Bottle time: How and when to transition from formula to cow’s milk

Toddler sitting on a wooden floor

When the mum of a twelve-month-old called the Kinderling Helpline with a question about transitioning from formula to cow’s milk, mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue had some great advice.

Fiona says her son is having three bottles of formula a day and she would like to move him on to cow’s milk. “How do you make that transition? He’s still on three bottles, morning afternoon and night. Do I replace that with milk in the bottle?”

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It’s all about gradual transition …

“You replace the formula with milk,” says Chris. “So usually how I do it is you can keep the three bottles of milk until you start weaning them down somewhere between now and 14 months but usually closer to 14 months. And what I do is transition across. Most babies will handle one bottle of milk, so in the morning I make that a cow’s milk bottle.”

Chris adds that because babies might be used to warm formula, it’s a good idea to heat the cow’s milk slightly so it doesn’t taste too different. 


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Once bub is used to the morning cow’s milk bottle, you can add the next one. “After a few days, I give him two bottles (of cow’s milk), which will be morning and lunch. Then use up all the formula in the last bottle until you get to the end of that bottle and then give him the third one.”

“Another way of doing it is half formula and half cows milk in all the bottles and then over a few days you reducing the formula and the increase in the cow’s milk. Either of those ways will be fine.”

Happy toddler and mum

Moving on from bottles

If you’re looking to leave bottles behind, Chris advises moving towards cups in a gradual way. “At 14 months they drop supposedly to two bottles a day, so that drops the lunchtime bottle automatically. He’ll then just have one in the morning and one in the evening. Then at 16 months he has one in the evening and by 18 months usually I try and get them off all sucking things like bottles, and you can just wean it down by that stage.”

“Other people think it should be at 12 months but I find they start waking again for fluid overnight so I just do it in a graded way between 14 months and 18 months and usually that works well for them.”

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