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Coconut milk is creamy in texture and rich in taste – it is a favourite among the South East Asians and many dishes are incomplete without it. Coconut milk is nutritious and tastes delicious, but is it safe for a baby? Coconut milk has several benefits associated with it, but it is not a substitute for breast milk as it lacks most of the nutrients that the baby may derive from breast milk.
What Is Coconut Milk?
Contrary to popular belief, coconut milk is not technically ‘milk’. Even though it has the colour and texture of milk, it is a mixture of coconut water and coconut pulp. The pulp or meat of the coconut is grated, boiled, and then squeezed, till the coconut milk is extracted.
Is Coconut Milk Good for Babies?
Coconut milk is rich in nutrients. It mostly contains fats that are good for the body. Babies need essential fats for brain development, insulation, and for the benefit of their skin. Coconut milk also contains several vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and E. All these nutrients can help in maintaining your baby’s good health, development, and boosting immunity. But coconut milk is not safe for babies. It is not a replacement for breast milk or formula as it lacks nutrients present in the breast milk. In fact, even cow’s milk is also not a replacement for breast milk. Cow’s milk can lead to dehydration and iron deficiencies in babies. There’s no substitute for breast milk – you must remember that!
Nutritional Value Of Coconut Milk
|Nutritional value per 100 g|
Health Benefits of Coconut Milk for Babies
Here’s why you must consider including coconut milk in your little one’s diet –
1. May Help in the Brain Development of the Baby
Coconut milk has a high-fat content. And the fats in coconut milk are of the good kind—saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The presence of good fats helps in the development of your baby’s brain. As your baby’s brain will be constantly developing at a rapid pace, giving him a healthy and nutritious drink as coconut milk might help.
2. May Strengthen Your Baby’s Immune System
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for a baby’s overall development, and coconut milk is chock-full of them. Potassium and sodium work together to maintain blood pressure. Vitamin C helps repair and develop tissues and red blood cells. It helps boost immunity as well.
3. Works As an Antimicrobial
Coconut milk acts as an antimicrobial and can protect your baby’s body from bacteria, virus, and germs. Coconut water is a part of the milk, and this water contains lipids which can help ward off antibodies.
4. May Help kill Worms in the Intestine
A lot of doctors recommend coconut milk to de-worm the child. Children are prone to intestinal worms. Coconut milk contains antimicrobial lipids, capric acid, and lauric acid, that can kill these worms and boost the immunity of your child as well.
Reasons Why Coconut Milk Should Not Be an Alternative to Breast Milk or Formula
Coconut milk has several health benefits, but it is not enough for a baby as a replacement for breast milk or formula; here’s why –
1. Not Enough Protein Content
Proteins are necessary for the development and repair of muscles and tissues in the body. A baby needs a minimum of 11 grams of protein each day, and a measure of 100 grams of coconut milk gives you only about 2 grams of protein, which clearly isn’t enough for the growing baby.
2. Not Enough Calcium Content
Calcium is required for the development of bones and teeth, and coconut milk has barely 10% of the necessary calcium content that your child needs.
3. Can Suppress Your Baby’s Appetite
Coconut milk is rich in essential fats and calories, and this can make your baby feel full for a few hours, without really providing enough nutrients that your baby requires. Since the baby’s tummy is full, he will refuse to consume breast milk or food for a few hours.
When and How to Introduce Coconut Milk in Your Infant’s Diet
You can start giving coconut milk to your baby when he turns eight months of age or when he starts on solids. The first time you give your baby coconut milk, start with just a couple of spoons, to check your baby is not allergic to it. You can then start by using coconut milk instead of cow or goat milk for mixing your baby’s formula. You can add coconut milk to boiled and mashed rice or potato, with a little bit of sugar for some sweetness. However, too much sugar can cause dental problems, so limit it to about half a teaspoon. You can also make milkshakes with coconut milk and fruits like strawberries, mangoes, and bananas. Coconut milk and baby food recipes are a favourite these days, as coconut milk has a rich, creamy, and slightly sweet taste that most babies love.
How to Make Coconut Milk at Home
You can buy coconut milk from the grocery stores – it is convenient, but since it is about your baby, we suggest that you make it at home. By making coconut milk at home, you can be sure that your baby is not consuming preservatives. Here’s how you make fresh coconut milk for your baby at home –
- One fresh de-husked coconut
- Warm water
- Coconut water
- Break the coconut, and collect the coconut water in a bowl, and keep aside.
- Grate the de-husked coconut and then boil it with some warm water.
- Mix the coconut water with the boiled coconut pulp or meat, and grind it till it forms a thick paste.
- Pour this paste/puree into a clean muslin cloth and squeeze it.
- Collect the coconut milk in a clean bowl and allow it to cool.
From working as an antimicrobial to having a cooling effect on your body, coconut milk sure is a healthy drink. But you should introduce it in your baby’s diet only after consulting with your baby’s paediatrician and once your baby turns around eight months of age. Coconut milk is no substitute for breast milk, you must keep this in mind. Breastfeed your baby and your baby will grow healthily!
Also Read: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Babies