For many parents, transitioning from breast milk or formula to milk for your baby comes with a range of questions and emotions. When’s the right time? What’s the best approach? How might the change affect your relationship with your child?
Although there are no right or wrong answers, there are several guidelines that can help you and your baby make the change successfully. We’ll look at when and how to transition—and what the process means for you.
When to Introduce Milk to Your Baby
As with most things related to parenting, there are no strict rules for when to transition your baby to milk. As long as your baby is past his or her first birthday, you can decide what feels like the right time, and you can also takes cues from your baby. Prior to 12 months, breast milk or formula provides all the nutrition your baby needs. After 12 months, it is important to start focusing on providing your child a balanced diet. Consider these cues from your baby: Is my child eating 3 meals per day? Are they interested in solid foods at mealtimes? Can they successfully drink from an open cup or a sippy cup?
The decision to transition to milk might also be influenced by external factors, such as returning to work. Remember that at the beginning, transitioning your baby from breast milk or formula to milk doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Depending on your schedule, you can still nurse or feed your baby formula before bedtime while weaning them during the day.
How to Start Transitioning from Breast Milk or Formula to Milk
Many babies who are over a year old will naturally transition themselves. If your child receives the majority of their nutrition from solids and is adept at drinking from a cup, they’re probably ready to make the change.
No matter when you begin the process of transitioning from breast milk or formula to milk, your child will most likely let you know what they think of it. Some babies will seem eager to start drinking milk, while others might be resistant. Be patient and responsive to your child’s needs. For a slow transition, try mixing 1 oz of whole milk into a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula and continue to increase the milk to breast milk or formula ratio over a gradual period (a week or so) until your baby consumes 100% milk.
During the time you’d normally be feeding with breast milk or formula, focus on feeding solid meals and make mealtime interactive. Offer a variety of food, from fruit to vegetables to protein, and encourage your child to try different things. It’s also time to transition away from the rocking chair or glider during feedings. Pull the highchair to the table to get them used to meals with the rest of the family.
You and your little one’s transition from breast milk or formula to milk and solids can be seamless when you stay attentive to their needs and make any changes gradually. Look for cues during mealtime and enjoy your new food adventure with your baby.