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How to Transition from Formula to Milk: 5 Tips

last year7 min read
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Last updated: Jan 23 2023

Is your baby ready for a menu reboot? Exciting times are ahead. Let’s find out how to transition from formula to milk.

How to Transition from Formula to Milk

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Your baby’s first birthday is on the horizon—and with it a whole lot of other firsts.

There may be first steps, first words, and yes, first tastes.

One of the sweet substances that may be making its way onto their new menu is milk.

So how do you make the switch? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to transition from formula to milk.

Let’s start from the beginning.

In this article 📝

  • How long do babies drink formula for?
  • How much whole milk should a 12-month-old drink?
  • How long should it take to transition from formula to milk?

How long do babies drink formula for?

Babies drink formula for about a year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an exclusively liquid diet (breast milk or formula) for the first six months of your baby’s life.

At six months, you can begin to introduce solid foods, but your baby’s main source of calories and nutrition should continue to be breast milk or formula until about the one-year mark.

So, does that mean you should start giving cow’s milk at six months when you introduce other foods?

Not quite! It’s only around the 12-month mark when your baby is ready to tackle drinking other kinds of milk.

Before this, cow’s milk is not a good idea.

It can actually lead to your baby becoming undernourished since it would be very easy for them to guzzle milk in place of formula or breast milk and miss out on key nutrients that only breast milk or formula can provide to young babies.

It can also have some negative health effects, such as taxing their tiny kidneys more than they are ready for.

The same applies to dairy substitutes such as almond and oat. Here’s what the CDC has to say about it.

But here’s an interesting plot twist. Unless you have dairy allergies in your family, not all dairy is to be avoided until they are one year old.

In fact, you can start introducing foods that contain dairy before this.

Yogurt, for example, may make its way onto the menu before drinking milk does. For more on this, head here for our guide to baby-led weaning.

As they turn big number one, the restrictions on drinking dairy are lifted.

Not only is it no longer a no-go, but it’s also now recommended.

Milk provides many important nutrients for your baby as they naturally slow down on their breast milk or formula intake.

It’s packed with protein, calcium, and vitamins A and D—all of which help your baby grow.

How much whole milk should a 12-month-old drink?

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends 16 ounces a day for 12-24-month-olds.

Try not to give more than 16 ounces a day as it can block iron absorption and make your baby anemic.

They also suggest sticking to whole milk rather than skim until your child is two years old.

If you prefer a dairy alternative, fortified soy milk is the closest in composition to whole milk.

Next step: how do you make the transition from formula to milk—and how long should it take?

How long should it take to transition from formula to milk?

From about twelve months of age, you can start weaning your baby off the formula and onto milk.

But no two babies are alike.

Some will take to it quickly. Others will take a little longer to get used to their new diet and may need a little extra coaxing along the way.

So let’s get down to strategy.

Here’s how to transition from formula to whole milk.

How do I wean my baby off formula?

Before we get started, know that this is not a how-to guide that fits all babies.

There are so many reasons things may not go exactly as planned. With that in mind, let’s dive in. Here are our top tips.

How to transition from breast milk or formula to milk

1. Warm it up
Some babies are not too keen on cold milk and may want their milk warmed up.

The microwave is not suited to the task as it can leave patches that are too hot for your baby.

Rather, place the container you are using in warm water for a few minutes, shake, and then check the temperature.

2. Mix it up
For some babies, the taste of this new drink is not initially to their liking.

To help them ease into it, you can start by adding a mixture of breastmilk or formula with the whole milk.

Slowly add more whole milk and less breastmilk or formula.

Also, avoid mixing formula powder directly with milk.

First, mix the powdered formula with water as you usually would, and then mix it with milk.

You may also want to try mixing milk in with some cereal or a smoothie to get baby used to the idea.

3. Slow it up
It doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Going slowly can help you pick up any potential allergies and intolerances your baby might have.

If you suspect your child has a milk allergy, get in touch with your doctor so that you can plan how to proceed.

Symptoms of milk allergies in infants include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin reactions
  • Itchy, watery eyes

4. Sip it up
By the time they reach the grand old age of one and start experimenting with milk, they may already be acquainted with drinking from a cup.

If they haven’t made the switch yet, as the CDC explains, this is a good time to do so.

And be warned, this can be a bit of a messy learning curve, with liquid spills part of the process.

That’s why spill-proof (aka sippy) cups are generally preferred at this time—but they can practice holding other kinds of cups too.

You may also have to try a few different sippy cups before you find the right fit.

One method that may make the transition easier is to be your baby’s cheerleader.

Congratulate them whenever they use their cup successfully.

Another trick? If they are very attached to their bottle, hiding it may work. Out of sight is sometimes out of mind.

5. Drink it up
Think of whole milk as a delicious drink rather than a meal.

While we speak of transitioning from formula to breast milk, they actually have different functions.

Whole milk is not meant to replace formula and breastmilk but rather to become one part of your baby’s diet.

The goal is to ultimately move towards them getting the bulk of their daily calories from solid foods.

Finally, if you need support through this process, join us on Peanut.

Plenty of mamas have been through this transition before!

Good luck, mama. You’ve got this.

🍼 More from The 411:
Why I Chose to Formula Feed
How Many Ounces Should a Baby Eat? A Chart
Newborn Baby Feeding Schedule Ideas
A Nifty Guide to Bottle Feeding
How Long is Formula Good For?
Do I Need Special Water for Baby Formula?
My Baby Won’t Burp: What Now?
How to Clean a Baby Bottle
Your Essential Formula Feeding Guide
When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?
How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out?

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