Drinking Whole Milk During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman
Milk is a healthy beverage choice during pregnancy. (Image: AlbinaTiplyashina/iStock/Getty Images)

During pregnancy, your body needs extra nutrition to support your developing baby's growth, and drinking whole milk can be a way to meet some of those needs. In general, milk provides plenty of nutrients to help support your baby's development, and drinking milk during pregnancy may provide long-lasting health benefits. While whole milk has more calories and saturated fat than reduced-fat milk or skim milk, the specific benefits of whole milk may offset these potential disadvantages for some women.

Calcium and Pregnancy

If you are 24 or older, you need a total of about 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day when you're pregnant, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Pregnant women younger than 24 need between 1,200 and 1,500 milligrams a day. If you don't get enough dietary calcium while pregnant, your body may take calcium from your bones to meet your baby's needs. Consuming four servings of dairy, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, can help you meet your calcium needs. Whole milk contains 276 milligrams of calcium per cup, so it can contribute to your calcium intake.

Vitamin D in Whole Milk

Whole milk is typically fortified with vitamin D, an essential nutrient. A study published in the "Annals of Neurology" in 2011 found that maternal consumption of milk products with vitamin D during pregnancy helped reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis in the child.

DHA Fortified Milk

Some whole milk in the United States is fortified with DHA, an essential fatty acid that is actively incorporated into the developing fetal brain during the last few months of pregnancy. According to a study published in 2013 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," DHA in the mother's diet might boost fetal brain development and affect IQ in the child. Only whole milk and 2 percent milk can be fortified with DHA because it is part of the fat content of the milk. This may be especially important for pregnant women who cannot or do not eat much fish, another major source of dietary DHA.

Long-Term Benefits of Milk

Whether you choose whole milk or a lower-fat variety, consuming any type of milk during pregnancy might help ensure a healthy birth weight and could contribute to more height in adulthood, according to a study in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition." In the study, children of mothers who drank more than 150 milliliters of milk per day, or about 2/3 of a cup of milk, were taller on average at age 20 than the children of mothers who consumed less milk during pregnancy.

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