Given this, us ordinary mothers on the discussion boards could be forgiven for being a bit confused. "My health visitor said it was fine to give DS cottage cheese or yogurt. I'm confused; they say no cow's milk before 12 months... why are yogurt and cheese so different?" Someone else will then chime in to speculate that it might be because yogurt and cheese are "cultured" foods which alters the proteins and sugars contained therein. To which someone else will point out that they have been mixing small amounts of cow's milk with their baby's cereal for the last month--with the health visitor's blessing. Surely if cow's milk has these evil iron-destroying powers, they are not going to magically disappear just because you've added a bit of Ready Brek, no?
I think the key to resolving this is to understand that this is an example of a common phenomenon in the world of official childrearing advice: The Law of the Lowest Common Denominator. Basically, what are the AAP and NHS worried about? Well, not about the perfectly healthy children of mothers who are conscientious enough to be on a childrearing-related discussion board in the first place. They worry about the children of parents who are young, poor and a bit clueless. Who might be tempted one day, when looking into the refrigerator, to think "Hey, we've got milk here. In a carton, all ready to drink. I know, why don't we just fill Suzy's bottles up with this stuff instead of fiddling about with that expensive formula bollocks?" Bad idea. Cow's milk and goat's milk, unlike formula/breastmilk, are not a complete diet, and babies fed in this way are at real risk of dehydration, kidney damage and anemia. Even older babies risk iron deficiency if cow's milk starts making up a substantial proportion of their diet. On the other hand.... a bit of cow's milk, for an older baby? No problem. It's essentially no different to any other complementary food. Can you give an older baby apple as a complementary food? Sure. Should you start giving them cupfuls of pureed apple all day long instead of formula/breastmilk? Of course not.
Trouble is, official organizations know perfectly well that if they start wheezing out long-winded explanations about core foods versus complementary foods and iron and how it's okay to give this much milk but not more than this... unless you are giving other dairy products as well, in which case you should probably give less milk... and it depends on how quickly they take to solids, and.... well, people's eyes are going to start glazing over (especially the kind of parents who are most likely to ignore sensible pediatric advice in the first place). On the other hand, if you make a crude blanket rule of "No cow's milk as a drink before 12 months. A bit with cereal is fine, and a bit of yogurt and cheese is fine," then people are more likely to remember the advice and adhere to it.
The same rule governs a lot of other childrearing advice. I remember (pre-baby) pursing my lips disapprovingly when I heard my sister had acquired a baby walker--didn't she know all the official guidelines said they were Bad For Babies? But (as my father pointed out to me) the reason baby walkers have a bad press is because some idiots leave babies in them for hours or use them as a excuse for not supervising, resulting in serious accidents. Used for short periods under supervision like other toys, there is nothing terrible about them. I think a lot of arguing on message boards and within mothers' groups could probably be avoided if the Law of the Lowest Common Denominator was more widely understood.
Anyway, I have been breaking the official recommendations by leaving Baby Seal with a cup of cow's milk plus water and solids whenever I go out in the evening (about once a week) since the age of 10 months. I hate pumping and have the smallest freezer known to man; while I have nothing against formula, there was a recall on Japanese formula at the end of last year due to the radiation scare, and frankly it's put me off a bit. With her only eight weeks to go until her first birthday, it hardly seemed worth dragging British formula all the way home on the plane. Also, I have heard too many stories of babies who were kept away from cow's milk completely during the first year, and then refused it vehemently when their parents tried to introduce it later on. So cow's milk it is. Now all I need to do is to get her drinking it from an open cup without throwing it everywhere. We can but hope.