Switching from Breast Milk or Formula to Cow’s Milk
The best source of nutrition for a baby is breast milk. Every group examining infant feeding has come to this same conclusion. It should not be a surprise. Breast milk, after all, is made to feed babies. A baby does not need any other food source but breast milk for the first six months of life. Women are also encouraged to breast feed longer than that for at least some of the feedings.
Eventually, you may want your baby to drink cow's milk for a number of reasons. Cow's milk is considerably cheaper than formula and is readily available.
Cow's milk differs from human milk in a number of ways, all significant. It has more protein, too much for a baby. It also has too much salt. The protein in cow's milk is not well-absorbed by babies, and it can cause small amounts of bleeding in the intestinal tract. In addition, there is no iron in cow's milk. The combination of losing blood and not getting any iron can lead to anemia, or low red blood counts, in babies. Breast milk also has more fat and cholesterol, which are actually needed by the growing baby. Breast milk has antibodies and other non-nutritional benefits that go way beyond just food.
Infant formulas are better for babies than cow's milk, although not as good as breast milk. The formulas try and approximate human milk. If you are not breast feeding, you are giving the baby formula in a bottle.
Or you may be breast feeding and using supplementary formula.
Eventually, you may want your baby to drink cow's milk for a number of reasons. Cow's milk is considerably cheaper than formula and is readily available. It is still a good source of protein and the best source of calcium that anyone can get as they grow older.
Your baby has to be weaned from the breast, or from the bottle. An older child will not be breast feeding (in most cases) or bottle feeding. He or she has to learn how to drink from a cup. Most babies are ready to try a cup at about 6 months of age, but are not fully weaned until 9 to 18 months. This is a separate issue from switching to cow's milk. However, the two often overlap. Your baby will also most likely be eating solid food at this point and getting some nutrition from that. He or she will not need as much milk as previously.