Is Whey Protein Safe for Children?

This has been a question that has been raised recently. So we start off with...

Did you know?

Most infant milk formula brands in the UK are either ‘whey dominant’ or ‘casein dominant’, which refers to the type of proteins in the formula. Both can be used from birth but whey dominant formula is usually best for new or younger babies. That’s because whey proteins are easier for young babies to digest.

(See source below)

Demystifying the common misconception

There is a common misconception that whey protein is only for body builders and muscly men. This is often assumed because body builders and other athletes’ tend to supplement with high concentrate protein powders and muscle gainers. Adult protein powders are often very protein rich with some containing up to 50 grams of protein per serving. These types of powders are not tailored for children as children would have a much harder time digesting that amount of protein. Further Adult protein powders may also include other ingredients and could also include creatine which is not safe for youth or children.

Whey protein is a derivative from cow’s milk and is in fact completely safe for children. 

What is Whey protein? 

Whey protein is the by-product of the cheese manufacturing process.  Whey is easily digested high-quality source of protein which is utilised efficiently by our bodies. 

Whey Protein in infant milk formula

You may even see whey protein listed as an ingredient in most baby formulas. This is because it’s a nutrient rich type of milk that is packed with amino acids and other nutrients that support growth and development. Current advise indicates that whey based baby formula should be used throughout the first year because it mimics breastmilk. 

 Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is said to be the easiest protein to digest that why it’s used in baby formula, in shakes and snacks. As whey protein is one of the fastest absorbed protein it means amino acids can enter out bloodstream faster, which ideal muscle protein synthesis. 

Athletes and those looking to gain  muscle benefit massively from whey protein, as frequent physical activity causes muscles to tear and we need protein in order to rebuild and repair that muscle. Several studies have indicated that whey protein is beneficial for increasing strength and growth of muscle.  

Whey is a high protein substance, but it also contains, fats and carbohydrates. The milk obtained from the process above typically contains around 3.5% protein, 4% fat and 4.6% lactose. Whey is often further possessed to remove the fats and lactose this is referred to as isolated whey. Isolated whey or whey isolate contains more protein per gram because the other components are removed. Those who are lactose intolerant often don’t have a problem consuming whey isolate protein because the lactose is removed, however they are advised not to because there can still be some traces of lactose present.   

Whey process

  1. Whey is the protein naturally found in cow's milk.
  2. When cow's milk is mixed with rennant (a mix of enzymes) the milk curdles and separates.
  3. The curdled milk get used to make cheese and other dairy products like Casein.
  4. The by-product that gets leftover once separated from the curdled milk is liquid whey.
  5. The liquid whey get pasteurised to remove bacteria and then dried to form the familiar powder product we find on shelves or used in infant formulas.

So in summary Whey is absolutely a safe ingredient to use in recipes.


Rachel Akuffo, ANutr, Certified Nutritionist