How to Transition a Baby to Cow's Milk

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How to Transition a Baby to Cow's Milk
How to Transition a Baby to Cow's Milk

Up to one year of age, babies need to get nutrition from breast milk or formula – even after solid foods are introduced. After your baby's first birthday, you can transition to whole cow's milk. Start with Step 1 to make this change very light for your baby.


Method 1 of 2: Part 1: Introducing Cow's Milk

Transition to Baby to Cow's Milk Step 1

Step 1. Wait until the baby is one year old

Babies under 12 months cannot digest cow's milk properly. In addition, they require a particular mix of nutrients that breast milk and formula provide; cow's milk is not an adequate substitute. So wait until your baby is a year old to introduce cow's milk into his diet.

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Step 2. Check everything with the pediatrician

In most cases, you can start transitioning to cow's milk any time after your baby's first birthday; however, it is always good to check with your baby's doctor. He may have specific guidelines for you.

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Step 3. Choose whole milk

Milk is an important source of nutrition for young children. It's rich in vitamin D, calcium, proteins and fats that are crucial for a baby's growth and bone development. To maximize these benefits, offer your baby whole milk, not skim or low-fat, until at least his second birthday.

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Step 4. Aim to give two glasses of milk a day

By the time your baby is one year old, he should be eating a variety of nutritious solid foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. As long as this is the case, you don't need to rely solely on cow's milk as the main source of nutrition as you did with breast milk or formula when your baby was younger. Two glasses of milk a day should suffice, especially if he eats other forms of dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't jump from a completely milk-free phase to two full cups of milk a day. Introducing the milk gradually is better

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Step 5. Understand that your baby can resist

Cow's milk doesn't taste the same as breast milk or formula, so your baby may refuse it at first. If that happens, don't worry; in time, he will learn to accept it. For strategies, go to Part 2.

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Step 6. Look for signs of an allergic reaction

Milk is a common allergen. As with other foods, you should pay attention when introducing it and notice any adverse reactions. Babies with milk allergies or lactose intolerance may vomit, have diarrhea, show signs of abdominal pain, or develop a skin rash. If you suspect your baby is not tolerating cow's milk well, talk to your pediatrician.

Method 2 of 2: Part 2: Facilitating the Transition to Cow's Milk

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Step 1. Reduce your baby's intake of breast milk or formula

Your baby is more likely to accept cow's milk if he is no longer continually fed breast milk or formula. There's no need to make an abrupt change: you can do the translation gradually, eliminating one at a time and replacing it with cow's milk.

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Step 2. Limit juice and other beverages

Encourage your child to drink milk by limiting the amount of juice they drink. Sugary drinks should be completely avoided at this stage.

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Step 3. Try mixing cow's milk with breast milk or formula

If your baby refuses to drink cow's milk, try mixing it with their usual drink. Then you can slowly adjust the proportions. For best results, mix when both breast milk or formula and cow's milk are at the same temperature – ideally 37 degrees. You can go testing the proportions, but, for example, you could try:

  • Combine ¾ cup or bottle with formula or breast milk with ¼ cow's milk in the first week. Your child won't notice a big difference.
  • Mix cow's milk with formula or breast milk in equal proportions in the second week.
  • Use ¾ cup of milk with ¼ cup of formula or breast milk in the third week.
  • Offer pure cow's milk in the fourth week.
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Step 4. Serve cow's milk in an interesting cup or bottle

Sometimes, pouring milk into a new, brightly colored cup can appeal to your baby. And if your baby is still bottle-feeding, consider transitioning to a cup – he may accept more cow's milk if it's not served in the same location associated with breast milk or formula.

Be careful not to overfill the cup, and watch your baby carefully. You don't want him to associate cow's milk with the frustration of repeatedly spilling it all over the place

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Step 5. Offer the milk at ideal times

Your baby will accept milk more if he is rested and happy. Try offering it when he has just woken up, and offer it as a snack between meals. Hungry babies tend to be irritable.

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Step 6. Heat the milk

If you want cow's milk to taste more like formula or breast milk, gently warm it to room temperature (or a little warmer). Your baby can accept it that way, even if he refuses cold milk.

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Step 7. Stay relaxed

Don't be upset if your baby refuses cow's milk, and don't try to force anything. Be persistent but have a relaxed attitude. Keep offering milk at different times of the day and in different cups or bottles, and wait for your baby to accept it well.

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Step 8. Praise your baby's efforts

If he drinks the milk, give him lots of praise and encouragement.

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Step 9. Add cow's milk to other foods

If your baby refuses milk at first, try mixing it with foods he likes – mashed potatoes, cereal and soup, for example.

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Step 10. Supplement with other dairy products

If your baby hasn't been drinking a lot of whole cow's milk, be sure to offer yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products.


  • If your baby continues to resist cow's milk, talk to your pediatrician. It's okay to use other dairy products, but your baby may need additional supplements.
  • Be patient. This transition can take a while. It's okay to transition to cow's milk gradually, if it helps the baby to accept it.

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