Baby Hints & Tips

When and How to Introduce Cow’s Milk to a Baby

When do you introduce cow’s milk to a baby? Here’s the facts and some advice from our Baby Hints & Tips community on how they made the switch!

The official recommendation is that from 12 months of age, pasteurised full-cream milk can be offered as a drink to your baby. Some families may find this change a challenging time, as some toddlers can be resistant to change.

Some parents may decide to do a complete switch from formula to fresh milk as soon as there little one turns one year of age. Obviously there is savings to be made from moving away from formula however this means the additional nutrients must be found in foods.

Other parents may take a more gradual approach, splitting between milk and formula or breast.  This approach may prove better especially if your child is resistant to change.

Remember, fresh milk has a different texture, taste and even temperature to formula, so it’s no wonder some children are objecting to this switch!

The balance between milk and formula 

According to the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital there are also some important facts parents need to know when you introduce cows milk to baby:

‘As babies get older, one very important thing to consider is the balance between milk and solid foods and exactly how much and what milk they should be drinking.

Although cow’s milk is a nutritious drink for children, many parents might not be aware that drinking too much cow’s milk, which is very low in iron, can actually be damaging to their child’s health. After 12 months of age, cow’s milk should be limited to around 500ml per day.’

Why not to introduce cow’s milk before 12 months of age 

If you’re wondering why the recommendation for cows milk is after 12 months here’s the reasons why:

  • Baby’s body can’t digest the proteins in cow’s milk; drinking it too soon may even put him at risk of developing an allergy to it.
  • Cow’s milk doesn’t have all the nutrients (such as vitamin E and zinc) a baby needs to grow and develop during his first year.
  • Cow’s milk has more sodium, potassium and chloride than a baby can process which can be a challenge for their kidneys
  • Baby could end up with an iron deficiency: Babies under 12 months aren’t able to fully absorb the iron in cow’s milk.

Community Question: How do you introduce cows milk? What age? How did you do it? Part transition? Bottle or sippy cup? Any issues? Tips welcome!

Here’s the responses from our community on how to introduce cows milk to baby:

  • My son was formal fed & at around 1 year old started to give him cow’s milk in the same bottle he was used to drinking the formula in. He didn’t seem to notice the change at all. After a few weeks of doing formula & cow’s milk the child health nurse said I should only be doing one or the other not both so I stopped formula all together.  After another month people were shocked I hadn’t watered the milk down first. I’d never heard or thought about it but my bub coped fine luckily.  Julie
  • I gave her a couple of small drinks of cold cow’s milk during the day to get her used to the taste for a week after her 1st birthday, then changed over completely when formula tin was empty!! No turning back. Old Irish wives’ tale is to water it down 2/3 milk 1/3 water and that takes out the “sicky” part if bubs is sick! I can verify this works! Sherrie
  • My LOs were/are all exclusively breastfeed and have never drunk cow’s milk. My first weaned off  b/f at 13 months, my second at 16 months and I am still going with my third at 22 months. From 6 months old, they had water from a sippy cup + breast milk (from me). Once they weaned themselves, they went to just water, never taken milk from a cup or bottle. They get more than enough diary/calcium intake from other sources – cheese, yoghurt, custard and milk on cereal/in cooking. They are 3 gorgeous and healthy kids. Amelia
  • We went to goats’ milk as it is closer to our own milk. My bub reacted to the a1 protein in cow’s milk. She was breastfed until 21 months but started to have some milk in a cup from around 15 months. Misty

