My mother told me that as a baby I declined to sleep in peace unless I was given a bottle of 300 ml milk even after a full meal. Milk and all its derivatives, in all forms (even that ‘malaai’ layer on milk that many find yucky!), was comfort food for me for almost 30 years of my life. Parents of peers, who had a distaste for milk, always sung praises for my love of milk!
And why wouldn’t I enjoy those? I was always given to believe that milk is, by itself, the most nutritious meal I could ever get. Calcium, protein and so on…I consciously opted for curd during my hostel days, ordered a paneer dish on a restaurant outing, gulped down that glass of buttermilk with pride and joy on a hot summer afternoon or, added a dollop of golden ghee on a plate of warm rice. I even loved that ‘Doodh, doodh, doodh’ song on Doordarshan so much that I remember its lyrics even today.
Quite naturally, when I had my first child, I was waiting to see her grow up on cow’s milk. I kept my fingers crossed that she doesn’t turn out like those children who throw that glass of precious milk down the sink behind their mother’s back. Thankfully, she didn’t. Around 100 ml of milk in a day, became a part of her meal routine, almost until she was two and a half years old. The diet chart on the doctor’s file supported it too.
In the meantime, a friend proclaimed that I must visit a nutritionist to seek relief from a chronic issue I was battling, and that she knew someone who has helped her lead a medicine free life. The idea of a ‘Medicine free’ life stirred me up and I took the plunge! This was quite like someone taking me from a cave to a space of bright light that I wasn’t used to and my pupils shutting themselves up!
3 years later, today, as I write, my family and I do lead a medicine-free life. . How that happened is a story for another day, but what I must tell you about is one of the biggest changes that I had to make to our lives since then. Yes, MILK. Say NO to MILK. Forever. True, but not sad.
That meant, giving up on my first love and a part of my identity, forever.
That meant, challenging a whole bunch of preconceived notions about milk.
That meant, arguments with beloved family members and friends.
That meant, learning a lot about nutrition and foods, to help me make this shift.
I went back to the books, quizzed my nutritional counselors insanely, experimented with my own body and lifestyle, found other people who had been ushered on this path, just to get my facts about milk, right.
What I am going to share with you here are probably the rudest and barest truths that I discovered but there’s much more!
Is Cow’s Milk Bad For Your Baby?
- For what I believed was a treasure for the body, is actually a currency that our body doesn’t understand. Milk sugar (lactose), needs an enzyme called lactase to digest it. Milk protein (casein) needs an enzyme called rennin to digest it. Both rennin and lactase are not produced in the human intestine after the age of three. If it can’t be broken down by our body, then how will it derive nourishment from it?
- Nature has devised strategies to nourish young ones for every species. For mammals, it is their own mamma’s milk. That is a tailor-made solution for that specific baby. Cow’s milk is for calves. They grow structurally manifold than human babies do, therefore, their milk has high grade calcium and protein. A calf doubles its weight in 45 days while our babies grow that size in 180 days. Cow’s milk has 300 times more casein than human milk. (Casein is the base for one of the strongest glues used by carpenters. Imagine what it will do to our intestines!) Human babies experience growth in their cognitive abilities along with structural (physical) development. Breastfeeding, for at least six months, followed by a nutritious, ‘real food’ meal intake can provide for our bodies very well.
- The milk that reaches our homes is processed, denatured. Homogenized, Pasteurized, Boiled. Pasteurization (heating milk to a high temperature) destroys whatever food value the milk may have. Powdered milk, milk substitutes and dairy whiteners are further processed and rendered nutritionless.
- Cows are forcibly made pregnant every year so that they lactate. A prod is pushed up their uterus to induce milk production (to meet the needs of human population). The conditions in which milk is usually extracted, stored and transported are rather unkind. If not that, they are at least, injected with sperms (a bit like IVF in humans) to make them pregnant. One of my maids told me that in the villages, some even tie the mouths of calves and leave them to starve so that cow’s milk is saved for the precious human market! Why can cow’s milk be dangerous for babies?
Do you think we will get nutrition from milk produced by the cow under such severe stress? Will we be able to proudly tell such stories to our children that sit behind their glass of milk?
We are, apparently, the only mammalian species that drinks another animal’s milk.
I couldn’t find any reason why we should.
From whoever/ wherever you get your daily milk, ask where is the farm (you can visit if it’s nearby), what the cows are fed, how many times a year the cows get pregnant naturally and how far the milk travels to reach you. (This will give you an idea of the processing it has gone through)
I know, what you have been thinking by now. All that’s fine but how about the calcium and protein we need? Oh yes, that bug crawled my brain too!
This requires holding this guy called NUTRITION upside down. We are told that Food works on our Body, so Cow’s milk gives us Calcium. Whereas, the fact of the matter is – our Body works on Food. If it can’t break it down, it is of no use for us. If we give the body foods that it is genetically programmed to derive nutrition from – fruits, vegetables, pulses, dry fruits, nuts and seeds, it can derive what it needs, when it needs it and how it needs. Calcium, protein, minerals, vitamins, glucose, you name it and we get it. If we have fruits and vegetables daily and raw nuts even occasionally, we are likely to be calcium sufficient!
That, my friend, is a little secret to my family’s well being today. For yours, you can burrow in deeper and rest when you find light.