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When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula [Explained!]

When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula [Explained!]

As your baby continues to grow and evolve, so must their milk choice. You’ll eventually have to switch them from breast milk or baby formula to regular milk and solid foods for them to continue to grow.

In this guide, I’ll explain how and when you should transition your baby to cow’s milk and solid food, why you should do it, and other related questions you might have to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Depending on your baby’s needs and allergies, you’ll also want to consider goat milk formula, hypoallergenic baby formula, dairy-free formula, soy formula, or lactose-free formula if cow’s milk isn’t suitable.

When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula and Switch to Cow’s Milk?

When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula and Switch to Cow’s Milk?

When babies are old enough, they must transition from drinking formula and switch to cow’s milk. This period is usually at 12 months or older, but never before.

Even the best baby formulas won’t work after children grow past the recommended ages. Transitioning your baby slowly to milk is a better way to continue stimulating their physical and mental development.

How Long Do Babies Drink Formula or Breast Milk?

Baby formula or breast milk is usually suitable from birth up to the 12-month mark or slightly after that. This depends on how mature your baby’s digestive system is.

Many babies still drink formula or breast milk past one year but should be weaned off of it as their digestive systems mature. Not doing so might affect their appetite for regular food.

Babies must stick to formula or breast milk for the first year because they need more nutrients at that age, and their digestive systems aren’t developed enough to process cow’s milk.

Do Babies Need Formula After 12 Months?

After 12 months, your child (now a toddler) will need a different set of proteins and nutrients than the ones provided by their old formula. Stage 3 formulas provide a better mix for toddlers entering this phase of their life.

The Stage 3 formula is meant to help your child transition from formula to cow’s milk and solid food, especially if your toddler is picky with the food they eat.

While your child doesn’t absolutely need to have formula after 12 months, it can help them transition to regular cow’s milk and make eating solid food easier and more pleasant.

When Should a Baby Stop Drinking from a Bottle?

By the time your baby is 18 months old, you should stop using bottles to feed them. While baby bottles are helpful when they’re still babies, it isn’t recommended after 18 months. 

Excessive and prolonged exposure of milk to your baby’s teeth can increase the risk of cavities. The sugars found in breast milk and formula can lead to tooth decay if they remain in contact with your child’s teeth for extended periods of time.

Bottles worsen this effect by increasing milk contact with the teeth. Your child’s teeth won’t be able to develop correctly, which will make the full-time switch to solid foods quite difficult.

NOTE: Regardless of bottle usage, you should check and brush your baby’s teeth regularly. Consult a pediatrician if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

When Do Toddlers Stop Drinking Formula?

Toddlers are encouraged to transition from formula to milk at 12 months old to prepare them for solid food and prevent cavities from ruining their developing teeth.

This must be a smooth transition because some toddlers might develop digestive problems like diarrhea if you switch from formula to regular cow milk cold turkey. 

They may also find the experience unpleasant at first.

Part of this process is weaning the baby off of their milk formula, even if you’re switching or making your own formula. 

Weaning Your Baby Off Formula

Weaning Your Baby Off Formula

If you’ve transitioned your baby from breast milk to formula, you’ll know that weaning is a crucial part of the milk transition process. Switching too fast may disturb your baby’s digestive system.

There are a few techniques and tips that you can use to make weaning more effective and switch your baby off of formula faster and more comfortably.

Introduce New and Diverse Flavors

The first step in weaning your baby off of formula is getting your baby used to tasting new foods other than the formula. These foods can be solids, liquids, or mash like baby food.

Full-fat, pasteurized dairy products are good foods to start with because they’re rich in nutrients and similar enough in taste to milk formula to not shock your baby.

Unsweetened yogurt is also a good choice because it contains dairy and a lot of nutrients while not having a lot of sugar. Excess sugars can damage your baby’s teeth by causing cavities.

Let Your Toddler Practice Coordination

Part of getting your toddler used to eating more solid food is teaching them how to eat by themselves. Practicing hand-eye coordination plays a crucial part in this as they learn to pick food up and put it in their mouths.

As they start getting used to eating solids, give them a spoon and let them practice using it independently. This helps your baby practice their motor skills and coordination.

Another important motor skill they can learn is picking up and drinking from a cup instead of using feeding bottles. This also reduces the chances of them getting any cavities.

Slowly Transition to Using a Cup

Using a cup is one of the best ways to start weaning a baby because it helps makes them independent from the bottle and eager to try new food or drinks.

Start by placing the baby formula in the cup and teaching them how to use it. Using a baby-friendly sippy cup can help avoid spills and regulate the liquid flow while they’re getting the hang of it.

As your child gets used to the cup, switch out one bottle feeding session more than the previous day to help them get used to it. They’ll eventually become comfortable and well-versed in using cups.

Finally, if you want to transition them from sippy cups to regular cups, do the same switching method. However, be prepared to clean up more messes and spills!

What Kinds of Milk Is Best for Toddlers?

The best milk to use for one-year-olds is full-fat milk, not reduced-fat or nonfat milk. Your toddler will need the fat in the milk to achieve proper growth and development at this point.

Depending on your child’s development stage, the switching process should be done gradually. You must also check with your child’s pediatrician for recommendations if they show signs of allergies.

Fortified and unsweetened soy milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk for lactose-intolerant toddlers. Unlike other plant-based substitutes, it has all the nutrients and fats they need.

What Drinks Are Appropriate After Weaning a Baby Off Formula?

