As your little one approaches age one, the reliance on breast milk and/or formula begins to fade as your baby prepares for most of her caloric intake to come from table food. So, how do you transition your baby away from nursing or formula feeding to cow’s milk? How much milk does your baby need each day? And why exactly does your child need whole milk, and not a lower-fat version?
Making the transition to whole milk is an exciting, and yet overwhelming, time for parents as they celebrate their child’s growth out of infancy and into toddlerhood. Understandably, many mothers rejoice in the fact that they’ll no longer need to buy expensive cans of formula, prepare bottles, or nurse their infant around the clock (unless, of course, she chooses extended breastfeeding)! Since many families already keep cow’s milk on hand, having a child that also drinks cow’s milk adds an extra level of convenience to the family’s grocery bill. Most pediatricians recommend transitioning your child to cow’s milk around age 1.
Why can’t babies have cow’s milk before age 1?
Breast milk and/or formula should be a baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year of life. In addition to solid foods (beginning around 4-6 months of age), breast milk and formula contain all the essential nutrients to ensure your baby’s successful growth and development. Furthermore, your baby’s digestive system isn’t mature enough to handle cow’s milk before age 1. Her body won’t be able to handle the protein in cow’s milk, and she could end up stressing her kidneys due to the amount of sodium, potassium, and chloride in cow’s milk. Children under age 1 are also unable to fully absorb the iron in cow’s milk, which may lead to an iron deficiency.
So, what’s so beneficial about cow’s milk after age 1?
Cow’s milk is a great source of calcium and vitamin D, which are necessary for bone fortification and for protecting against chronic illness.
My baby hates the taste of cow’s milk! What do I do?
Your baby has become accustomed to the taste, smell, and texture of breast milk or formula for the first 12 months of life. Therefore, the transition to cow’s milk can be a tricky one. While some babies take to cow’s milk right away, others may put up a fuss about drinking anything but breast milk or formula. Here are some tried-and-true tactics from other parents for how to make that transition easier on both you and your baby.
- Keep milk out of mealtimes. If you serve a cup of milk at mealtime, your toddler may completely ignore the milk and fill up on table food instead. After all, why try something new when he already has a plate of delicious foods in front of him? One tactic you may consider is only serving milk between meals, instead of with meals. Offer your child a sippy cup of milk (or a bottle, if you must) an hour or two before mealtime, and he may be more likely to drink it.
- Be creative in getting milk in food. Your child can have milk with his cereal or oatmeal, or cooked into soup, macaroni and cheese, or mashed potatoes. Your child might prefer the taste of milk when it is mixed with other flavors and textures. You’ll still want to make sure your child is getting enough milk, though, so try your best to get your child to drink plain milk as well.
- Consider other sources of calcium. If your child absolutely refuses to drink cow’s milk, consider taking a break and trying to ensure your child gets calcium from other sources such as yogurt and cheese, which can also be healthy options. Try to stick to the full-fat varieties of those foods as well.
- Ease into it slowly. One of the best practices you can do to help your baby transition to cow’s milk is to do it gradually. Instead of replacing all feedings with straight cow’s milk, opt to ease into it slowly. For the first week, you can structure your baby’s bottles to be ⅓ cow’s milk and ⅓ formula (or pumped breast milk). The second week, progress to half cow’s milk and half breast milk or formula. The third week, use ¾ cow’s milk and ¼ breast milk or formula. After that, feedings should be just cow’s milk. You can adjust the timing as it suits your child’s needs. Be sure to use mixed formula in these ratios - do not use cow’s milk as a substitute for water when mixing formula.
Follow these tips and tricks to make your toddler’s transition to regular milk as smoooooth (see what we did there?) as possible!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
|I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.|