Are you ready to begin weaning your baby from formula in a bottle or sippy cup to cow’s milk?
Has your child reached the point when he or she no longer needs the nutrients in formula but instead needs the calcium found in regular milk?
Does weaning baby from formula to milk seem like a hurdle you’re never going to be able to overcome?
If you’re worried about the process of weaning or asking yourself, “How do I wean my baby from formula to milk?” then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the process of weaning your baby if he or she has been drinking formula. You’ll learn the differences and similarities between weaning from formula and weaning from breast milk, and best of all, you’ll discover seven of the most tried-and-true tips from moms who have been through this process before and know exactly what to expect from it.
No matter where you are in the experience of weaning your baby from formula to cow’s milk, you should be able to find something that can help you improve the situation and overcome any obstacles that might be present for you and your child.
We understand that weaning of any type can be difficult for you and your baby, and when your baby reaches one year of age, a lot of changes are going on with your child that may be difficult to keep up with. Because of this, we’ve put together a list of helpful hints to make this aspect of your child’s life easier to deal with.
By the time you finish reading through our tips, you’ll never wonder, “How do I wean my baby off formula?” again. So let’s get started!
Weaning from Formula vs. Weaning from Breast Milk
How do you wean a baby off formula to milk if you’ve only ever had experience weaning breastfed babies before? Or what if all the information you can find is about breastfed babies, leaving formula-fed babies out of the picture altogether? There are a few similarities between these two processes, but there are also several differences, and it pays to understand that your situation with your little one may be different if he or she has been on a formula-only diet for a while already.
- Both types of weaning can usually be done by replacing one feeding session per day with cow’s milk and giving your child a few days in between to adjust. This is the most common method of weaning from breast milk to cow’s milk or even to formula, and it works just as well from formula to cow’s milk, too. With this method, you’ll slowly reduce the intake of your child’s breast milk or formula and replace it with the same volume of cow’s milk until he or she is drinking only cow’s milk. You can do this whether you’ve already begun using a sippy cup or you can use it to help move your child toward drinking from a cup for the first time, too.
- You should always wait until your baby is developmentally ready to be weaned when you’re learning about how to wean a baby off formula to milk. It’s important to ensure that your baby is physically going to be able to digest cow’s milk, whether he or she has been on breast milk or formula up until this point. Your pediatrician will be able to tell you more about when it’s time to introduce cow’s milk, but this can usually be done around the one-year mark.
- You can encourage both formula-fed and breastfed babies to try cow’s milk for the first time by flavoring the bottle or sippy cup with a little bit of whatever your child has been drinking up to this point. This way, he or she is going to get a taste of something familiar, and this may lead to more willingness to drink the cow’s milk without putting up a fuss. This is also a great way to encourage your baby to try drinking out of a bottle or sippy cup for the first time, regardless of what’s inside.
- If you’ve already been giving your baby formula in a bottle or a sippy cup while learning how to wean your baby off formula, then this type of weaning may go a little bit more smoothly than weaning directly from nursing to cow’s milk might. Babies who have never used a bottle or sippy cup before will have more of a learning curve with weaning onto cow’s milk than babies who have had experience with these devices already. This may be one hurdle you don’t have to worry too much about with your baby!
- However, it may be more difficult to encourage your baby to drink something that tastes much different than he or she is used to from a bottle. If you haven’t moved to a sippy cup yet, you may need to do this at the same time as transitioning from formula since your child has probably already begun to associate the sight of a bottle with the taste of formula. Breaking up that association can be a good way to let your child know that he or she shouldn’t expect formula anymore while moving away from the use of a bottle. Remember that’s not advisable to keep using a bottle after one year of age.
- You may have better luck transitioning a formula-fed baby to soy milk than to cow’s milk. This is because of the difference in consistency and texture of soy milk and cow’s milk—soy milk is a little bit more similar to formula, as is nonfat cow’s milk. Some babies will be more likely to want to drink these thinner and more “watery” types of milk at first. However, this isn’t necessarily true for every baby, and the decision to use soy milk or nonfat milk should be one you make with your child’s pediatrician.
7 Mom Tips for Weaning from Formula to Milk
Now that you understand the difference between formula-fed baby weaning and breastfed baby weaning, you may still be thinking, “How does this help me learn how to wean my baby off formula?” That’s where our mom-tested tips come in handy! The tips in this section have all been recommended by moms who have gone through the process of weaning babies from formula onto cow’s milk before and have had success with their own children. Although these suggestions may not be able to be used for every baby—and every baby is an individual with specific needs and requirements—you should be able to find at least a few hints here that can help you make the weaning experience much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
1. Combine formula with cow’s milk for the first few servings.
This is an old trick that moms have been using for decades, but it remains a great option for introducing cow’s milk for the first time. Most of the time, moms (and dads and other caregivers!) have success adding one ounce of cow’s milk to a bottle or sippy cup of formula, giving it a stir, and serving it to their little ones. Over time, you can increase the amount of cow’s milk present in the mixture while decreasing the amount of formula. After a while, your baby should be solely drinking cow’s milk if you follow this method.
