Milk During Pregnancy: Which Type Is Best For You And Why?


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Milk is a rich source of nutrients essential for the growth of the baby and health of the mother. According to the US Department of Agriculture, pregnant women should consume two to three servings of milk or other dairy products every day to obtain these nutrients (1). As healthy and necessary as it is, milk can also have a few side effects when consumed in excess, especially during pregnancy.
Here, MomJunction tells you about the types of milk, their nutritional values, and their side effects to help you choose the right type.
Is It Good To Drink Milk During Pregnancy?
Yes, milk provides healthy amounts of calcium, protein and vitamin D to ensure a healthy pregnancy and fetal growth.
How Much Milk Should A Pregnant Woman Drink In A Day?
A pregnant woman can have around three cups of milk, preferably the low-fat or non-fat variety, every day (1) to benefit from it.
Benefits Of Drinking Milk During Pregnancy
Milk offers the following benefits during pregnancy:
1. Dietary calcium for bones:
A significant amount of calcium is needed during pregnancy to meet the mineral requirements of your baby. Childbearing women of 19 years and older require about 1,000mg of calcium, and women under 19 require 1,300mg per day. One cup of non-fat milk offers 302mg of calcium (2). Therefore, it is advisable to consume three to four cups of milk to meet your everyday calcium needs.
2. Protein for baby development:
Protein helps strengthen the uterus, improves blood supply, and nourishes the baby and breast tissues. Insufficient consumption of protein can lead to low birth weight in babies. The daily requirement of protein is 65g per day (3), and one cup of milk offers 8.22g of protein (4). Taking three cups of milk can help you meet one-third of your protein needs (5).
3. Vitamin D prevents neonatal rickets:
Intake of vitamin D during pregnancy helps prevent neonatal rickets and low birth weight. The daily requirement of vitamin D is 400IU (6), and one serving of milk can offer 115 to 124 IU (7). Therefore, drinking three servings of milk can help you meet 59% of this vitamin’s requirement.
4. Great antacid:
Heartburn and other gastric issues are common during pregnancy. Drinking non-fat or low-fat milk can relieve the symptoms of heartburn (8).
5. Keeps you hydrated:
If you feel dehydrated or stressed out, having a glass of milk helps. It keeps you hydrated and makes up for the fluid loss in the body (9).
With plethora variety of milk available in the market, picking the best for you and your baby is not easy. Keep reading to know more about these options you have.
Types Of Milk – What Is The Best Milk To Drink When Pregnant?
Here are the varieties you can choose from:
Low-fat/ double toned or skimmed milk: Skimmed milk is low in fat and one of the best choices to keep you fit and healthy. It also contains the essential nutrients that help in the baby’s growth and bone structure. One cup of low-fat milk offers 302mg calcium, which also protects the child from calcium deficiencies after birth. Research also says that two to three cups of low-fat milk (or three servings of dairy) is ideal during pregnancy (10).
Whole milk or full-cream milk: Whole milk contains excess fats and nutrients. One cup of whole milk offers 146 calories whereas skimmed milk has only 83 calories (11). This is an ideal option unless you are overweight.
Pasteurized milk: Whether you choose skimmed or whole milk, it is essential to pick one that is pasteurized. Raw milk usually contains bacteria, which can be dangerous for you and your baby. Heating the milk can control the bacterial growth.
Bring the milk to boil and then cool it, to make it pasteurized. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pregnant women avoid foods made from unpasteurized milk (12).
Milk comes from different sources, including animals and plants. From cow milk to goat milk, rice milk and almond milk, each type has different nutritional value and flavor, which you need to know about before trying.
Comparing different types of milk:
1. Cow milk:
It is the most commonly consumed variety of milk and is available in whole, fat-free, skimmed and flavored options.
Rich in amino acids that help build cells in the mother’s and the baby’s body
Also contains:
Vitamin D, which keeps away diabetes in mothers and aids in the growth of the unborn baby
Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant
Vitamin A, good for vision, builds healthy tissues and boosts immunity
One glass of cow’s milk provides 240mg of calcium (13)
2. Goat milk:
Not popular, but highly nutritious. It has an unusual flavor and is available as fresh milk and UHT (ultra high temperature processed) milk.
Compared to cow’s milk, goat’s milk has a higher protein content, smaller butterfat globules, and higher amounts of vitamin B2
The dietary fats, called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), help in lowering cholesterol and accelerating metabolism
The high vitamin A content is directly absorbed by the body
Also contains good amounts of vitamin B2 that stimulates the production of antibodies, thereby maintaining a healthy immune system (14)
One cup of whole goat milk gives 327mg of calcium (15)
3. Soy milk:
It is obtained by grinding water-soaked soybeans.
Available in fat-free, whole, and flavored varieties, soy milk also comes fortified with fiber or calcium. Soy milk contains almost the same protein level as cow’s milk.
It is cholesterol-free and supplies good amounts of calcium to the fetus and the mother
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content helps against cardiovascular diseases
Antioxidants help in fighting cancer
A glass of soy milk offers as much as 300mg of calcium (16)
4. Rice milk:
It is prepared by blending rice with water. Rice milk is available in skim, flavored, calcium or protein fortified varieties.
