Ready to start transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk? Learn how to wean from breastfeeding to whole milk at one year old.
The first-year mark couldn’t come fast enough. Yes, I was celebrating my baby’s leap into toddlerhood, but I had my own milestone to celebrate: I would no longer pump or breastfeed.
After all, for the first year of life, babies rely on breastmilk or formula as their main source of nutrition—anything else is supplemental. But in turning one, their stomachs are now more able to digest whole milk and rely on solid food for sustenance.
Now, while my breastfeeding journey didn’t exactly start off without a hitch, I actually didn’t mind nursing my baby. In fact, it would be a bittersweet close to that stage in his life.
But what I was most excited to finally do away with was pumping. I was working in an office and away from my baby for several hours a day. That meant that every morning, I’d have to lug my pump, parts, and bottles to work and set aside times of the day to express milk.
It also meant coming home with bottles of milk to store, and pump parts to wash, because I had to do this every day for months. With that one-year mark looming ahead, I was more than ready to ditch the pump and finally offer my baby whole milk.
But of course, I had questions.
Top questions about transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk
Like everything else related to raising kids, I wondered if there was a “right way” to handle transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk. After all, we’re warned not to give whole milk before then. I’ve also followed similar rules, like the exact amount of medicine to give, or how much sleep he needs every day.
Turns out, transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk isn’t about a one-size-fits-all solution. The questions I had—and the ones you’re also likely wondering—aren’t so black and white. Moms like you and me seem to do what works for us and our babies.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t find some answers to guide our decisions. To hear what other moms have done to make the transition smoother for everyone. So, take a look at these top questions about transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk—hopefully you’ll find the answers you’re looking for:
1. “When do you start switching to whole milk?”
We’ve all heard not to offer whole milk until our babies turn one year old. But if one were to gradually introduce whole milk, does that mean we can start introducing it earlier than the one-year mark? Or do we wait until their first birthday to offer whole milk?
What I’ve found is that some moms—with their pediatrician’s approval—start introducing small amounts of whole milk before the one-year mark. However, others—including myself—wait until after the baby turns one to do so.
In short: either way seems to work.
That said, if you are introducing whole milk prior to your baby turning one, make sure you’re doing so in little ways. For instance, you might offer it in her oatmeal, or give her an ounce a day and work your way up. You can also offer other dairy products much earlier, like yogurt and cheeses.
As eager as you may be to switch sooner than later, her digestive system may not be able to take whole milk as well as breastmilk. Keep an eye out for her bowel movements, and any fussiness she might show. In other words, don’t go cold turkey if you plan to make the switch earlier than the one-year mark.
2. “Should I give whole milk in a bottle or sippy cup?”
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By far, most moms offer whole milk in a sippy cup, most likely in an attempt to finally do away with those bottles completely. Plus, we’ve all heard that extended bottle use can affect their teeth as well as their inability to part with this comfort item.
The best way to help make this transition smoother is to introduce the sippy cup much earlier, before you switch to whole milk. For instance, you can offer water or the occasional juice in a sippy cup, and save bottles for expressed breastmilk.
That way, when it’s time to transition to whole milk, your baby will already be familiar with how it works.
All that said, it’s also not uncommon for moms to stick to bottles for a while. Many use bottles as they gradually add more and more whole milk to breastmilk before doing away with them completely. And others rely on bottles simply because their babies refuse to take the sippy cup.
Still, if you want to avoid bottles once and for all, try to have your baby adjust to a sippy cup than prolonging the inevitable.
3. “At what temperature should the whole milk be?”
Wondering if you still need to warm whole milk the way you may have done for breastmilk? Once again, the temperature of whole milk has more to do with your own preference than any rule you need to follow.
But let’s talk about a few reasons to either warm the milk or serve it cold. Personally, I didn’t warm whole milk—I’d simply pour a little bit into a bottle of breastmilk.
That way, once it was time to offer a full bottle of whole milk, my baby had already been introduced to the cold temperature. I didn’t want to create a habit of my baby needing his milk warmed—I wanted him to be able to drink it cold like I did.
However, if your baby has, say, always had her bottles of breastmilk warmed, then it might make sense to do the same with whole milk. This is especially true if you plan to introduce it cold turkey instead of gradually.
But I suggest giving cold whole milk a try—that’s one less task to do each time she drinks it.
4. “Should I gradually mix breastmilk, or go cold turkey?”
I suggest mixing breastmilk and whole milk an ounce at a time, starting with any feedings that your baby already receives a bottle for.
For instance, I started adding whole milk to the sippy cups he drank when he was away from me during work. I added one ounce to one sippy cup on Day One. Come Day Two, I added two ounces to the same feeding sessions, until eventually he was drinking a full sippy cup of whole milk.
By gradually adding whole milk, you can watch out for any reactions or digestive issues he might have. You’re also better able to introduce his palate to his taste buds, tying it with a familiar comfort food.
5. “Is it okay to mix breastmilk and whole milk and store it in the fridge, or do I need to mix it right before feeding?”
While my baby was transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk, I mixed both milks and stored the sippy cups in the fridge. This was especially true for the feedings he’d get while I was at work—I didn’t want to trouble his caregiver with measuring and mixing. I preferred to do it myself.
That said, try to store both breastmilk and whole milk in the fridge before mixing it, so that both are the same temperature. For instance, store expressed breastmilk in the fridge after you come home. Then later that night or the following morning, prepare your baby’s mixed sippy cups using both of the cold milks.
6. “Should I offer whole milk separately as a meal, like nursing, or as an accompanying drink with meals?”
Now that your baby is drinking whole milk, do you continue serving it as a separate meal, or when she eats her meals?
I suggest keeping your same schedule and offering whole milk the same as when you offered breastmilk. In other words, keep it separate from when she eats solids and meals.
I offered whole milk after my kids woke up from naps, which was a convenient way of also decreasing their milk intake as they got older and took fewer naps. For instance, I’d offer a sippy cup of milk after waking up in the morning and after naps, then one last cup before bed.
Offering it separately also makes it less likely for your baby to expect milk with each meal, something she likely won’t do as she grows up.
7. “How much whole milk should my baby get every day?”
Even though your baby is drinking whole milk, it’s not the same as the breastmilk she was drinking up to this point. While breastmilk offered a complete package of necessary nutrition, whole milk is supplemental. Yes, it’s a fantastic source of the fat she needs to grow, but by no means is it complete.
That’s why it’s important to watch how many ounces she typically drinks a day. For a one-year-old, 16-24 ounces of whole milk a day, including yogurt, is generally recommended. Once she gets closer to two years old, that number goes down to no more than 16 ounces a day.
As always, ask your pediatrician how many ounces she recommends for your baby. Each person is unique, but in most cases, no more than 24 ounces is the rule of thumb.
And some babies don’t take to whole milk right at the one-year-old mark, especially if they were born early. Talk to your pediatrician about other alternatives that provide the healthy fat found in whole milk, and just make sure she stays hydrated in other ways.
Transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk is often a welcomed milestone for many moms, though it does come with its own questions.
You likely wondered when it’s okay to officially transition, or whether to offer whole milk in a sippy cup or bottle. Perhaps you don’t know what temperature the milk should be, and if you should offer it with meals or separately.
You may have asked if mixing the milks is the way to go, and if so, when exactly should you mix and prepare them. And finally, you’re not the only one who’s asked exactly how much whole milk is okay to offer.
With your questions answered, now you can make transitioning from breastmilk to whole milk a smooth transition for you and your baby. If anything, you can finally celebrate putting that pump and all its parts and bottles to rest.
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