Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby throughout the first year of their life. It provides all of the vitamins needed to sustain your child. Once your baby is one-year-old, it is time to introduce cow’s milk. This time can be worrisome and frustrating for parents.
The Importance of Breast Milk
There are many reasons why a mother wants to breastfeed. Of course, it is a personal choice that not every mother picks, but there are some significant benefits if you decide you want to breastfeed your baby. If you are on the fence about it, here are some advantages of breastfeeding that many help you make your decision.
- It is designed specifically for infants. The mother’s body creates the perfect mixture of vitamins, fat, and proteins. Everything your child needs to grow and develop is in breast milk.
- Breast milk is easier on an infant’s stomach. Formula is a great invention and a wonderful substitute, but it isn’t as gentle on their delicate tummies.
- There are antibodies in the milk that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Also, breast milk may change properties if your child is sick. The backwash on your nipples may cause your body to modify the mixture to help your child fight off illnesses.
- Babies are less likely to have ear infections, respiratory infections, and other stomach illnesses.
- Breastfeeding is thought to reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases.
- The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by a third in breastfed babies.
- For the mother, breastfeeding burns around 500 calories per day. It helps a mother lose the weight she gained during pregnancy.
- Mothers who breastfeed their child up to two years old have a 50 percent less chance of developing breast cancer.
When Is It Time to Stop Breastfeeding?
The great thing about breastfeeding is there is no set rule when you need to wean your child. You will still want to introduce cow’s milk at some point, but your baby can breastfeed and drink cow’s milk.
The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics have some great policies on breastfeeding. They advocate exclusively breastfeeding your child for the first six months of life. Then, you can introduce solid foods while continuing to breastfeed your baby until at least 12 months of age. From there, a mother and child are free to breastfeed for as long as they desire. The WHO encourages mothers to breastfeed their child until the age of two years old.
Do Breastfeeding Mothers HAVE to Introduce Cow’s Milk?
Most mothers want to give their child cow’s milk, but there are millions of people who don’t drink cow’s milk. A breastfeeding toddler, who nurses at least three or four times per day, doesn’t have to add cow’s milk to their diet. Cow’s milk is a convenient source of calcium, protein, fat and other vitamins, but it isn’t the only source!
If you decide that you don’t want to introduce it, it is important to make sure their diet is balanced. Here are some tips!
- Include non-dairy sources of protein like meats, fish, beans, boiled eggs and nut butter
- Include sources of fat like safflower oil, flax seed, fish and fish oils and avocados.
- Some babies aren’t nursing that much but downright refuse to drink cow’s milk. If so, you should incorporate milk in other forms. Most kids love cheese, whole fat yogurt, and ice cream. Cook them meals that have milk included like oatmeal, pancakes, muffins, scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes.
When to Stop Giving Child Formula
Parents who use formula typically do want to wean their child. Most pediatricians recommend transitioning from formula to cow’s milk around one-year-old. However, if your child is struggling to grow, your doctor may advocate providing your child with toddler formula. This type of formula is designed to support your toddler’s growing body.
A one-year-old, who eats enough table food, doesn’t need formula for their primary nourishment anymore. It will depend on when a parent introduces baby food and how well your child eats. Some kids, even at one year old, don’t eat very well still and may require using formula a bit longer.
Leaving the Bottle Behind
Regardless of what type of milk you provide your child with, babies should begin weaning from the bottle at one year old. By 18 months, your child should be using a sippy cup primarily. The bottle should be a distant dream!
- Using the bottle after 12 months can lead to damage of their baby teeth. Bottle lovers tend to take it with them, use it to fall asleep, and it leads to an attachment. Unless the bottle only contains water, it could result in decalcifying and decay over time which will cause cavities.
- Bottles lead to a child drinking more milk than recommended. A typical bottle drinker will consume 32 ounces a day. However, a toddler only needs to drink 16 to 24 ounces a day. You want your 12-month-old to eat more food, not consume so much milk that their tummies get too full.
It is best to start the transition around six months old. Introduce a sippy cup for meal times, containing only water. Let them play with it and get used to drinking from it. Give your child a cup in the bathtub and let them pour water.
What is the Best Age to Introduce Cow’s Milk?
Even if you are tempted to give your baby cow’s milk soon, don’t. They don’t need it before they turn one year old. Breast milk (and formula) is made for babies. You might think that giving your child cow’s milk is harmless, but it actually could lead to some problems.
