The transition from formula or breast milk to cow’s milk is one that many parents start to think about as their child gets close to their first birthday. Whole cow’s milk is recommended for babies aged twelve months and up, as long as there are no known milk allergies.
This article will illustrate the steps involved in transitioning from formula to milk (cow’s milk), what to do if your child has a milk allergy, and how this transition affects babies who have had only breast milk up to age one.
When do babies stop drinking formula?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and many other institutions recommend making the transition from formula to cow’s milk at twelve months old. This is because formula-fed babies need the extra calcium and Vitamin D that is in whole milk that they are not getting from their infant formula.
Whole milk is usually fortified with Vitamin D, which is great for bone development and necessary for toddlers.
Baby’s diet will start to change as they near their first birthday. As you introduce solid foods into their diet, you may notice that your child wants less formula or breast milk and more solid foods. At this point, it’s time to start planning the transition from formula to milk.
If your child has been drinking breast milk only up to this point, it is perfectly fine to continue to breastfeed. Just be sure to introduce solid foods as baby continues to grow.
If you want to stop breastfeeding at age one, you can follow the same guidelines as a formula-fed baby would when introducing cow’s milk or milk alternatives. Whether your child has been consuming breast milk or formula at this point, they are most likely ready for other foods. Breast milk alone is not enough to sustain a child over the age of one.
How to transition from formula to milk
The following are tips and steps that can be taken to ease the transition from formula or breast milk to whole cow’s milk.
It’s an acquired taste
When it’s time to make the transition from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk, the first thing you may notice is that your little one finds the taste a bit funky. This is because both breast milk and baby formula are much sweeter in taste than cow’s milk.
To ease the transition from breast milk or formula and get your baby more used to the taste of cow’s milk, try mixing the breast milk or baby formula with whole milk. Slowly add more and more whole cow’s milk while decreasing the amount of infant formula or breast milk in the bottle or sippy cup until your little one is drinking whole milk entirely.
Switch to a sippy cup
This is the perfect time to start making the switch from a baby bottle to a sippy cup. By the age of eighteen months, your child should have left the bottle behind in favor of a sippy cup, so offering one during the transitional phase of formula or breast milk to drinking milk is a great idea.
Many parents try several different types of cups before finding one that their baby likes. It’s important to remember that your toddler may take just a drink and then reject the offered cup on the first try. This doesn’t mean that the cup won’t work. Just keep trying.
It may be easier to get your child to take a cup when they are also eating solid food. Sit your kiddo down at the table with your family when you eat dinner and give them the cup along with their dinner. Watching the rest of the family drinking from cups similar to the new one your little one has is a great way to get baby ready and eager to give it a try.
Don’t be discouraged if the sippy cups don’t take immediately. Unlike formula in a bottle, this is something that your little one will have to do for themselves, and it’s a whole new skill set. When you start weaning from powdered formula or the breast to plain milk in a new sort of cup, it can be overwhelming for your child. Just stay persistent, and remain patient.
Try warm milk
You most likely warmed up the bottles when your baby was drinking formula. If you breastfed your baby, then what they were getting fresh from the tap was body temperature.
If your baby is reluctant to start experimenting with whole milk or refuses to drink it, the transition may be easier if you warm the milk first. It will be more along the lines of what your baby is used to temperature-wise, and it can also help relax baby so that they can sleep better.
How much milk should a toddler have when transitioning from formula to milk?
Depending upon age, your child should be drinking whole milk in quantities that you are most likely not used to measuring. When you replace formula with whole cow’s milk, you are most likely used to counting scoops and adding ounces of water to the mixture. Now, however, you need to start measuring cow’s milk in cups.
Always check with your child’s pediatrician before deciding how much milk is appropriate for them. Some health issues and other factors may play a role in your child’s unique situation. The amounts given below are a general recommendation that should be confirmed with your family doctor first.
Your little one should be getting two to three cups of milk per day at one year of age. Due to the new taste that can turn some babies off to the idea of drinking that much milk, you can try adding more dairy products into your child’s diet as well.
Unless advised by your pediatrician, try to stick with whole milk, as it contains the essential nutrients that your child needs. Reduced-fat milk or skim milk does not contain all your toddler’s nutrients.
Two and three-year-olds
By two and three years of age, a baby’s life probably looks a lot different than it did as an infant. They are moving around a lot more, they are much bigger, and their bones are growing at a rapid rate.
You might think that this means that the amount of milk gradually needs to increase with age, but this isn’t quite so.
Due to the fact that your child is now most likely eating all solids, they are getting vitamins and minerals found in milk in the other foods they are consuming. So more milk isn’t necessary. In fact, at two years old, the general professional medical advice is to offer your child about 2 cups of milk per day, and the amount doesn’t change at three years of age.
You can also transition from whole milk to skim milk or reduced-fat milk at this point as well. You can do this over the span of a few weeks or all at once, depending upon how your child tolerates it. They simply no longer need the fat content of whole milk.
Can children drink too much milk?
Yes, your children can drink too much milk. When you start introducing your child to other foods but continue to push more milk, you may end up in a situation where your toddler doesn’t want to eat a meal because they are so full from the milk. This can lead to issues.
You want your children to start drinking milk because of the nutrients it contains that are absent in formula. However, other nutrients are lacking in milk that you need to ensure your children are getting.
Iron deficiency anemia occurs most often when more whole milk is consumed than food. Iron is not present in cow’s milk. If your baby is too full on the amount of milk they are given to drink, to eat solid foods in the quantities recommended upon professional medical advice, then there are risks of health issues.
If your baby has a milk allergy, you may be wondering if there are milk alternatives you can offer. The following are some drinks that you can substitute for whole milk if you have a child who is sensitive to cow’s milk.
Fortified soy milk is regarded as the closest alternative to whole cow’s milk. It is the only substitution for cow’s milk that is deemed safe and comparable to whole cow’s milk.
While there are other types of milk, such as almond milk, it isn’t recommended before age five because it contains a lot of sugar. If you think your child is sensitive to milk, try to stick with either a slower transition to see if it’s an actual allergy or just a dislike.
If it is truly a milk sensitivity, then do your best to stick to soy milk rather than almond, coconut, or other alternatives to cow’s milk. Baby simply doesn’t need all of that sugar.
The other safe alternative to whole cow’s milk is toddler formulas. Toddler milk contains most of the same nutrients as cow’s milk and is safe for your baby to consume rather than milk.
The downside to this sort of drink is that it is very costly. It is typically more expensive than a gallon of whole cow’s milk, and it is no more beneficial for baby to drink. Don’t let the marketing fool you. It’s not better than whole cow’s milk. It’s just more expensive.
Time to start weaning
It can be overwhelming to begin weaning your baby. Your little bundle of joy isn’t so little anymore. You are celebrating a first birthday, and now you have to make all of these changes to your child’s diet.
Try to make it a fun process, full of discovery and eagerness to try new things. Try different things to encourage your child to drink this new milk, and you may be surprised at how easy it is.
Curious by nature, most babies will seize the opportunity to try something new. Just stay positive, patient, and encouraging. You’ll be buying that last can of expensive formula soon enough and moving on to new experiences and memories with your soon-to-be one-year-old!