How and When To Introduce Cow’s Milk

Starting solids is such an exciting time, and you might be wondering when is a good time to introduce cow’s milk? It’s important to note that your baby is getting all the essential nutrients that they need from either breastmilk or formula, and it is recommended that they continue to drink breastmilk or formula up to 12 months (or beyond if breastfeeding). So it is not necessary to introduce cow’s milk, but some parents find it helpful to introduce cow’s milk if they are wanting to wean some breastfeeds or formula. This can take place anywhere between 9-12 months of age.

Experts recommend that you use 3.25% homogenized milk for your child up until the age of 2. After 2 you can have a discussion with your health care provider if you want to switch to 1 or 2% milk. Homogenized milk is higher in fat and calories and so it is the optimal choice for your baby. 

How to introduce cow’s milk to a breastfed child 

A gradual transition is usually the best way to offer cow’s milk. You can use a straw or open cup and offer a mixture of ¾ breastmilk and ¼ cow’s milk. As your child starts to tolerate that, you can then increase the cow’s milk to ½ cow’s milk and ½ breastmilk, and then ¾ cow’s milk and ¼ breastmilk, and then finally only cow’s milk. Try to introduce this milk with meals or snacks. 

How to introduce cow’s milk to a formula-fed child

A gradual transition is typically best, and with the same ratio as above (starting with ¾ formula and ¼ homo milk). It usually works best to start when your baby is tolerating solid foods well. This can be a great time to begin weaning from a bottle. When your child wakes up from a nap, instead of feeding them a bottle, put them in their highchair with a snack and an open or straw cup of milk. Your child will start to develop a taste for cow’s milk in a cup, and then you can start dropping bottles.

When your child is between 12-24 months of age it is recommended that they only consume 500mls of cow’s milk in a day, and no more than 750 mls. Too much cow’s milk can contribute to an iron deficiency, and it can also discourage eating solid foods because their tummy is so full from the milk. 

When can I introduce a milk alternative?

Milk Alternatives are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons, whether it’s a dairy allergy or a lifestyle change. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that the focus is on providing healthy, nutritious choices for our children. Not all milk alternatives are fortified, meaning that they do not have all of the proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that are needed in your child’s diet. Please check with your healthcare provider or dietician to ensure that your child is getting all the nutrients that they need before switching to a milk alternative. 

Are you interested in learning more about introducing milk or solids to your child? Contact your local Mama Coach and take a Starting Solids Seminar. It’s a great way to learn all about the different ways to start solids, and allergens, and introduce milk and water. 

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