assume its something new, new bacteria is being introduced, etc so naturally a response will happen, right?

    I am also pregnant now, and on most days I still nurse her once a day in the early mornings just before she wakes up. I see that I have diarrhea (early in the pregnancy, and normal for me as I had the same thing happen before) and her poop is quite runny with her food not entirely broken down.

    We are new to this diet, and to Weston Price Foundation.

    • Sally Fallon Morell replies: Yes, sometimes there can be a reaction to cows milk, or to goats milk. Often is passes as baby gets used to it. But your baby at 17 months should be eating lots of other foods, not just dairy foods. Egg yolks and now whole eggs, liver, meat, vegetables with butter, fruit, etc. Also, it would be best for your next child to wean your child so your body does not have the stress of producing milk and building another baby.

  11. I want to feed my baby raw milk formula, but I live in El Salvador and am a little uncertain about how to make sure the milk is safe. Does it matter if they give the cows an occasional vaccine? In the dry season, I believe they feed some kind of processed food to the cows, but for the most part they just graze. Is that okay? The people who own the cows are friends, so I can find out of they are clean about milking, but the cows really just pasture and I don’t think they even have barns. However, I do believe they use an injection every now and again. I will double check, but I am not sure what the conditions should be to make sure the milk is safe for my baby. Can you help me? My baby is 5months old and I am giving her the liver based formula right now, but I can only get dessicated liver since I can’t get organic here and I thought she might do well on the cow’s milk if I can get a safe source.

  12. Hi my baby is 9 weeks old and needs to come off cows milk as it has flared up his eczema. I started him on shop brought goats milk semi skimmed I mix 3 ounces of milk with 1 ounce of water. Is this what I should be doing? Is shop brought pasteurised goats milk as good as raw farm brought goats milk? Am I supposed to mix the milk with water? And should I be buying full fat milk?

  13. At what actual age is it recommended to give straight raw milk? Cannot seem to find any specific age listing? Is it safe to assume just the 1 yr rule ?

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