Ready to transition your baby from breast milk or formula to regular whole milk? Learn how to introduce milk to 1 year old kids using these methods!
The one-year mark couldn’t come fast enough for me. As much as I cherished my babies’ last few months as, well… babies, I also looked forward to the days they’d each turn one year old. Beyond celebrating a milestone, the one-year mark also meant I could finally give them cow’s milk.
What’s the big deal with cow’s milk?
Pediatricians recommend holding off on whole cow’s milk until baby’s first birthday. Until then, we need to rely on breast milk, infant formula, and later, solid food.
But once infants turn a year old, we can then introduce “regular” milk when we normally would’ve offered breast milk or formula. Their nutrients and calories start to come from solid foods like vegetables and grains. Milk, while still a good source of calcium and vitamin D, becomes a side beverage.
My eldest was breastfed exclusively while my twins were given both breast milk and formula. To finally do away with the pump, baby bottles, and cans of formula made me more than eager for them to reach that one-year mark.
Still, how exactly do you introduce milk after all this time? How do you switch from formula to milk or transition from breastmilk to whole milk?
Maybe you’ve tried replacing a bottle with milk, only for your baby to drink a mere one ounce before batting it away and crying for formula. Perhaps he took 30 minutes to take a few sips, playing with the bottle more than actually drinking from it.
You may have even offered milk in an open cup—the same one he drinks water from, so you know he’s not unfamiliar with it—only for him to reject it time and again.
I surveyed several moms who shared their best practices for introducing cow’s milk to their babies. Most had babies already used to bottles, whether because they were formula-fed or were drinking expressed breast milk.
They all agreed that the trick is to introduce cow’s milk gradually. Continue to offer your baby his regular bottles, but slowly “mix” in regular milk as well. Take a look at these three examples of how you can do just that:
Table of Contents
Option 1: Introduce milk in one week
- Day 1 and 2: For each of your baby’s feeding sessions, offer a bottle that’s 1/4 cow’s milk and 3/4 breast milk or formula. For instance, if he drinks 8-ounce bottles, pour 2 ounces of cow’s milk and 6 ounces of breast milk or formula into the bottle. Do the same for all his bottles throughout the day.
- Day 3 and 4: Offer bottles that are half cow’s milk and half either breast milk or formula. Using our 8-ounce bottle as an example, each bottle can have 4 ounces of cow’s milk and 4 ounces of either breast milk or formula.
- Day 5 and 6: Offer bottles that are 3/4 cow’s milk and 1/4 breast milk or formula. For instance, an 8-ounce bottle can have 6 ounces of cow’s milk and 2 ounces of breast milk or formula.
- Day 7: Offer full bottles of cow’s milk.
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Option 2: Introduce milk 1 ounce every day
- Day 1: Replace 1 ounce of breast milk or formula with cow’s milk, but only for one bottle/feeding of the day. Let’s say your baby drinks 6-ounce bottles three times a day. Offer formula in the morning and before bed, but for the midday milk, replace one of those ounces with cow’s milk. His afternoon bottle would include 1 ounce of cow’s milk and 5 ounces of formula.
- Day 2: Replace 2 ounces with cow’s milk for that same feeding. Continue to give him formula for the morning and night, but now his midday milk can include 2 ounces of cow’s milk and 4 ounces of formula.
- Day 3 and onward: Continue adding more ounces of cow’s milk to that same feeding until he’s drinking a complete bottle of cow’s milk. If he drinks 6 ounces, by the sixth day, he should be drinking a full bottle of cow’s milk for his midday milk.
- After one bottle is completely cow’s milk: Introduce 1 ounce of cow’s milk to another bottle. Now that his midday milk is completely cow’s milk, introduce cow’s milk the same way to the other two feeding sessions. For instance, his morning bottle can now have 1 ounce of cow’s milk and 5 ounces of formula. Continue to add 1 ounce a day until all his bottles are cow’s milk.
- Tip: Start with the feedings where you’re not there. For instance, if the nanny gives him one post-nap bottle of milk, start with that bottle first. Then, reserve the bedtime feeding as the last bottle to transition.
Option 3: Introduce 1 ounce of milk for every bottle every week
- Week 1: Replace 1 ounce of breast milk or formula with cow’s milk for all your baby’s bottles. Let’s say your baby takes 6 ounces of breast milk, three times a day. For one whole week, offer 1 ounce of cow’s milk and 5 ounces of breast milk for each of his bottles.
- Week 2: Replace 2 ounces of breast milk or formula. After he has been drinking 1 ounce of cow’s milk with all his bottles for a week, introduce 2 ounces. Each bottle should now have 2 ounces of cow’s milk and 4 ounces of breast milk.
- Week 3: Continue introducing another ounce of cow’s milk per week until he’s drinking full bottles of it.
I followed the steps in Option 2, starting with the midday bottle of formula that our nanny offered the babies. Later, I offered an ounce of cow’s milk and expressed breast milk in the mornings instead of nursing. And once that was done, I did the same for the nighttime feeding.
One thing is for certain: there is no “right” or “wrong” schedule to introduce cow’s milk. Each baby is different—one could be drinking cow’s milk after a week, while another needs more time to adjust. Some might even drink a full bottle on the first try with no problem.
Do what works for you.
But hopefully, these three examples can give you an idea of how to introduce milk to 1 year old kids in a gradual way. Because if you’re like me, that bittersweet moment of saying goodbye to the pump and the cans of formula sometimes can’t come fast enough.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When You’re Dealing with 1 Year Old Tantrums Already
- 15 Samples of a 1 Year Old Eating Schedule (From Real Moms)
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your printable calendar of activities for one-year-olds below—at no cost to you.