If you’re wondering when baby can have milk—and which type is best when it’s time, and how to transition from formula or breastmilk—this post has the answers for you.
When can a baby have milk?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we wait to introduce cow’s milk until baby has turned one. This is because unlike the proteins in dairy like yogurt and cheese, the one’s in cow’s milk are harder to digest.
The good news? Milk becomes easier for babies to digest and tolerate as they get a little older and hit the one year mark. At that age, babies are also usually eating a range of solid food, so they are getting more nutrients than they were previously—which decreases the need for formula.
How to Introduce Cow’s Milk
Anytime after baby turns one, you can put a small amount of milk into a sippy cup or small open cup. It’s best to start with a small amount simply to avoid any potential waste.
Remember that this is a new food for baby and they may or may not like the taste. It can take some getting used to, just like any other food, and as long as baby is offered a range of dairy products throughout the day and week, they will likely meet their calcium needs.
(Not all kids like or drink milk and that’s totally fine!)
TIP: Here are my favorite sippy cups for toddlers, including easy-to-use transition cups.
How to Switch from Formula to Cow’s Milk
If transitioning from formula to cow’s milk at 12 months, use whole milk—one and two year olds need the high fat content to help with brain development—and start by replacing 1 ounce of prepared formula with milk at a time. This gives baby’s system and taste buds a chance to adapt.
TIP: Find my full Toddler Weaning guide here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, though with caveats. Nondairy milk should not be used as a substitute for formula or breastmilk, though it can safely be used in foods like oatmeal or baking.
Use a plain, unsweetened nondairy milk to avoid added sugars for baby if possible. And be aware of any potential allergies if using a nut milk.
Plain, unsweetened whole milk is best for 1 year olds, so plan to start to transition and offer it after baby’s first birthday.
Babies should be offered water at 6 months, or when they start solids. Water can help keep them hydrated and make food easier to eat, but it should not be given before 6 months since we don’t want it to take up space in their bellies needed for formula or breastmilk.
It’s best for any milk used to cook or make food be unsweetened nondairy milk to ensure it’s easy to digest. (Many people also use formula or breastmilk for making simple foods like baby oatmeal.)
Best Tips for Babies and Milk
- Wait until baby turns one to introduce cow’s milk.
- Use whole milk since 1 and 2 year olds need the fat content to help with proper brain development.
- If you need a nondairy milk, these plant milks have similar nutrition to cow’s milk.
- If baking or cooking with milk for babies between 6-12 months, use plain nondairy milk.
- If transitioning to formula, gradually replace prepared formula with cow’s milk.
- Aim to wean toddlers from bottles starting no later than 18 months with the goal to be done with bottles no later than 2.
- Review the recommendations on how much milk 1 year olds need.