It is so important, however, not to make the swap too early. Baby formula is specifically designed to meet little ones’ nutritional needs, containing the essential vitamins, minerals and fats babies need to grow and thrive during their first 12 months. While regular cow’s milk has plenty of its own nutritional benefits (which we’ll get to later!), it lacks many of the essential nutrients babies under 12 months need.
In addition, cow’s milk contains high amounts of protein and other minerals, which can cause issues with babies’ developing kidneys and digestive system if they start drinking it too early. Tots under 12 months also may have difficulty digesting and absorbing cow’s milk and may be more likely to develop anaemia, gastrointestinal distress, or certain deficiencies.
When to Change From Formula To Cow’s Milk
No doubt about it: formula and/or breastfeeding is the safe, healthy way to give babies under 12 months of age the nutrients they need for optimum development whilst taking care of their sensitive tums. But by 12 months, your little one should be getting most of their nutrition from solid food – this is when to change from formula to cow's milk.
However, introducing a cow’s milk formula at six months old may be a good starting point if you’re thinking of transitioning from formula to cow’s milk in the future. Bubs Organic Grass Fed Toddler Milk Stage 3 from Bubs’ Organic Cow’s Milk range, is the perfect place to start for parents looking to make this shift. You may also like to include a little cow’s milk in your baby’s diet in the form of cheese or yoghurt from six months.
For bubs one-year-old and older, cow’s milk offers many essential nutrients, such as protein, magnesium and vitamins A, D, B12 and riboflavin. It’s also an excellent source of calcium, which growing bodies need for strong bones, nerve and muscle health. It’s essential that you only give your child full-fat milk (no skim or reduced-fat milk) until they are at least two years of age, as the fat content is important for your little one’s brain development.
So now you know when and why a change to cow’s milk may be a good idea– but what about how to introduce cow's milk at 12 months?
How To Transition From Formula to Cow’s Milk
When making the move from formula to cow’s milk, you can either do this all at once or gradually introduce it by mixing it with formula. The method that works for you will depend entirely on your little one. Some bubs can make the switch straightaway – formula one day, milk the next – while others take time to adapt to the new addition to their diet.
If your little one isn’t too keen on a bottle or sippy cup of straight milk, here are a few tips on how to transition from formula to cow’s milk a little more slowly:
Tip 1: Start by adding a little cow’s milk to their cereal or pureed foods, so they get accustomed to the taste. Cow’s milk tastes very different to formula, and it may take some getting used to.
Tip 2: Introduce cow’s milk slowly by mixing a little into their regular formula, then gradually increasing the milk and decreasing the formula amount every few days as they adjust to the new flavour. Check out the handy formula to milk transition chart below for quantities.
Tip 3: If your baby is used to drinking warm formula, heat the cow’s milk before serving (as with formula, never use a microwave to heat the milk).
Tip 4: Try a sippy cup. Some little ones may be confused that the contents of their regular bottle look the same but taste quite different, so offering them a new vessel from which to drink can help with the transition. One year of age is the right time to transition away from bottles, so it can be a good way to roll two changes into one.
Formula To Milk Transition Chart
Need a simple guide on how to introduce cow's milk at 12 months? This easy-to-follow formula to milk transition chart shows you just how to make the switch to cow’s milk for your little one over one week. For the first three days, fill their bottle with 75% of their usual formula amount and make up the remaining 25% with full-fat cow’s milk. On days four and five, make the split 50-50 – half formula, half cow’s milk. On days six and seven, make a mix of 25% formula and 75% cow’s milk; and on day eight, you can give them a full serving of cow’s milk without any formula.
Switching From Formula To Milk: Side Effects
When switching from formula to milk, side effects most commonly reported are changes in your baby’s stools. They may have looser or harder stools, or have trouble passing stools. There could also be a change in colour or texture. All of this is normal, but if you’re worried, speak to your healthcare professional.
When little ones are transitioning from formula to cow’s milk, there can sometimes be side effects that indicate allergy or intolerance – though if you don’t have a family history of allergies and your bub’s been happily eating dairy in the form of yoghurt, cheese or cow’s milk formula, it’s less likely you’ll see any allergy symptoms with the introduction of milk.
Keep a lookout for things like irritability, excess gas, diarrhoea, vomiting and skin rashes, which may indicate the development of lactose sensitivity. If your little one has a sensitivity to lactose, Goat Milk Formula might be a solution – speak to your paediatrician if you notice these symptoms or have any concerns.
Benefits Of Cow’s Milk For Toddlers
As mentioned, there are several nutritional benefits to including cow’s milk in your toddler’s diet. Milk (along with other dairy products, like cheese and yoghurt) is an important source of calcium and protein for toddlers, along with being one of the few food sources of vitamin D, plus it contains magnesium, and vitamins A, B12 and B2 (riboflavin).
But there can be too much of a good thing – experts advise toddlers over 12 months to drink no more than 500ml (2 cups) of cow’s milk in 24 hours.
So there you have it – when, why and how to transition from formula to cow’s milk. And if your toddler refuses to drink cow’s milk? Don’t worry. Try a toddler drink, such as the Bubs Organic Cow’s Milk Formula Range, make sure you’re giving them plenty of other dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt to maintain their calcium intake, and continue to offer milk from time to time in case they change their mind. Little ones often do!