Coconut Milk for Babies – Benefits and Recipe
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We all agree with the health benefits of coconut and its derivates, like coconut milk and coconut water. Coconut milk is creamy in texture, rich in taste and is absolutely loved in the kitchen. The milk derived from coconut is nutritious, and many gravy dishes are simply incomplete without it. If you love coconut milk, you might want to introduce it to your baby to see if they like it. Hold that thought – before you think of including coconut milk in your baby’s diet, it is highly essential to check whether it is safe for your little one, as the reputation of coconut milk for babies is slightly not so on the bright side.
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 to extract the coconut milk.
Is Coconut Milk Good for Babies?
Coconut milk is rich in nutrients and fats (mostly saturated fats) that are good for children below two years of age. Babies need essential fats for brain development, insulation, and skin development, for all of which coconut milk is beneficial. Coconut milk also contains several vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C and E. All these nutrients help maintain your baby’s health and development and boost immunity, improve digestion, and aid in muscle build-up.
Unfortunately, coconut milk is not safe for babies.
Coconut milk can be very beneficial for one’s health, but it is not a safe choice for babies. It should not be used as a substitute for breast milk as it lacks most of the nutrients that the baby may derive from breast milk. The FDA has now included coconut in the list of ‘tree nuts’. Hence, it should not be given to a baby if he has a tree nut allergy. You should also avoid adding coconut to your baby’s diet with other new foods if you haven’t your little one’s reaction to the food. By introducing one food at a time, you will be able to find out whether or not your child is allergic to a new food.
It is not a replacement for breast milk or formula as it lacks the nutrients present in 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. As a general rule, you should wait until your baby turns 1 year old before introducing coconut milk into their diet.
Coconut milk alone has the fat and calcium your baby needs to grow and thrive. Out of the four popular milk alternatives—soy, cashew, almond, and coconut, coconut milk is the least nutritious. So don’t give it to your baby. But if you want, you can enjoy it with your family!
Nutritional Value of Coconut Milk
|Nutritional value per 100 g|
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 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 twelve months of age or when he starts on solids. The first time you give coconut milk to your baby, start with just a couple of spoons to check your baby is not allergic to it. You can then continue 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 or jaggery for 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 transforming 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. Remember to give it to your baby after they turn one year of age. 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, collect the coconut water in a bowl, and keep it aside.
- Grate the de-husked coconut and then boil it with some warm water.
- Mix the coconut water with the boiled coconut pul, 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. Though it is not a substitute for breast milk, it has several other benefits. Breastfeed your baby and your baby will grow healthily!
1. Joann Ariola; The Benefits of Coconut Milk; Health Beat – Jamaica Hospital Medical Center; https://jamaicahospital.org/newsletter/the-benefits-of-coconut-milk/; April 2018
2. Milk Free Diet for Babies; Healthier Together; NHS; https://www.what0-18.nhs.uk/professionals/gp-primary-care-staff/safety-netting-documents-parents/milk-free-diet-babies
4. Cow’s Milk Free Diet Information For Babies and Children; AllergyUK; https://www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk/media/documents/Cows_Milk_Free_Diet_Information_for_Babies_and_Children_original_2_2.pdf; May 2017
5. Kate Geagan; Good Fats for an Infant’s and Toddler’s Healthy Growth and Development; Earth’s Best Organic Infant and Toddler Foods; https://www.earthsbest.com/resource/good-fats-for-an-infants-and-toddlers-healthy-growth-and-development/; February 2019
6. Dietary fat and children; MedlinePlus – NIH; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001979.htm
Also Read: Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Babies