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Toddler (baby) drinking milkEric turned 12 months and it was time for me to think about switching him from formula to cow’s milk. A little history: he was exclusively breastfed until the age of 8 months, and then I introduced solids. At 11 months I weaned him and started giving him formula. Frankly, I wasn’t too sure whether or not I should switch him to cow’s milk or maybe he will be better off drinking formula for toddlers.

I imagine that every mom is probably going through the same (more or less) questions and thoughts, so my experience, research and ideas are worth sharing – it will save you girls the trouble of having to look it up and, more importantly, some precious time.

Let’s start with this question:

Should we switch babies from formula to cow’s milk at all and why?

Those in favor of switching say that milk has calcium, proteins, vitamins and all the things a baby needs for growth in his second year of life. None of the supplements that formula is rich in are needed because the baby is getting all of them from solid food. Also most of the formulas are based on milk powder, so why not giv’em the real thing.

When should we switch the baby to cow’s milk?

The consensus seems to be at 12 months, because baby’s digestive system and kidneys need to mature and be able to handle the proteins and the sodium/potassium/etc that milk has a lot of. Another reason is that during the first year baby needs more vitamins and iron than cow’s milk can offer.

What kind of milk should I give to my baby?

Full cream milk, meaning full fat milk – never a light milk with the reduced percentage of fat, at least until the baby is 2 years old. Some sources suggest goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk, but I would be cautious about that one: there are success stories but no scientific studies confirm that goat’s milk can replace cow’s milk in a child’s diet. For the kids who can not tolerate cow’s milk, soy milk is an alternative.

Why doesn’t my baby want cow’s milk?

Because it is different from breast milk or formula in 3 ways: taste, texture and temperature. So there are a few tricks you can use:

  • Mix the milk with cereal or porridge
  • Offer just a spoon of milk every time until the baby gets used to it
  • Mix cow’s milk and formula (or pumped breast milk) to soften the taste. Over time increase the proportion of cow’s milk until you can finally stop mixing
  • Try warm or cold milk, some kids prefer it right out of the fridge and some won’t touch it unless it’s been heated
  • How much cow’s milk should I be giving?
    Many sources suggest 2-3 cups (400-600ml) a day. You shouldn’t give more than that for two main reasons:

  • Milk can interfere with iron absorption
  • Your baby can fill up on milk and that will reduce appetite for solid food, a source of vitamins and iron.
  • So far I’ve been answering my own questions. Here’s your chance – let me know what you would like to know, leave a comment.