3 Tips for Transitioning from Breast Milk to Whole Milk

If your little one is old enough to begin transitioning to whole milk, here are some tips that can help ease the change for you both as you integrate this new milk into his or her diet.

How to Start Transitioning from Breast Milk to Whole Milk

No matter what your breastfeeding journey looks like, the decision to begin introducing other milks is solely yours and your baby’s. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 12 months should not yet be introduced to other (non-human) milks, though you can begin introducing whole milk to your little one between the ages of 12 – 24 months and should then switch to non-fat (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk once they are age two years and older. This is mainly because your baby can’t digest the proteins or absorb all the components found in cow’s milk yet – their bodies are simply not ready yet! Cow’s milk also doesn’t have all the nutrients that your breast milk does, which is why it’s important to ensure your baby isn’t missing out on these ultra-essential vitamins and minerals – especially given all the important growing and developing they’ll do in their first year!

If your little one is old enough to begin transitioning from breast milk to whole milk and you’re ready to start integrating it into their diet, we have a few tips that may help make the switch easier for you both!

  1. Introduce Whole Milk Gradually.
    Start by mixing a little whole milk into your breast milk, allowing your little one to become used to it, and then gradually increasing the amount of whole milk blended into your breast milk after a few days. Repeat this process for as long as it takes – eventually, they’ll be fully transitioned onto whole milk in a way that allowed their body and their taste buds to get accustomed to the change (rather than making a “cold turkey” switch, which can be jarring.)
  2. Include it in Their Foods.
    Try sneaking small volumes of whole milk into your little one’s foods – use it to mix their oatmeal or cereal, in homemade baby-led weaning favorites like mini muffins or healthy “cookies”, or stirred into pureed fruits. This can also help their body become accustomed to whole milk, all while enjoying their go-to favorites.
  3. Offer Whole Milk as a Drink During Mealtimes.
    It’s important to remember that overall milk consumption will go down around this time, as your little one transitions from milk as a meal on its own to milk as a drink alongside a diet of mostly solid foods. As your baby joins you in their high chair for mealtimes, have a sippy cup with whole milk ready for them as they become thirsty. Watch their feeding cues and offer sips of whole milk frequently to your little one throughout mealtime – just don’t force it, as that can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for you and your baby. Eventually and with consistency, he or she will pick up on these patterns as their eating and drinking habits shift!

Your baby may initially balk at transitioning from breast milk to whole milk, but be sure to stay patient – eventually he or she will make the switch! Though it may be tempting to make whole milk more appealing by adding flavored syrups or powders, these usually contain unnecessary added sugars and additives and may make it even more difficult for your little one to eventually take plain, regular milk. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for other drinks to avoid as your child continues to grow – such as flavored and/or plant-based milks, juice, transitional formulas, sodas, and more. Remember, these early food and drink habits can help inform a lifetime of nutritional decision-making and encourage healthy choices from a very young age. You’ve already jump-started your little one’s health and wellness by committing to feeding them with breast milk for as long as you have – and health-focused nutritional choices can and should still be made as he or she continues transitioning from breast milk to whole milk and other solid foods!

No matter what your breast milk feeding journey looks like, every drop counts and has provided significant benefits to your baby during his or her first year (and beyond). That’s something you should very proud of, mama – and remember, this transition is just another major step and milestone for your growing little one. You’ve got this!

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