Around one year most formula-fed babies are ready to transition to cow’s milk. But the formula can taste very different from milk. Besides, the formula is commonly served warm while cow’s milk is offered cold.
It is no wonder then why most parents find themselves Googling “How to go about switching my baby to milk from formula”. Our guide hopes to make your research a little easier by providing you with all you need to know about how to transition from formula to milk.
Formula to milk weaning can seem intimidating at first, but switching baby to whole milk doesn’t have to be difficult. Let’s start with the basics.
If your little one isn’t breastfed then they are likely fed with formula. Most pediatricians recommend that formula feeding can end at one year of age, or shortly thereafter. 
Infants younger than twelve months are given formula. Formula is specially designed to mimic breast milk. It is nutritionally complex, containing fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Because of this composition, it helps children grow and develop through a period of huge leaps and growth spurts.
Further reading: Formula That Taste Like Breast Milk
Formula is also made to be gentle on a baby’s digestive system. The younger the child the more immature their digestive tract. The proteins in formula are broken down so that they are easier on the baby’s stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
This process of breaking down the proteins is called hydrolyzation. Infant formula can either be partially hydrolyzed or extensively hydrolyzed.
Whole milk on the other hand does not have its proteins broken down. As babies approach one year their digestive tract can usually handle cow’s milk, though there are some children and adults who cannot.
Milk is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Your baby’s system isn’t prepared to handle the levels of these nutrients and the additional sodium until they are at least one year of age.
Whole milk should be given to babies between ages one and two , advise most experts. However, there are specific signs you can look for in your baby to know if they are ready to transition to whole milk.
Signs Your Child May Be Ready For Milk:
- They can hold a cup
- They can bring a cup to their mouth
- They have experienced other calcium-rich foods
Some babies may be ready as early as nine months, but doctors generally recommend waiting until one year. If you are giving whole milk before one year, then you can use a sippy cup and offer it in moderation. Continue to give a bottle of formula as advised by your child’s pediatrician.
Wondering exactly how to switch from formula to milk? Well, if your child is one year or older it is best to start with a cup of milk instead of a sippy. At this age, most children can hold a cup and bring it to their mouths.
Weaning baby off formula to whole milk can be made easier by offering the milk in a cup instead of a bottle or a sippy that resembles a bottle. You can even use a straw if you like!
You don’t have to go cold turkey. When transitioning from formula to milk it can be better to go slow. Some parents like to draft a schedule that slowly increases the milk offerings over time.
Don’t give them easy access to milk all day long either. You should only offer it at meals or at snack time. Unlike formula, whole milk should not be used as a meal but only as a drink.
Most kids will like the taste and cold temperature. However, you could introduce the milk warm. There is nothing wrong with warming up cow’s milk on the stove or in the microwave. However, it can be more convenient for you as a parent if your child eventually takes it cold.
When thinking about how to get baby off formula, some parents wonder about mixing milk and formula, especially if their child seems to be put off by the taste of cow’s milk.
You can mix equal parts of cow’s milk and your baby’s prepared formula. Your child may be more accepting of this flavor. Then, over time you can slowly decrease the ratio, adding less and less formula. Hopefully, your child will warm up to the idea of whole milk and you can eliminate formula altogether.
If your baby doesn’t seem too keen on cow’s milk at first, that is okay. Be patient and keep offering it. Experiment with temperature and with cutting it with formula. Fun cups and straws can also make the experience more pleasant.
When it is time to transition baby to milk you should also think of it as a transition to a cup. By their first birthday, most children should be weaned off a bottle.
While some doctors may advise you to use a sippy cup, this has largely fallen out of favor. The only scenarios in which a sippy cup is still recommended is if your child is younger than one or if they are refusing milk from a cup.
Instead of a sippy cup, doctors recommend using a standard cup or a cup with a straw. Sippy cups aren’t favored anymore for a few reasons. 
They can encourage kids to sip, which can lead to tooth decay if they are regularly sipping on anything other than water. Additionally, constant sipping can reduce their hunger. This means they may not want meals and miss out on valuable nutrients. Finally, the cup can hinder mature swallowing patterns which could lead to oral motor delays.
So you may want to skip the sippy cup altogether and just start with an open cup or a cup with a straw.
Remember, milk is a drink and not a meal replacement. Before age three, kids need only 16 ounces of milk a day. Formula isn’t needed, but breastfed babies can continue nursing. If your child is formula-fed, they can now receive all sixteen ounces in the form of cow’s milk.
Your little one doesn’t need to down a glass with each meal or chug it like they did a bottle. Rather, use it as a beverage similar to how you use your own beverages. It should complement their meal and not act as their meal.
Some babies and toddlers, like older children and adults, are allergic to milk. They can have dairy sensitivity or be lactose intolerant. If your child has a milk allergy you probably recognized it when they were an infant.
Common signs of milk allergies include:
- Rashes and skin reactions like swelling or red and itchy hives
- Upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, gas, and cramping
- Congestion, runny nose, or other “hay-fever” symptoms
- Eczema that doesn’t respond to treatment
If you think your little one is allergic to milk, talk to their doctor. There are alternatives to cow’s milk, but you need to ensure they are nutritionally sound. Also, you should look for alternatives that aren’t full of sugar or other additives.
Popular non-dairy milk options include:
- Soy milk
- Almond milk or other nut milk
- Oat milk
- Rice milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
Your child’s pediatrician should be able to guide you to the appropriate lactose-free milk choice for your child.
Your one-year-old should not have any bottles of milk. Instead, they need 16 ounces of milk per day offered in an open cup, a cup with a straw, or in some cases a sippy cup.
You can give your child non-dairy milk. However, if you don’t give your baby any milk they could be missing out on important calories and nutrients, especially calcium and Vitamin D.
Babies who are one do not need a bottle. They no longer need formula. Infants who are breastfed can continue to receive breastmilk but serving it in a bottle is not advised.
It is better to mix whole milk with prepared formula if your child doesn’t like the taste. Adding water to the milk will add volume but could detract from the nutrients your child would’ve received.
Milk, like other dairies, is a perishable food. Many experts recommend throwing it away if it has been sitting out of the refrigerator for two hours or more, similar to handling breastmilk.
You can make the transition to milk painless and fun with a few strategic tips. Start slowly and phase-out the formula over time.
Play with the temperature and milk to formula ratio. Don’t use a bottle and allow your child to experience an open cup or a fun straw. Keep in mind that milk is a meal complementing beverage and not a meal in itself.
If you have any questions let us know in the comments below. Hopefully, this article has helped you feel more confident in transitioning your little one from formula to milk.