How much milk is too much milk? As some of you may know, our almost 2 year old daughter was recently rushed to the ER. She was lethargic and crying out, hunching over her stomach acting as if she might have had stomach pain with a low grade fever. Our little girl had been fine the night before. She had eaten dinner, had a low grade fever, and was tired so Tylenol and off to bed. Our toddler woke up thru the night crying which was unusual for her, but she was easily sung back to sleep. She has had nightmares in the past.
At the ER, after being immediately put in a room, they quickly performed bloodwork and soon found her hemoglobin level (red blood cell count) to be extremely low at 1.2. (Red blood cells are what carry oxygen throughout your body.) When they tried to get blood samples, her blood was like water. We were told she would need a blood transfusion and further tests to find out why these levels were low. The ambulance transport team requested to start her on a blood transfusion for the rushed ambulance trip to the children’s hospital.
Searching for the problem
Upon arrival at the children’s hospital we knew she was anemic, her body had been compensating over time. They were going try to find the problem source of low blood levels. The doctors later confirmed she had iron deficiency anemia from drinking too much milk. She received 4 or 5 blood transfusions to get her hemoglobin levels up to at least a 7 before we could leave the hospital.
According to the specialists we met through this ordeal, iron deficiency due to cows milk is seen at hospitals in a handful of kids each month at varying levels of severity. So it is pretty normal. Signs would have been paleness and lower energy. While these signs were noticed, they were not seen as concerning which is typical from the doctor’s explanation. Kids tend to compensate, so while normal hemoglobin level for her age is 11.2, she was at a 1.2. Our daughter was still active, eating, talking, and playing. To put it into perspective: the level of 1.2 in an adult would have been deadly. This is the lowest level our pediatric hematology doctor had ever seen and in his words he’s “old”.
Too Much Milk is the Culprit
The iron deficiency was from having too much milk. What?! Who even knew that was a thing?! Milk is good for you right? “You can never give them too much milk” Wrong!
Our daughter was only drinking 16 oz. a day. Too much milk makes it hard for the body to absorb iron which is used to make the red blood cells needed to transfer oxygen throughout your body. Because kiddos are growing they are using iron more actively than adults.
I had never heard this issue. Every child is different so I’m sure it varies based on the diet, calorie intake, milk consumption, child size, activity level, etc. But the signs are NOT obvious or noticeable to parents seeing the child everyday or even those seeing the child every week. According to the doctors, most people wouldn’t notice unless they hadn’t seen her in a month or so. The “signs”: lower energy, paleness, lower appetite. Judge all you want. Hindsight is 20/20.
So FYI to parents!
How much milk is too much milk? 16oz is all the milk recommended after 12 months. She is now taking 8oz (which I would assume would have been appropriate at 18 months) and an iron supplement to rebuild her extra supply of iron that has been depleted over months. Our kiddo is perfectly fine, steadily increasing in hemoglobin levels to get back to 11.2.
As a parent, I didn’t know my child could have too much milk. No one around me knew. It’s not commonly known. So raising a little awareness for parents like me who like to stay informed. Please feel free to share this post with others.
Have you had a scary experience with your child? Please share with us in the comments.