  • We did it after her first birthday. I did it slowly, 1/4 cows with 3/4 formula then after a few days 1/2, 1/2 extra. Probably over a 2 week period. She handled it really well. Might not have needed it but I did it just in case. Amanda
  • With my first child I started 3 days after her 1st birthday,  I mixed half and half formula and cow’s milk. The formula ran out after 4 days so straight to cows from there – no issues at all she loved it. She was taking it from bottle for about two months then transitioned to just a cup. Petta
  • My exclusively breastfed daughter has never taken a bottle of EBM at all. So when I returned to work part-time, she was 11 months, she just went all day happily without feed. Her day care mum always offers her cow’s milk in a sippy cup (didn’t bother with bottle so late in the game), she has some mouthfuls some days, none others. She loves her yoghurt and has milk on her cereal. Will keep offering milk, she’s happy and I am sure will take it if hungry/want it. Will keep breastfeeding until she doesn’t want it anymore, not my original plan but it’s what is best for her. Katie
  • At 12 months I gave a small sippy cup full of 1/2 water and 1/2 milk and then each week gradually used less water until no water was used… no problems. If your toddler gets the runs off it, try the lactose free milk or soymilk. Mitty
  • With my formula fed daughter I swapped completely to cow’s milk at 12 months as I didn’t realise I should gradually change. She had no problems with the transition. I continued with a bottle as it was easy to heat, it was a comfort thing for her & she was using a cup for other drinks. No issues at all! Having said that, it took ages for her to accept a cold drink of milk & to get rid of her heated bottle at night. In the end we just gave her no other option but a cold drink & a cup & she accepted it after a bit of protesting. Kathleen
  • Great question! I am also wondering on how to introduce cows milk. My son is 9 months & breastfed but I was thinking of weaning him off breastmilk around 12-15 months & was wondering what do when the time comes. I’ve seen ads on tv for toddler milk – do people still give their bubs this as well as cow’s milk? Shianne
  • My DS was 13 months. I just replaced formula bottles with cow’s milk and he was fine. I know people suggest you should introduce slowly but I had been putting cow’s milk on his weetbix for his breakfast for few months before, and in his mashed potatoes, so knew he was fine with milk. Laura
  • My eldest started having small amounts in a sippy cup whilst on formula then around 10 months I just replaced formula totally. She was on a very good healthy diet though. My other child was allergic to dairy so went on to soy, no problems with either. Lisa
  • Leading up to my DDs 1st birthday, she was having 1 breastfeed a day and I would offer her a small amount of straight cow’s milk in her straw cup around lunch time. The week she turned 1 I just didn’t offer her the boob one night and she didn’t even seem to notice! She now has straight cow’s milk in a bottle or straw cup once or twice a day. Hoping to get rid of the bottle within the next couple of weeks! Michele
  • Mine was formula since birth, he never attached. I ended up using goats cause of reflux. At 12 months we switched to full cream milk in a sippy cup. Kathryn
  • Once they hit a year old and the last tin of formula has run out we switch to cow’s milk. We also remove dummies and bottles at 1 and use a sippy cup and then a normal cup once they’re ready for it. Peta

Language Development Milestones

  • When it come to introduce cow’s milk, we just went straight to cow’s milk no messing about if your little one doesn’t take it then, maybe dilute or add formula but just try and see.  Allison
  • When my kids turned one I just swapped them straight over to full cream milk, had no problems.  Stephanie
  •  We just straight swapped. No issues.  Jessica
  • We went onto Toddler formula because my son is a poor eater. He’s 2 years old now, and we want to change over to full cream milk. When we offered it to him straight, he rejected it, so we are going to mix it with formula over a period of time. Gradually increasing the amount of milk and decreasing the formula. He has been on the Nan HA Gold.  All the “Golds” have a strong flavour because they contain Omega 3 oils. It’s not as easy to change over to something as (relatively) bland as cow’s milk. We’re also concerned that he might have tummy trouble if we change over in one go.  Beth
  • We see a nutritionist due to cow’s milk protein allergy and they said a 1 year old should be having no more than 600ml of milk (cow’s milk formula soy etc) a day plus other sources of dairy hope this helps.  Anita
  •  Straight milk is fine. We did that and never had a problem. We introduced once a day at first.  Jayme-Lee

 If you’ve finally sorted the whole ‘introduce cows milk’ to baby thing started… what’s next? Be warned, you’re cruising fast towards the terrible twos! Don’t forget to check the baby checklist to make sure you’re up to date on other important milestones. 

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