How should I introduce cow's milk into my child's diet?

At or about one year of age, we recommend switching from formula to whole milk. When toddlers discover that cow's milk tastes a lot different from formula, many will initially refuse the cow's milk. Here are some things to try:

  • Remember that children often refuse new foods the first time, or even the first several times, they are introduced. Milk is no different.
  • Some parents report success by mixing formula with cow's milk, then gradually increasing the amount of cow's milk. For example, start with 2/3 formula and 1/3 milk, then go to 1/2 and 1/2, then 1/3 formula and 2/3 milk, and so on.
  • Put milk in a fun cup decorated with your child's favorite character to encourage him to try it.
  • A children's multivitamin will meet your child's calcium needs during this transition period.
  • Eventually, children will take some milk if it's the only thing offered to them. If you keep purchasing formula, your toddler will learn that he or she can "hold out" for that, instead of learning to like the new milk.

My child doesn't like his/her formula. Can I switch him/her to cow's milk before a year old?

We don't generally recommend this because babies who get cow's milk before age 1 can have:

  • More allergies (to milk and other things.)
  • Vitamin deficiencies.
  • Growth problems.
  • Severe anemia.

Children usually refuse a new formula if they are switched from one to another for cost reasons. You can use some of the transition tips listed above to make formula switching easier. Best of all: stay on the same formula until 12 months.

Do I need to introduce cow's milk at 12 months to my breastfed baby?

As long as your baby is breastfed, he or she does not need cow's milk and will get all the calcium he or she needs from breast milk.