Rice milk contains four times more carbohydrates than cow’s milk and is not ideal for diabetic women.
Rice milk contains high levels of B vitamins and low fat content
Enriched with calcium, low in protein and high in antioxidants
Vitamin B content fights off diseases in the body and makes the immune system strong
One cup of rice milk can provide 293mg calcium (15)
5. Almond milk:
Almond milk makes the best alternative especially for those who are intolerant to gluten or soy. It is prepared from grounded almonds and water.
It is free of cholesterol and saturated fat
Rich in fiber, folic acid, vitamins B and E, proteins, calcium, and iron
Low in calories and contains antioxidants that boost the immune system
One cup of rice milk is known to provide 200mg calcium (15)
6. Oat milk:
The high fiber content in oat milk prevents constipation during pregnancy. It controls food cravings, monitors sugar levels in the blood, and helps in transporting oxygen to the cells.
Rich in vitamins A and B, and minerals such as potassium, manganese and phosphorous
Protein content more than that of almond or rice milk but less than cow’s milk
7. Saffron milk:
This and the others that follow are not a variant of milk but are different ways of consuming milk.
Saffron or kesar milk is made by adding a small amount of saffron to milk.
Aids digestion and appetite, and relieves nausea and constipation
Acts as a muscle relaxant
Good for stuffy nose and controls common cold symptoms
Acts as an anti-depressant, and controls stress and mood swings
8. Powdered milk:
Also called dried milk, it is made by evaporating the moisture in the milk to make dried milk powder. It is available as dry whole milk, dry whey, dry skimmed milk and dry dairy blends.
This is less healthy as it is exposed to high heat to drain the moisture in the milk
It contains broken proteins and rancid fat cells
9. Cultured milk (also called buttermilk):
This is the milk left over after making butter. It is also made by culturing with lactic acid bacteria where it ferments the milk giving it a tangy flavor.
Nutrition is similar to low-fat or non-fat milk
10. Condensed milk:
It is dehydrated cow’s milk with added sugar. It is also available in unsweetened form.
It is safe to consume, as it is made from regular pasteurized milk that is boiled until a thick consistency is achieved
The nutrient properties are same as whole or skimmed milk
11. Chocolate milk:
This is chocolate flavored milk made by adding chocolate powder or syrup to milk.
It is considered safe to drink as it contains high amounts of calories required for the two. However, you need to be cautious of its caffeine and sugar content
Raw Milk Or Pasteurized Milk: What Is Safe?
Drinking unpasteurized or raw milk or consuming anything prepared from raw milk is not safe during pregnancy. During the pasteurization process, the milk is heated on high temperatures to destroy the microbes that contribute to several diseases. Consumption of raw milk (which is not pasteurized and carries microbes) increases the risk of several diseases such as listeriosis.
Listeriosis is rare but can be deadly for babies.
Safe Ways To Consume Milk During Pregnancy
When consumed in excess or without proper preparation, milk can cause some discomfort in the body. Here are some safe ways to consume milk when you are pregnant:
Dilute the milk with water in 2:1 ratio and mix well. Use it to make tea or milkshake.
Consume warm milk in small sips and do not gulp it down hurriedly.
Avoid drinking milk after a meal.
You can have up to three cups of milk at intervals.
Tips And Precautions To Follow
Although milk consumption is beneficial during pregnancy, there are some things you need to remember.
What to eat or drink:
Dairy foods like yogurt can make a healthy afternoon snack.
For breakfast, combine milk with cereals such as oats, maize or cornflakes, and barley.
At dinner, have a cup of skimmed milk.
Include low-fat cheese in salads.
What to avoid:
Avoid moldy cheeses (camembert and brie) and blue-veined soft cheeses (Roquefort).
Avoid unpasteurized milk as it can cause food poisoning.
Below we answer some more queries about milk and pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why do I crave milk during pregnancy?
Our body naturally craves for nutrients that we require. So if you are craving milk, it could indicate a deficiency in calcium, protein or fat. Regular consumption of milk gives you and your baby the essential nutrients and eliminates the cravings.
2. What will happen if I drink too much milk during pregnancy?
Drinking too much milk during pregnancy can lead to indigestion and bloating.
3. Does drinking milk during pregnancy make the baby fair?
Drinking milk or saffron milk does not affect the baby’s complexion, as it depends mainly on the genetic inheritance.
4. Does drinking milk while pregnant make baby big?
Drinking milk during pregnancy can lead to healthy babies, as milk supplies good amounts of calcium fats, protein, and calories required for the fetal development.
No matter what type of milk you choose, it is essential to consume the right amount to provide the essential nutrients to your body and your growing baby. Dairy or plant-based milk can be a healthy alternative to carbonated drinks and sweetened beverages, which are unhealthy for you. So choose healthy, stay healthy.
Use our comments section to tell us which variety of milk you consumed during pregnancy and why you think it was better than the rest.
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Rebecca Malachi
“I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a ‘word addict’, I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence.”



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