Toddler in cow hat with sippy cup
Babies, Tips / How-Tos

Got Milk? Transitioning Baby From Breast Milk or Formula

For many parents, transitioning your baby from breast milk or formula 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 Transition Baby from Breast Milk or Formula

Many babies who are over a year old will naturally transition themselves.

How to Approach Weaning

Ideally, weaning is a gradual process—one that takes time, flexibility and patience. Take it day by day, eliminating one feeding session every week or so, or as long as you think your baby needs to adjust to the new routine. 

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.

Lara Field at Nurture Life

Lara Field

Lara has been working with Nurture Life since its inception, collaborating with the culinary team on the creation of all menus and recipes to ensure they are nutritionally appropriate and correctly proportioned for every age and stage of a child’s development and providing pediatric nutrition expertise to Nurture Life customers. Lara is the owner/founder of FEED—Forming Early Eating Decisions, a nutrition consulting practice specializing in pediatric nutrition and digestive diseases. Lara has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Lara received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Lara truly enjoys the process of eating (and feeding!), from procuring the ingredients at various grocery stores and farmers markets, to organizing her pantry/refrigerator at home to make it easy to select healthy options, to preparing balanced meals with her children. Whether it be a decadent treat to a hearty, home-cooked meal, there is no greater satisfaction for Lara than enjoying food with her family.