Early introduction of cow's milk is a risk factor for the development of anaemia and iron deficiency, which is associated with lower childhood developmental scores. The objective of this paper is to describe the incidence of the introduction of cow's milk before the recommended age of nine months and factors associated with early introduction.
Mothers of healthy term infants were invited to take part in the Infant Feeding Survey in 2002-2003. These mothers, from Southern Ontario, were interviewed by telephone at three and nine months postpartum to determine infant feeding practices.
One in eight (12.7%) mothers completing the second interview indicated that they were feeding their infant non-formula cow's milk as the primary source of milk before nine months. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that mothers feeding cow's milk before nine months were younger, lived in households with lower annual incomes, and were less likely to have attended prenatal classes or to recall receiving information on the introduction of solid foods. They were also more likely to have introduced solid foods or skimmed milk before the recommended ages.
A substantial proportion of Southern Ontario infants are receiving cow's milk before the recommended age, putting them at increased risk for iron deficiency and the resulting sequelae. Further research into why guidelines are not followed is indicated.