Introducing Cows Milk
For the first 12 months of life, babies receive their primary source of nutrition through breastmilk and/or formula. After their first birthday, they're ready to transition to whole cow's milk in addition to the variety of solid foods they've been enjoying up to this point – from vegetables, fruits and grains to protein foods, yogurt and cheese.
While some parents may be eager to introduce whole milk before baby's first birthday, there are good reasons to hold off. If given too early, baby's digestive system may not be ready to fully (or easily) break it down. In addition, cow's milk lacks enough of the important nutrients necessary for baby's rapid growth during the first year of life, including iron and a balanced combination of fats.
When ready to offer milk, work off baby's cues to determine how quickly you may make this change. Some little ones won't bat an eye at this new source of nourishment while it will be more of a gradual process for others. If your child has a tight connection to his bottle, focus on switching to whole milk during the day to begin. Gradually move toward transitioning, or reducing, morning and night breastmilk or formula feedings, since those are often the hardest to give up.
Between 1-2 years, toddlers need approximately 16 ounces, or 2 cups, whole milk per day. If offering other dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese, be sure to count those servings towards their total of 2 cups dairy foods per day. It is recommended to serve milk in a cup rather than bottle so your child strengthens oral reflexes; lowers risk for cavities and doesn't have excess milk intake, which can fill tiny tummies and potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies if milk displaces other foods on a regular basis.
If your baby is unable to tolerate cow's milk, talk to your child's pediatrician about nutritious alternatives. They may also recommend introducing reduced fat (2%) milk in place of whole milk if there is family history of conditions such as obesity or heart disease.