Making the Transition from Breast Milk or Formula to Cow’s Milk Easier: What Worked for Me

transition from breast to cow milk
Image via Mindi Stavish

As Ryker approaches a year, I have started to think about all the milestones that occur around then. Ready or not (I'm so not!), his first birthday will be here soon. One of the milestones is the transition from breast milk to cow's milk for daycare. Much like with my first two sons, I plan to stop pumping around his first birthday and exclusively breastfeed on the weekends and evenings. Neither one of my first two boys had a difficult time with the switch, but every baby is different. 

I have heard horror stories from moms who had a hard time transitioning their baby to cow's milk. Out of curiosity, I asked my friends on Facebook to share with me their experiences with the switch. I loved the wide range of answers I received.  

{ MORE: Interesting and Effective Breast Milk Benefits—Aside From Lunch! }

  • I just introduced a small amount (1 ounce) to “play with”—try out in a sippy cup. Both boys did it really well, straight from the fridge.
  • My oldest would drink ANYTHING no matter the temperature. My twins have to have their milk perfectly heated to a precise temperature before they'll drink it.
  • You name it, I did it. I warmed up cow's milk to be more like breast milk.  I cooled off breast milk to be more like cow's milk. I gradually mixed the two to avoid upset stomachs. I put breast milk in a sippy cup. I put cow's milk in bottles. With three different boys, I needed different strategies.
  • My youngest daughter was very particular! We gradually mixed cow's milk with formula in the bottle until it was almost all cow's milk. It also had to be really warm. She absolutely refused it from a sippy cup no matter the temperature, even though she would drink [other things] from the sippy just fine. The pediatrician recommended to offer her nothing but cow's milk from the sippy cup. He advised that after a couple of days, she would be thirsty enough and give in. Well that worked! She still didn't really like it but would tolerate it. We would make sure she drank a cup of milk before offering anything else each day. Now she loves milk … go figure. 
  • We used a soft-topped sippy cup well before we tried to transition to get my son use to a cup. When we were ready, we started mixing in milk with his formula. He switched easily, but we were going from soy to soy, so maybe that made it easier on him. We used lukewarm water with formula and never really heated once he quit nursing. He never minded milk from the fridge, until he was almost two and learned to say things were cold or hot. So now he still randomly says it's “too cooold”, but we mostly just ignore him.
  • We went straight to cold from the fridge cow's milk out of a straw sippy cup. I heated the milk for her night time bottle until after her ear tubes went in, because I didn't want to take away that comfort from her. After that she could have cold milk from a straw cup if she wanted it before bed. We also made a cold turkey switch from formula to cow's milk.
  • We went straight to cold from the fridge cow's milk out of a straw sippy cup (she always did much better with those than the others). I heated the milk for her nighttime bottle until after her ear tubes went in because I didn't want to take away that comfort from her. After that, she could have cold milk from a straw cup if she wanted it before bed.
  • We did incremental shift. 75/25 breast/cow milk for a few days then 50/50 then 25/75. We always warmed them up, but she probably would have been fine without it. 

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As you can see, many different options can work to ease the transition. How do you plan on making the transition to cow's milk at one year?  

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Making the Transition from Breast Milk or Formula to Cow’s Milk Easier: What Worked for Me

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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2 comments

  1. slgill says:

    We started when my daughter was 11 months. I would mix 1 oz of WCM to 5 oz of formula. Each week I would go up an oz with WCM milk until it was half and half. We did a slow wean. My daughter still had 2 bottles (morning and evening) of formula each day until she was 14 months. Lol… My daughter is the same… She has to have her WCM milk warm and in a bottle otherwise she won’t drink it. She is now 15 months and we have weaned off bottles so she only takes a few sips of WCM. I am not so sure that she really likes it. Per my pediatrician’s recommendation, I just up her calcium/diary intake. My daughter is pretty particular. She won’t even drink milk out of a sippy warm or cold.

  2. molly says:

    With my two year old we started with an ounce of milk to 6 ounces of formula and every three days to a week I upped a half ounce till it was just all milk

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