- The early introduction of cow’s milk could lead to iron deficiency anemia. It is associated with blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract through their
- Introducing milk too early can increase the chance that your child will develop an allergy to milk proteins. As your child gets older, their intestinal tract becomes mature and can handle lactose easier than before.
- Your baby‘s system isn’t able to deal with the high levels of protein, sodium, and potassium in cow’s milk. The fat and proteins are harder to digest than breastmilk or formula. You may notice your child has gas or constipation issues if you introduce too soon.
- Cow’s milk doesn’t have all of the essential nutrients your baby needs during their first year of life. Breast milk and formula are the only two choices for your baby.
Whole Milk vs. Two Percent Milk
Once you have made the decision to transition, you need to formulate a plan. It is important that you only offer whole, full fat milk to your child until they are two years old. Two percent milk is typically fine for toddlers. However, the question about when you should switch from whole to two percent milk will depend on your child’s overall nutrition.
Toddlers are known for being picky and temperamental creatures. They have days when they don’t always want to eat well each day. Whole fat milk helps to ensure your kid gets extra calories and fat when they opt to be picky.
Two percent milk and whole milk have the same amount of vitamins and minerals. If your child has an overall balanced diet, you could use two percent if that’s what your family drinks. It may be a good idea to keep some whole milk on hand for those picky days that every toddler has. The biggest difference is the percentage of fat.
Here are the recommendations by most pediatricians.
- Breast milk or formula from birth up to age one. No cow’s milk should be given before one year old.
- Whole milk from one-year-old to two years old.
- Two percent or lower fat milk from two years old and up
Making the Transition from Breast Milk or Formula to Cow’s Milk
The time has come; you are ready to start the process of transitioning your child to cow’s milk. Or, you may want just to introduce cow’s milk to your breastfeeding child. You may feel overwhelmed or worried that your child isn’t going to handle the process. Take a deep breath; it is going to be great!
Transitioning and introducing whole milk is always easier if you do it slowly. You don’t want just to hand your baby a cup of whole milk and expect them to think it is great. While that can happen, it could also cause tummy issues. Children and parents benefit from a slow but steady process.
On the day you pick to start, offer your child a sippy cup or a bottle of ¾ formula or breastmilk and ¼ whole milk. Continue with this mixture for a week at minimum. Watching for any reactions is important. Some babies won’t handle whole milk very well and may present some signs of an allergy. Keep an eye out!
- I wouldn’t recommend switching to whole milk while removing the bottle. Pick one or the other to do first. Babies don’t always handle change very well!
The next week, offer ½ formula or breast milk with ½ whole milk. This mixture should be offered another week. On week three, you will give your child ¾ whole milk with only ¼ formula or breastmilk. By week four, you have successfully transitioned your child to whole milk!
Tips for Introducing Milk
Some kids make the transition with no problem at all. Other children won’t appreciate the change and will make the process a bit trickier. Here are some tips to try to help your baby like the process.
- Offer cereal with milk. Everyone, especially kids, loves cereal. Instead of handing your child a cup of straight whole milk, try giving them a bowl of cereal. Encourage him to drink the milk after the cereal is gone; it will taste a bit different.
- Sneak milk into EVERYTHING. Little does your baby know; you can use milk in so many delicious recipes. You can make oatmeal with milk, instead of water. Smoothies are a great snack. Soups, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese are a few of the things that kids gobble up!
- Give them a colorful cup. Sometimes, an exciting new cup is enough to make your kid excited enough to try milk. Most kids know when they get a new cup. Buy one with their favorite character or their favorite color. Only offer whole milk in their new special cup.
- Try a straw cup instead. If your baby is used to a sippy cup, they may not like trying a different kind of milk in their regular Straw cups are perfect for toddlers! There are so many choices in the stores to try.
- Don’t start with naps. Your baby may like to have a drink of milk before they lay down for a nap. However, this time isn’t ideal for surprising them with a new type of milk. Instead, start by giving it to them during lunch or dinner.
- Warm it up. Milk is kept in the refrigerator, but some babies like warm milk. If your child is breastfed, their milk comes out at body temperature. Formula fed babies often like it when it’s warmed. Try to heat it up a bit before giving them a cup.
- Introduce yogurt first. Yogurt is a great option for your baby, starting at six months old! You can give them yogurt first to help him get used to the texture and flavor of whole milk. Yogurt is also easier to digest.
Transitioning your baby to cow’s milk is a huge step! It is also bittersweet; it means your baby is growing up and has officially entered their toddler years. Remember to start gradually by mixing formula or breast milk with the whole milk. There are so many great tricks for getting your baby used to milk. Before you know it, they will happily drink a cup each day!