Coconut Milk For Babies: What Experts Say About It
Is it safe to give your child some coconut milk? Yes! Can it serve as a substitute for breastmilk or formula? No.
Here's what experts say.
But first, let's define coconut milk to avoid confusion.
What Exactly Is A Coconut Milk?
Coconut milk is hailed nowadays as a “super food.” Coconut water, which is just the clear version of the coconut milk, has gained a following from fitness buffs and health enthusiasts all over the world.
As for coconut milk, you’ll likely find canned or tetra-packed batches of it at every health food store. Some people even tout coconut milk as the next best thing to breastmilk.
Is this true?
Let us clarify misconceptions and check whether it is worth all the hype.
Coconut milk is not “milk” per se. It may have the consistency and color of milk, but it is more of a juice.
This fatty concoction is a combination of coconut water and strained coconut meat. To get this whitish liquid, you must grate the coconut meat, boil it a little, then press it with cheesecloth.
Coconut milk is healthy and may be consumed by children. It is a staple food in Southeast Asia. The coconut milk’s creamy texture enhances popular Asian dishes such as curry, glutinous rice, soup, and vegetable stews. You can add coconut milk to just about anything, even to your baby’s soft food.
Can Coconut Milk Serve As An Alternative To Breastmilk Or Formula?
The use of coconut milk as an alternative to breastmilk is a hot topic. As a mom, I must say that coconut milk is healthy. Nevertheless, there is no liquid as complete and as nutritious as breastmilk.
No formula or organic essence can ever compare to mom’s milk. Coconut milk is nutritious, but you cannot use it as a substitute because:
1. It has high fat and calorie content
Your baby will feel full and not get hungry for an extended amount of time if you feed him coconut milk. That’s because this liquid is high in fat and calorie content. According to Healthline, a canned coconut milk has 57 grams of fat.
The recommended amount of fat for infants? It's only about 30g. This means coconut milk contains too much of it.
Coconut milk will suppress your baby’s appetite.
This may sound like a holy grail for adults on a diet, but this is not what you want for your child.
You want your little one to consume breastmilk/formula in between meals with solid food. Lack of appetite will lead to a deficiency of nutrients, particularly iron says a study, and sub-par infant body weight.
2. It's low in calcium
It is called “milk” but you’ll be surprised at its low calcium content. You can only get a maximum of 10% of your daily calcium needs with a glass of thick coconut milk.
Hence, this is not advisable for infants as calcium plays an important role in bone development.
It has a good amount of phosphorus, which is beneficial for healthy growth of bones and teeth.
3. It's low in protein
Infants need at least 1.12grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. A 12-month-old baby at around 10 kg of weight must consume at least 11 grams of protein per day.
The thing is...
You’ll only get a maximum of 2 grams of protein per 100 grams of coconut milk. So, breastmilk and formula milk can serve infants better when it comes to protein requirement.
Health Benefits Of Coconut Milk
This humble liquid may not replace a mother’s milk, but it is nutritious enough to supplement your baby’s solid food diet. I would choose coconut milk instead of soy or almond milk to enhance my purees and mashed baby food.
A cup of thick coconut milk typically contains:
1. Manganese – 100% of RDI.
That’s right; you can get your whole day’s requirement of manganese with just a cup of coconut milk.
Manganese helps regulate blood sugar levels. Manganese also promotes healthy metabolism, helps in treating inflammation, and aids in vitamin absorption.
2. Saturated fat
You’ll get 40-50 grams of saturated fat from coconut’s lauric acid. That’s around 500 calories per cup of coconut milk. Around 90% of these calories come from fat.
These fatty acids are not that bad, considering that they can also contribute to healthy blood vessels, glossy tresses (less gray hair) and supple skin (minimizes wrinkles).
But, of course, your baby is the last person who should worry about wrinkles and gray hair.
3. Rich in minerals and vitamins
Coconut milk is a good source of potassium, phosphorus, selenium, folate and fiber. It also has Vitamins B, C, and E.
Introducing Coconut Milk to your Baby’s Diet
You may start to give your child coconut milk at around eight months. By this stage, he is already used to eating solid foods.
If your child is still breastfeeding during this time, I suggest you withhold introducing coconut milk until he has weaned. That’s also the reason some mothers wait until their kids are at least 12 months old before giving them coconut milk.
But don't let your kid drink coconut milk straight from the can. You may use coconut milk to enhance your baby’s meals; it can improve the food’s texture and creaminess.
Some of the ways you can include it in his meals are:
- Mixing coconut milk with organic oatmeal or quinoa
- Adding coconut milk to rice
- Cooking curry, squash or beans with coconut milk
- Adding coconut milk to mashed potato, avocado or banana
- Sprinkling grated coconut to cookies and pastries
- Substituting cow’s milk with coconut milk for milkshakes
It is safe to offer your kid coconut milk even if he has a history of nut allergy or lactose intolerance. Coconut milk is nutritious, and you may add this to your child’s diet in moderation.
Too much of a good thing is also not advisable, so just half a cup of this “milk” is more than enough for the day.
Introduce your baby to healthy food choices early in life. Mix, match, and experiment; let your kid enjoy and have fun with his food.
Note of your baby's age and feeding patterns. Remember that breast milk is still the best for babies.