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Milk - information for kids

milk; cows; goats; sheep; breastmilk; breast;


What is milk?

Humans are mammals. All female mammals produce milk to feed their young.

Maybe you were breastfed by your mother when you were a baby?
Maybe you were fed from a bottle with a special milk formula?

a camelPeople in different parts of the world may raise milk producing animals other than cows. They might raise camels, goats, sheep, reindeer, donkeys, horses, moose, yaks, llamas or water buffalo! 

The female of all these animals will produce milk for her young, and humans can drink it too, but the best milk for human babies is human breastmilk.

Humans started to drink milk from animals about 10,000 years ago when wild animals first became domesticated enough. That means that the animals were kept and controlled by people who used them for food, warmth, clothing and milk.

Why drink milk?

drink milk
Milk has many different nutrients (say noo-tree-ents) in it so that young mammals, including humans, don't need anything more than their mother's milk at first. Later, when they have started eating other foods, milk is still a very good food for children and most adults too.

Milk contains protein (pro-teen), fat and carbohydrates (car-bo-hi-drayts) plus other essential nutrients such as calcium (cal-see-um), riboflavin (ri-bow-flay-vin), phosphorus (foss-for-uss), vitamins A, D, B5 and B12.

These all help to grow healthy bodies, strong bones and teeth and keep us strong.

Types of milk

Nowadays there are many kinds of milk that you can easily buy at the supermarket.

Some of them are:

  • full cream straight from the cowfull cream milk
  • low fat milk
  • skim milk
  • UHT milk (long lasting milk)
  • powdered milk
  • lactose free milk
  • fortified milk (vitamins have been added)
  • flavoured milk eg. iced coffee or strawberry
  • sheep's milk  
  • goats' milk

All milk sold in Australia is pasteurised (pas-ter-ized) – which means it is heated to kill germs that might be in it. Most milk sold is also 'homogenised' (hom-oj-en-ized) which means that it has been treated so that the cream is spread evenly through the milk rather than collected at the top of the container.

Some 'milks' are made from soy or rice rather than collected from mammals. These are not really milk, but they can still be a good drink. Coconut milk is used in cooking – it is also not truly milk.

Cows' milk can make some people sick so they drink soy milk instead. Some people try goats' milk instead of cows' milk, but often they don't feel any better when they have goats' milk.

See if you can find other kinds of milk.

Milk for babies

Breastmilk is best for babies, but sometimes babies need to have milk from a bottle.

Special milk is made for babies, usually from cows' milk – called 'infant formula'. Formula powder is usually sold in cans in pharmacies and supermarkets. Parents need to carefully make up the formula using sterilized water – water that is boiled to kill any germs.

Dairy foods

There are many foods which are made from milk. Here are some of them.

  • grow strong and healthyButter.
  • Different kinds of cheeses are made from different kinds of milk but mostly from cows' milk.
  • Yoghurt - natural and flavoured.
  • Regular cream and sour cream. 
  • Desserts such as mousses, crème caramel, fromage frais and custards.
  • Dairy dips. These are made from dairy products like cheese or milk and mixed with all kinds of delicious vegies or fish. (My favourite is cheese and chives. What's yours?).
  • Ice cream.

Did you know? 

  • Cows provide 90% of the earth's milk supply.
  • There are about 1.6 million milking cows in Australia.
  • Each milking cow produces about 5,000 L of milk each year.
  • Milk pasteurisation [say pas-ter-i-zay-shun] was invented by Louis Pasteur. It is a process that takes bacteria out of milk by heating it and led to many people being saved from getting tuberculosis in the late 1800's. 
  • Human milk has less protein and more lactose than either goats' milk or cows' milk.
  • Goats' milk has a different protein to the one in cows' milk which means that some people who cannot drink cows' milk may be able to drink goats' milk without getting a bad reaction.
  • Camels' milk doesn't curdle like cows' milk, which is good as camels live in hot countries where the heat can quickly make foods go bad.

dairy products

Kids say

  • 'I like to drink milk with my cereal.'
  • 'I like milk and ice cream too.
    flavoured milk?Yoghurt, cheese (not cheese that's blue)
    I really like chocolate
    Butter on my bread is real good too.'
  • 'I like milkshakes
    I like butter
    I like ice cream after supper.'
  • 'I like milkshakes
    I like cream
    I like some cheeses you've never seen.
    I like milk that's made by a cow
    But if milk goes off it tastes quite foul.
    I like yellow cheese and butter
    I like ice cream after supper
    I like coconuts that fall from trees
    I can drink their milk whenever I please.
    I like ice cream and custard too
    I also like cheeses coloured blue.
    Milk is made by lots of mammals
    Sheep and goats and even camels!'

Dr Kim says 

Dr KimMilk is an important food, and for children it is the next best drink after water.

Full cream milk is great for kids between 1 and 2 years old but after that it's good to drink low fat milk.

Make sure that you keep the milk in the fridge and put what you want into a glass or cup. Don't drink from the carton and put it back into the fridge, especially if you are sick, as you could pass your germs on to others. Long lasting milk (UHT milk) can be kept for a long time out of the fridge before it is opened, but has to be kept in the fridge once it is opened.

If milk makes you feel sick then see your doctor to find out why.

If you want to know more about cows and dairy products then look at this site    Scroll down to the Students section. You will find lots of interesting stuff including recipes, facts about dairy farming and lots more.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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