How to Switch a Baby From Formula to Milk

If your baby is taking formula and nearing 12 months of age, it will soon be time to transition him to drinking milk. It may take some time and patience to wean formula, but the calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin D in milk will help your child continue to grow strong. There are several steps you can take to promote successful weaning. It is important not to feed the baby cow's milk before one year of age because before this, her gastrointestinal tract can not yet digest its proteins.

A mother watches her baby drink from a bottle. Credit: m-imagephotography/iStock/Getty Images

Replacing Formula with Milk

Step 1

Decide which type of milk to provide before starting the transition. Whole cow's milk fortified with vitamin D should be given until at least two years of age unless your child is a vegan. Vegans may prefer to substitute soy or rice milk for cow's milk.

Soy milk can be given to children at one year of age, however, different brands contain different amounts of nutrients. Make certain the milk is fortified with vitamins A and D as well as calcium. Compare brands to find one with a higher protein content. Rice milk contains inadequate protein, calcium and B vitamins, and thus is not recommended for children.

Step 2

Introduce milk slowly after your baby's first birthday in order to ensure acceptance and to monitor for intolerance or allergy. Begin by replacing 8 oz., or one cup of formula with whole milk each day in a sippy cup or bottle. If you notice blood in his stool, diarrhea, vomiting, eczema, hives, a rash around the mouth or chin, runny nose, cough, wheezing, or breathing difficulties, call your doctor.

These symptoms may indicate that your toddler's system is not yet developed enough for milk. Once your toddler is taking at least 8 oz. of milk daily without any signs of allergy, try increasing the amount of milk. Gradually add more milk and decrease the amount of formula given daily by the same amount. Toddlers between ages one and two should take about 20 to 24 oz. of milk daily.

Step 3

Mix 2 oz. with 6 oz. of formula to start if your baby refuses milk at first. Gradually increase the ratio of milk to formula by adding 2 oz. of milk and decreasing by an equivalent amount of formula daily. If you have tried this and he still refuses, try giving just a tbsp. of milk occasionally. Eventually your child may start asking for the milk.

Try putting some milk in cereal or mashed potatoes. You can also try feeding the baby yogurt, which may be better accepted. Soups can be made with milk as well. Adding sugary flavoring powders or syrups is not recommended, as your child may never adjust to the flavor of plain milk once these have been introduced.

Step 4

Ask your doctor before changing to reduced fat milk. While whole milk is generally recommended for children, you may be able switch to reduced fat or nonfat milk after age two if your child is at risk for obesity and is growing normally.

Things You'll Need

  • Whole milk or soy milk

  • Tablespoon

  • Sippy cup, preferably with handles

  • Bottle


If your baby was taking soy formula, check with your doctor prior to trying cow's milk. Even if your baby was drinking cow's milk-based formula, she may still have difficulty tolerating cow's milk. Introduce formula slowly and contact your pediatrician or family physician if you suspect milk allergy or intolerance.

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