Experts recommend that babies start taking full-fat dairy milk from the age of 12 months. That said, this is not a hard rule set in stone. While formula milk is the best option for infants, there is no magic moment when you can finally decide to wean your baby off of formula milk. The standard answer to the question, when do babies stop drinking formula? Is that you wait until the baby is over 12 months.
Here are a few things however to consider when planning to transition your baby from formula milk to cow’s milk.
The Right Time to Stop Formula
The recommended age for transitioning from formula to whole milk is 12 months. The process of weaning a child off breast milk or baby formula, however, should not be rushed.
This phase of weaning can be implemented as gradually as you and your child need, as long as you start no earlier than 12 months.
It is not recommended to provide cow’s milk to infants younger than 12 months. There is a reason for this. Cow’s milk has high levels of protein and sodium, and your baby’s kidneys simply aren’t strong enough to deal with the load.
This is why it is recommended to provide formula milk to babies under 12 months. However, experts will recommend cow’s milk for babies older than 12 months.
During this time the kidneys have substantially developed and can thus handle the contents of cow milk.
Why To Stop Formula at 12 Months
The child\’s digestive system is sufficiently mature at 12 months to handle toddler formula or cow\’s milk. For babies younger than this, breast milk or infant formula is better for digestion. Furthermore, By the time a child reaches the age of 12 months, he or she has established a diet of solids substantial enough to bypass baby formula.
Are there exceptions?
As we said, this rule is not cast in stone and there are instances where your doctor may recommend that you continue providing your baby with formula. This is especially during cases where your baby could be anemic and has issues with the kidneys.
Formula milk could also be the better choice if there is a family history of obesity or heart disease. That said, if there are no issues, it is important to ensure that your baby takes full-fat milk.
Signs it’s Time to Wean Your Baby Off Formula Milk
You can start weaning your baby off formula milk as soon as they show that they can consume solids. Granted formula milk is fortified with vitamin C and iron in the right amounts for a developing infant.
However, as soon as baby starts to eat solids, they can get these in sufficient amounts from a balanced and nutritious diet.
Note that your baby’s diet should include fruits, grains, and proteins from meats and eggs. The more they transition into eating solids, the less formula milk that you should provide.
On the other hand, continue providing formula in sufficient amounts and do not wean if your baby isn’t gaining weight, or hasn’t yet started to consume solid food. Also, avoid cow’s milk if the doctor recommends it due to a condition with your baby such as anemia.
When do Babies Stop Drinking Formula at Night
The sleeping patterns of each baby differ during the day and at night.
During the night, a baby under 12 months might wake up to seek a drink of breast milk or formula, as this is her primary source of nutrition and comfort.
The time when a baby should stop nursing at night, nursing breast milk, or taking formula isn\’t a specific rule.
How to Wean Off Formula
Some parents switch straight from baby formula to toddler formula or cow\’s milk, and their children have no problems with it.
The majority of parents will find that their babies require more time and coaxing before making the switch.
A few weeks are often recommended for transitioning. It allows the digestive system of your baby to completely adjust to a new formula or whole milk. It\’s best to mix the new formula or milk gradually with the old formula. Here\’s how you can do it:
This schedule may need to be adjusted based on your child\’s needs.
- Day 1, 2 & 3: 25% cow\’s milk; 75% old formula
- Day 4, 5 & 6: 50% cow\’s milk; 50% old formula
- Day 7,8 & 9: 75% cow\’s milk; 25% old formula
- Day 10: 100% cow\’s milk
Transitioning from Bottle to Cup
It is also important to consider weaning from a bottle to a sippy cup. By 18 months, kids should be switched to sippy cups since bottles can interfere with their teeth development. The wait time isn’t fixed.
You can begin giving your baby a sippy cup around 6 months, or once they can sit up on their own.
Before weaning from the bottle, start by filling the sippy cup with a little bit of water. In time, your child will become an expert at this skill, but it will take time and practice.
If your baby likes sippy cups, give him or her a chance to try out a few different varieties.
According to experts, you should avoid feeding the baby cow’s milk after age one with the bottle. This can cause issues with their teeth development.
Instead, let the baby take the milk from a cup. You may even use a straw inserted in the cup.
Offer Other Food Other Than Milk
It\’s advised that parents limit the amount of formula they give to their toddlers, since toddlers who are fed formula tend to have little appetite for solid food since formula fills them up.
Providing toddlers with a variety of solid foods is necessary to meet their nutritional requirements; milk alone does not suffice.
Healthy eating habits can be encouraged by offering your child a variety of nutritious foods.
Parents consult their pediatrician when they worry that their picky eater won\’t get enough nutrition. Although picky eating is common among toddlers, parents should continue offering their children healthy options.
What to Watch Out for When Giving Baby Cow’s Milk
Not all babies will take to cow’s milk smoothly and some may show reactions. If you notice that your baby is getting stuffiness or there is a change in their stool, then there is all likelihood that your baby could have a milk allergy.
Other symptoms to watch out for include diarrhea, constipation, or rashes on the skin. If you notice any of these then it is recommended to consult your pediatrician.
They will be able to provide assistance and recommend milk alternatives for your baby.
Milk Alternatives for Toddlers
Parents often turn to cow’s milk to provide babies with vitamins, protein, and fat when weaning them from infant formula. Children need these nutrients to grow and develop; they form their bones, brains, and muscles.
A variety of medical and personal reasons lead to babies and toddlers needing milk alternatives. Parents often choose sustainably sourced, plant-based products for their children for ethical and nutritional reasons.
You should know, however, that dairy-free formula can still provide your toddler or baby with the same great nutrition.
Many children are allergic to cow’s milk protein or are intolerant of lactose, a naturally occurring sugar.
For these kids, cow\’s milk proteins can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. When your child has a dairy intolerance, consider alternatives to dairy milk to ensure their health and comfort.
Other Milk Alternatives
Main milk alternatives for toddlers include:
- Grain Milk– Milk made from grains is not nutritionally dense. Comparatively, they are lower in calories, protein, and fat than cow\’s milk.
- Seed Milk– As hemp milk is high in fat and fiber, it falls short when it comes to carbohydrates, protein, and calories.
- Soy Milk– This is an alternative milk that contains similar vitamins and minerals to cow\’s milk.
- Nut– Nut milk options are low in fat, calories, protein, and carbohydrates and hence, are not suitable for toddlers, because they are not as nutritious.
- Pea Milk – In comparison to whole cow’s milk, pea-based milk tends to be high in protein, however, has fewer calories, carbohydrates, and fat than cow’s milk.
You can transition away from formula once your 12-month-old starts eating solid foods. Whole milk is essential to the brain development of a one-year-old, but healthy foods are needed for their daily nutrition.
Before weaning your little one-off breast milk or formula, make sure your little one has access to a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
And while there is no magic switch that tells you that the right time to transition your baby to cow’s milk and wean off formula, at around one year of age, their system has developed quite well.