- Sometimes, this plan can backfire a little bit. The reasoning for this method is that your baby won’t notice the taste of cow’s milk in his or her formula, but unfortunately, if your child doesn’t notice it for a little while, he or she is more likely to be put off by the taste when you start adding more and more of it to the bottle or sippy cup. You want to be sure your baby notices there’s a slight difference in the flavor without being totally put off by the new taste.
- You can do this whether you’re giving your child formula in a bottle or in a sippy cup. However, it may be easier to pull off in a sippy cup, and if your child has reached one year of age, it’s probably time to start moving toward the use of a sippy cup by now anyhow.
2. Serve cow’s milk in other foods, like cereal or oatmeal.
Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, your child just isn’t going to be willing to drink cow’s milk until he or she gets a little bit older. Unfortunately, after a while, there really isn’t any more nutritional value to serving your baby formula, and you need to be sure your child is getting enough calcium and Vitamin D that is present in cow’s milk. But how can you balance this problem? How can you give your baby all the nutrition he or she needs if you can’t convince your child to take even one sip of cow’s milk?
- First of all, remember that your baby is going to eventually start drinking cow’s milk with no trouble. It just may take a little bit longer for your child to warm up to the idea. Because of this, it’s always crucial to speak to your child’s pediatrician about the right way to supplement any nutrients he or she may be missing out on for the time being.
- A favorite trick used by moms everywhere is mixing up other foods with cow’s milk instead of formula. Serve your baby cereal in cow’s milk or stir it into oatmeal to encourage your child to get his or her milk intake for the day without having to drink it straight out of a cup.
- You may also want to offer other calcium-rich foods, such as cheese or yogurt, to help with your baby’s nutritional needs during this transition period.
3. Think about making a baby “smoothie.”
This is another fun way to hide the presence of cow’s milk in your baby’s diet while still encouraging your child to practice drinking something other than formula. You do want your baby to get used to the idea of drinking out of a sippy cup, especially if you’ve been using a bottle up until this point, and it’s important to get your child used to the feeling of drinking a liquid other than formula or water, too. However, there’s no reason why you can’t try to make this change with a little extra flavor to encourage better drinking!
- Add a little bit of fruit to a blender with cow’s milk and blend on high until everything is smooth and easy to drink. Make sure there aren’t any lumps left from the fruit you’ve added. The best option for this mixture is blueberries because they can blend up completely and don’t leave any crunchy seeds behind, but you might also be able to use peaches, bananas, and mangos as long as you check on the texture carefully before serving.
- Resist the urge to add any sweetener to the baby smoothie. The only sweetness your baby should taste is the natural sugar present in whichever type of fruit you chose to blend the mixture with. The idea here is to flavor the milk with something familiar—not to make it so sweet your baby expects it to taste this way every time he or she drinks it.
- Think about blending a couple of types of fruit together for an even more exciting treat. And if your baby is still resistant to drinking it, you can always freeze the mixture and offer it as a tasty treat for a hot day instead!
4. Switch up the temperature.
Generally speaking, as an adult, you probably expect a glass of milk to be cold in order for it to be enjoyable. But don’t forget that your baby has probably gotten used to drinking warm formula out of a bottle, and unless you’ve already made the shift to cold formula, he or she is probably going to be more willing to drink warm milk for a little while, too. Switching up the temperature to something that’s more familiar to your child may be just the push he or she needs to start drinking cow’s milk with no more fuss.
- It’s best to warm milk for your baby in the same way you’ve been warming formula—using a pot of boiling water. However, if you’re using a sippy cup, you might want to go another route to save some time. Be careful if you heat milk in the microwave, as it can either boil over very quickly or develop much hotter spots than you may realize. Always stir milk you’ve heated in the microwave thoroughly and test the temperature before giving it to your baby.
- If you heat milk in a pot on the stove, do it over very low heat or you’ll run the risk of scalding it. Scalded milk won’t taste good and it’s also going to be much too hot to give to your child. Heat it slowly and check it often to get the right temperature for your baby’s safety.
- Heating milk before serving it to your baby may seem a lot more difficult than just pouring it into a sippy cup and serving it, but it may make a big difference in the success of your child’s weaning experience. If you don’t have a lot of luck with warm milk, try room temperature milk instead. Some babies just prefer different milk temperatures than you might expect!
5. Start with whole milk in most situations.
Most of the time, pediatricians will recommend beginning with whole milk for a variety of different reasons. Most importantly, whole milk naturally has more Vitamin D and calcium present than other types of milk. It’s also got a higher caloric content which is something your baby needs at this stage of the game. As your child gets more active and learns how to walk and run, he or she is going to need those calories to keep moving every day!
