Ask the Mamas: Transitioning from the Breast or Formula

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Mama Say What?! reader Elizabeth G. asks: “When did you transition your little one to something other than breast milk or formula, and do they drink dairy or non-dairy?”

Technically I didn’t or haven’t transitioned her to another milk. Anna weaned at 26 months and really only drinks water. Sometimes she will have some juice or some milk, but definitely not every day. When she does have milk it is what we have on hand, generally skim milk. My daughter eats a pretty solid, well balanced diet including many other sources of dairy like cheese and yogurt. In the winter she also takes vitamin D supplements and in the summer we make sure she gets vitamin D from the sun. We are on the search for a good multivitamin for her as well. ~Jessica S.

My son was exclusively breastfed and I pumped while working full-time. Because I really hated pumping and struggled to pump enough for my son as we approached his 1st birthday, my husband and I decided to give him a cup of cow’s milk when he was about 13 months old to see if he even liked it. I am a milk drinker, but my husband isn’t and lactose intolerance runs in his family. We didn’t even warm it up like my son preferred breast milk to be. He loved it and showed no digestive issues afterward. We decided to start with cow’s milk because getting organic, whole milk is easy for us. We cook with it and I drink it too. I don’t like almond milk, soymilk, or goat’s milk. I also dislike the worry about the estrogenic properties of soymilk and finding organic, non-GMO soy for my little boy wasn’t easy. When my son was about 14 months old, I had weaned myself from the breast pump and he drank cow’s milk while I was at work instead of breast milk before naps. Then I nursed him evenings and weekends when I was home. It was a very smooth transition for us and we consider ourselves lucky that it was so easy. My son is four-years-old now and still adores drinking milk. ~Alex T.

Nora weaned at 16 months and she never really took to any kind of milk other than breast milk. We tried whole cow’s milk, soy milk (which she liked a little better) and almond milk (which just isn’t really the same nutritionally, but was her favorite). Ultimately, I just stopped pushing the milk and let her drink water, which she prefers to any kind of milk. She gets plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt and she has a diverse diet, so I never worried too much about the lack of milk love. ~Lauren W.

Lilah was 12 months when we tried cow’s milk. She didn’t like it because breast milk is so much sweeter. We used almond milk for a while and added whole cow’s milk to it until she would drink it without a problem. Lilah still loves milk but chooses water or juice more often. ~Miriam R.

Both kids started out with breast milk and were transitioned to formula after about three months. Once they both turned a year old (or close to it) we started them on vitamin D milk, which was what the doctor had recommended us do. ~ Sam A.

We tried introducing regular cow’s milk after 12 months but he hated it. He was on strictly breast milk and water until closer to 18 months when I started him on almond milk. That’s still mostly what he drinks for his milk at almost three-years-old. ~Laura K.

We offered our daughter a little cow’s milk when she was around 13 months to see if she liked it and she did. As it happened, a month later, she had lost interest in nursing because I was pregnant and my supply had dropped drastically. Since she loves organic whole milk and asks for it, we give it to her whenever she wants it. We’ve also given her some organic non-GMO soymilk since her father and I like to drink that occasionally, and she likes it too. She’s a much less picky drinker than she is a picky eater! I believe it’s not necessary to give your kids cow’s milk at any age, but since she loves it and we can get a good quality organic product, I’m happy to give her whole milk. ~Christina D.

Our oldest stopped nursing at nine months and made an easy transition to formula. One week prior to 12 months, we decided to try whole cow’s milk. He immediately had some pretty gross diapers and was cranky. We figured it was too much of a shock to his system all at once. We switched to 2% milk and over the course of two to three weeks, we cut his formula with some milk. We started with two oz. of milk and four oz. of formula, then three and three, then four oz. of milk and two oz. of formula until he was just drinking milk. Now at almost three years old, we’re trying a gluten-free and dairy free diet, so he drinks organic rice milk. ~Mary Ellen M.

Our oldest transitioned to formula full time at five months. At 11.5 months, I tried cow’s milk and it didn’t agree with his tummy. We stopped and completely restarted at 12.5 months. At that point he would take it fine in bottles as a “formula substitute”. We did the same as Mary Ellen, adding it in slowly to make it easier. ~Melissa T.

The advice given here is solely based on our individual experiences and in no way is it going to be perfect for every mama, every baby, and every situation. None of us are medical doctors. If you have a question regarding a medical topic we can give our opinions, but please consult with your doctor. We are not liable or responsible for the results of following any specific advice in any given situation.

By Michelle W.

Michelle W. is a first time mama to Elizabeth, born in December 2012. She is the wife of a Marine, loves to sew, read, work out, and loves being a home manager (house wife). Her weaknesses are staying on a budget, almond sparkling wine, and Instagram. She tries to be the best wife and mommy possible, and believes there are no bad days, only bad moments.

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