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When Should You Stop Using Baby Formula?

by Susan Revermann

While breast milk or formula provides your baby’s rapidly growing body with much-needed nutrients in the beginning of his life, his dietary needs change as he gets older and starts eating regular foods. To ensure that he gets everything his body needs, you should transition him to regular milk at the appropriate time.

Age

Once your baby reaches her first birthday, you can start giving her whole cow’s milk, as long as she also has a balanced diet. In addition to the milk, your 1-year-old needs foods from the same four basic nutrition groups as you do, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, grains, and meats or other sources of protein like fish, poultry and eggs, notes HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. You shouldn't give your baby cow's milk before her first birthday because infants younger than age 12 months can't digest cow’s milk as completely or easily as they digest formula. Also, cow’s milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can affect an infant's kidneys and cause illness. At 1-year-old, you toddler needs about 1,000 calories a day for proper growth and energy.

Type of Milk

After you switch from formula, you should offer your baby whole vitamin D milk. Your 1-year-old typically needs the high fat content of whole milk to maintain normal weight gain. In certain instances, such as if your child is overweight or at risk for being overweight, your pediatrician might recommend 2 percent, or reduced fat, milk instead. If your child is lactose intolerant, you can offer fortified soy milk and milk alternatives. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about your choices. You should limit your child's milk intake to no more than 32 ounces per day after he is 1-year-old, according to HealthyChildren.org. Once your toddler reaches his second birthday, you can discuss switching to 2 percent milk with your pediatrician.

Introducing a Cup

To familiarize your child with drinking from a cup, start offering him a sippy cup of water or formula when he is about around 6-months-old. This is in addition to his regular bottle feedings. Even if most of the contents end up on the floor, your little one needs the practice. By the time he is 12-months-old, he should have the necessary motor skills to drink from the cup. He won’t be a pro, but he should get more in his mouth than on the floor.

Leaving the Bottle Behind

When your baby reaches her first birthday, you'll want her to give up drinking from a bottle all together. Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning a child from the bottle before she reaches 18-months-old, as prolonged bottle use can cause tooth decay and can encourage the child to drink more milk than necessary. Moreover, the longer your toddler drinks from a bottle, the harder it will be for her to break the habit. If your baby is still quite attached to her bottle or to her formula after her first birthday, you might have to try some transitioning techniques to get her to give it up. Try offering cow’s milk in a sippy cup throughout the day. When you do give her milk or formula in a bottle, start to gradually dilute it with water over the course of a week or two. At the end of this time, the bottle should be pure water. She will most likely lose interest in the water and opt for the cow’s milk in a cup.

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