There are a few drinks that babies should and shouldn’t drink when weaning them off formula. Here are a few notable ones:

Water

Babies under six months old shouldn’t drink water, especially if they haven’t started eating solid food. 

Don’t forget to boil and cool down any water you use to prepare baby formula. This removes unwanted particles in the water and kills off germs and bacteria.

Even if your baby is older than six months and can drink some water with solid food, keep boiling and cooling down any water you give them.

Goat’s and Sheep’s Milk

Similar to cow’s milk, you shouldn’t be giving your baby any milk like this until they hit the one-year mark. They won’t be able to digest it properly, which could upset their stomach.

Once they do get to that age, you should ensure that the goat’s or sheep’s milk they drink is pasteurized, as this means that unwanted germs and microbes have been eliminated.

Smoothies and Fruit Juice

While smoothies and fruit juice aren’t necessary for a baby’s growth, especially when they’re less than 12 months old, they’re perfectly safe, provided these drinks are given in the correct amounts.

Dilute them in a 1:10 parts ratio, meaning that every part of juice or smoothie is diluted in 10 parts of water. This is because most smoothies and juices contain lots of sugar.

Hot Drinks

Drinks like hot tea or coffee should never be given to babies. They are usually higher in sugar or contain ingredients unsuitable for babies, like caffeine in coffee.

Giving babies hot drinks might also injure their mouths as they don’t yet know how to cool the drink off before ingesting it the way adults do. A burnt tongue isn’t a good experience for anyone, let alone a baby.

How to Gradually Transition from Formula to Milk

How to Gradually Transition from Formula to Milk

The process of transitioning a baby from formula to milk can either be done almost instantly or slowly. This will depend entirely on your child’s needs, preferences, and digestive system.

The entire process should be done either after 12 months, at 18 months, or before 24 months for your baby’s best health.

Weaning Off Formula Into Cow’s Milk

The weaning process naturally starts with 100 percent formula and 0 percent milk. The first transition should be to a 25 percent milk and 75 percent formula mixture.

Gradually increase the percentage of milk while decreasing the formula by the same amount. The following mixture should be 50-50, then 75-25, and then all cow’s milk.

Observe the Toddler’s Reactions

The weaning process is done so you can observe your baby’s reactions each time you change the mixture of formula to milk.

Depending on how fussy or restless your baby is before, during, or after feeding, you should slow down or speed up the transitioning process.

Consult Your Pediatrician

Throughout the whole weaning process, you should consult with your baby’s pediatrician to ensure they get the proper nutrition at each step.

When babies are incredibly picky when it comes to transitioning to milk from formula, your doctor can recommend alternatives or suggest ways to help the process become smoother.

Your pediatrician will also be able to tell if there’s something wrong with your child or if it’s normal for them to have that reaction to a given stimulus. There’s no need to worry or overthink when a doctor is present.

Frequently Asked Questions

After learning more about when to stop giving your baby formula and how to wean them off of it, you might have more questions about formulas, cow’s milk, and other alternatives.

I’ve answered the most commonly asked questions about them below.

Can a 2-Year-Old Still Drink Formula?

While there’s nothing strictly wrong with a 2-year-old drinking formula, you should prioritize weaning them off of it because it might cause health problems down the line.

If they’re taking formula alongside solid food and cow’s milk, they might start gaining a lot of weight due to the high amount of calories in the formula.

They don’t need these extra calories because they already get them from the solid food and regular milk they drink.

Can I Continue Formula After My Baby Turns 1?

After your baby turns one, it’s recommended to start transitioning them to regular cow’s milk. However, if your baby has health problems, your pediatrician might recommend otherwise.

Some babies might take longer than one year, with some cases taking up to 2 years to fully transition to cow’s milk. This will depend on your child’s health and needs.

If you continue using formula after they turn one, you should consider moving to a toddler-specific formula with more appropriate nutrients for your child’s age.

Is It Okay to Wean My Baby Off Formula at 9-Months-Old?

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t wean your baby off formula at nine months old because their digestive systems aren’t developed enough to handle regular cow’s milk.

Giving a baby cow’s milk too early could upset their stomach, leading to diarrhea, indigestion, or other intestinal issues.

You should only start weaning your baby at 12 months because their digestive system can take in the fats and nutrients from full-fat cow’s milk.

How Do I Feed My Baby if I Don’t Have Formula or Breast Milk?

If you’re in the unfortunate situation of not having any formula or breast milk for your infant on hand, you can use cow’s milk for no more than a week and not more than 24 ounces per day.

Since cow’s milk lacks a lot of iron compared to most baby formulas, you should also give your baby iron supplements so that they still get the right amount of nutrients.

Conclusion

Whether you’re using Similac or Enfamil, or any other baby formula, your baby will have to transition from it to regular milk after they turn one.

Remember to wean them off of formula and adjust the transition speed depending on how fussy your baby is and based on the advice from your baby’s pediatrician.

Sky Bustillo
Sky Bustillo

Hi, I’m Sky!
As a Filipina in her mid-20s, a sister to young ones, and a tita to my nieces and nephews, I somehow share the same sentiment as other parents. I have a growing aspiration of becoming a mom someday!
But there also comes a worry that you won’t be able to give the best to your children, especially with the food they eat, the products they use, and the new habits and hobbies we introduce to them.
Your kid’s safety and welfare are your top priority, that’s why I always make it to a point to learn from the stories and experiences of other moms.
It’s a delight to share what I learned and know to help the moms close to my heart, and this time, I’m writing to relay advice to you from the insights of other moms and my experience around kids, too.
I’d love to be a part of your journey, and I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful for you and your young one!