- However, there are some situations in which you might not want to start with whole milk. For example, if your baby is already gaining weight faster than he or she should be, then nonfat or 2% milk may be the way to go at this point. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby needs to be on a lower fat type of milk after his or her first birthday.
- If your baby is allergic to dairy or is very badly lactose intolerant, your child’s pediatrician may recommend another option, such as soy milk. Soy can also be a known allergen, so it’s important to start slowly with soy milk. However, many babies take it to more easily than whole milk, and it’s less likely to cause stomach upset as well. You may need to supplement Vitamin D and calcium with other types of foods if you go this route.
- Finally, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan family, soy milk may be right for your baby in this situation, too. Always talk to your child’s pediatrician if you plan to raise your baby on a vegan diet, as you’ll need to be especially careful to offer baby-safe foods that can provide the right nutrients every step of the way.
6. Limit your child to 2 cups of whole milk per day for the first year, unless you’re instructed otherwise by your child’s pediatrician.
Serving more than this in a day can cause your child to gain too much weight too quickly and may also cause some stomach upset and other digestive issues with your baby. Any less than this, however, and you risk not giving your child enough nutrition every day.
- Do not begin with this high volume of cow’s milk per day, however. Take your time working up to this point one ounce at a time for best results. You should always plan to take it slowly with your baby no matter what type of weaning you’re working on, and this is no exception. Chances are good that your baby won’t want to drink this much cow’s milk right at first anyway!
- Remember to speak with your child’s pediatrician frequently to determine whether or not this is still the right volume of milk to serve your baby every day. If you’re offering a lot of calcium-rich foods, this number might change. If your baby needs more calcium or Vitamin D in his or her diet, however, you may need to serve more milk to make up for this, too.
7. If all else fails, try cold turkey.
The cold turkey method of weaning doesn’t usually work for babies, but since every baby is an individual, you may be surprised by your child and find that this method works perfectly for him or her. Some moms and dads have reported having great success with simply taking away formula at their baby’s first birthday, offering milk in a sippy cup, and never looking back. Others begin by replacing all of the baby’s formula in a bottle for a while before shifting to a sippy cup, but this method may have fewer results simply because your child associates bottles with formula.
- If you go cold turkey with your baby, make sure you’re willing to suffer through some sleepless nights and fussy days as your baby adjusts. Some babies will never fuss about the change at all, and if yours is one of them, count yourself lucky! Most children are at least going to be a little bit fussy as they get used to this new type of nutrition. It’s important to stay very patient with your child, and if you’re going for a “cry it out” method of cold turkey weaning, be sure everyone in the family is in agreement before you get started.
- Understand that your child may refuse to drink his or her milk for a while if you’re trying to wean cold turkey. Ideally, your baby won’t refuse for very long and will soon be drinking cow’s milk with no trouble. If this doesn’t happen, however, it’s important to supplement your child’s nutrition in other ways without falling back on formula.
- Some children have medical reasons why they need to wean quickly onto cow’s milk. If this is true of your child, it’s especially important to speak with his or her pediatrician every step of the way.
While we understand that this is a lot of information to take in, we believe that these tried-and-true mom-tested tips are all great ways to get beyond the hurdle of weaning your little one from formula to cow’s milk successfully. Remember, too, that there’s no harm in trying a few tricks of your own, but that you should never add sugar, honey, or any other sweeteners to your child’s milk to encourage him or her to drink it. This will lead to unhealthy eating habits in the long run and may mean that you always have to sweeten milk in order for your child to be willing to drink it.
Be patient with your baby and take your time with weaning him or her from formula. Pretty soon, your child will be drinking cow’s milk like a pro!
Now that you’ve checked out our mom-tested tips on how to wean baby from formula to milk, we hope that you have a better idea of what to expect from this process. Weaning isn’t easy on anybody involved, and one of the most important things you can keep in mind is patience. With the right amount of patience and willingness to help your little one through the process, weaning onto cow’s milk can be a great experience for you and your child both.
When you’re learning how to wean a baby off of formula, it’s also important to remember that you should never start this process early. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until at least the age of one year before introducing cow’s milk into your child’s diet. If you’re going to be giving your little one soy milk instead of cow’s milk, you may be able to start a little bit earlier, but you should still keep supplementing his or her liquids with formula until twelve months of age.
Weaning a baby off formula to milk requires your child’s stomach and digestive system to be able to handle either cow’s milk or soy milk first, so it’s always important to wait until your baby is developmentally ready for this change in his or her diet. And of course, you should always speak to your baby’s pediatrician before making any changes to his or her nutrition and lifestyle.
With the right information and a solid plan in place, weaning your baby onto cow’s milk should go smoothly!