Going From Breast Milk or Formula to Cow’s Milk

from breast milk to cows milk

Breast milk is by far the best source of nutrition for a growing baby—any expert will tell you that. There are a lot of benefits of breast milk that simply can’t be found anywhere else.

A baby is absolutely fine to just have breast milk for their first six months, but eventually you will want to get them on cow’s milk. This is a big concern many parents have, and for good reason: you want your baby to be healthy, of course!

There are several reasons why you’ll eventually want to switch over to cow’s milk over formula or breast milk.

  • It’s cheaper — If you’re feeding your baby formula, you know how expensive it is. Cow’s milk is considerably less expensive, and this is a big reason why many parents are eager to switch over to it.
  • It’s more convenient— While most mothers are happy to breast feed, it can be somewhat inconvenient, especially if you’re a busy person. The same could be said about formula, which generally needs to be properly prepared before feeding. Cow’s milk doesn’t have to be prepared in the same way; you can simply feed it to your baby straight from a bottle.
  • It’s a great source of calcium — Cow’s milk, as I’m sure you know, is the best source of calcium.
  • They’ll have to do it eventually — Even if you choose to breast feed for an extended length of time, which many mothers do, they’ll have to start drinking cow’s milk eventually.

When Should I Start Weening My Baby Off of Formula/Breast Milk?

Switching to Cow's Milk
Eventually, your baby will have to start drinking cow’s milk!

This is a question without one specific answer; it will really depend on your baby’s development. The World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life, and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends avoiding cow’s milk for the first 12 months of life. Giving your baby cow’s milk too early can result in several adverse health effects, and here are the reasons why it’s not a good idea to start feeding your baby cow’s milk too early:

  • Drinking cow’s milk too early can result in an allergy; babies that are too young are not able to properly digest all of the proteins that are found in cow’s milk.
  • Cow’s milk doesn’t have all of the required nutrients that a baby needs in their first year of life. A mother’s breast milk, or fortified baby formula, does.
  • Potential iron deficiency is possible due to not being able to properly absorb all of the iron in the cow’s milk.

Needless to say, if you notice your baby having any kind of adverse effects after you start feeding them cow’s milk, you should stop immediately and consult your doctor.

The Switch to Cow’s Milk: Tips & Advice

When it comes time to switch to cow’s milk, there are a few things to know. First of all, even if your baby is physically ready to have cow’s milk, he or she might protest at first simply due to the difference. Breast milk is sweeter and has a different consistency than cow’s milk, and your baby might object to that at first. One thing you can do to help with this is to make the change more gradual.

If your baby is protesting to drinking the cow’s milk or you just want to make it easier, you can try the following:

  • Mix it with formula or breast milk — Mixing the cow’s milk up with either breast milk or formula is a good way to get your baby used to the taste and new consistency. Start with a small amount of cow’s milk in the mix, and gradually add more cow’s milk to the mix until your baby is completely switched over.
  • Try organic cow’s milk — While organic cow’s milk is more expensive, this can be a good way to start your baby out. While milk is generally fine, there is some concern that the antibodies and hormones given to dairy cows could end up in the milk itself, creating a health concern.
  • Try yogurt instead— If your baby simply won’t take the cow’s milk, you can try yogurt as an alternative. Yogurt is easier to digest than cow’s milk—the lactose is converted to lactic acid in yogurt. You can also try other calcium-rich foods. Be sure to let your doctor know if you go this route, as they might need a vitamin D supplement.

After Your Baby is on Cow’s Milk

Once your baby is on cow’s milk, it’s a good idea to feed them iron-rich foods or juices, as cow’s milk doesn’t have the iron that breast milk or fortified baby formula has. Things like prune juice, beans, lentils, broccoli, beef, and other iron-rich foods are a great idea.

Remember, you should always talk to your doctor about any major changes like this. It’s always a good idea to get a little professional help for you and your baby’s particular situation. If you notice any adverse health changes after getting your baby started on cow’s milk, you should quit right away and talk to your doctor.

(Photo by swruler9284)

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