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When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?

September 24, 2021 6 min read

When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?


When it comes to taking decisions with your baby, being informed is one of the most important factors. As new parents or even as experienced ones, every decision counts for your child’s well being, which can be overwhelming. And this is the case with formula; knowing when and how to stop giving formula to your child is very important.

This is the reason why we bring this article to you, to help you understand what is generally recommended while answering the most common questions that may arise from this common subject, especially answering: when do babies stop drinking formula? and how to start weaning.

When is it best to stop feeding baby formula?

How long do babies drink formula or breast milk?

The need for breastmilk, formula or the combination of these two varies from child to child, and the decisions should always be done in company of your pediatrician. However, in general, there is certain information that is common to most infants. 

According to the CDC, it is ideal to stick to breast feeding at least until your child is 12 months old, as breast milk has been found to be the most beneficial to the child. However, formula is also an excellent option when breastfeeding is not possible.

Then, in case that weaning begins to happen before your child is 12 months, the nutrition should be fulfilled through formula. And it is until the 12th month in which a baby’s diet can be replaced for different foods that are not necessarily breast milk or formula. In other words, breast milk or formula is a requisite in your child’s nourishment until they are 12 months old

This is due to the fact that during the first 12 months your baby’s development is taking place, which means they require a very specific nutrition, such as the one provided through breast milk and/or formula.

As well, their digestive systems before the 12 months are very immature, meaning they are not able to digest other types of nourishment like cow’s milk, which is why feeding a baby with breast milk or baby formula (formulated to resemble breast milk) are the appropriate kind of nourishment in order to avoid malnutrition or digestive system issues. 

Pediatricians do not recommend feeding your baby cow's milk for the first 12 months.

When to stop drinking formula?

According to the American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) an infant is ready to start phase 2 of the weaning process at 12 months, which involves weaning off of formula feeding or breast milk. While you can begin this phase at any time during the year, there is no need to rush, it can occur between the 12 and the 24 months. You can start this stage of the weaning process whenever you and your child are ready, as long as you don't start sooner than 12 months.

Do babies need formula after 12 months?

You can replace your baby formula with Stage 3 formula (commonly known as "toddler milk") or whole cow's milk. Your kid will naturally ingest critical nutrients by eating a diet rich in a variety of healthy foods in a normal diet.

After 12 months, your baby can get all the vitamins and minerals he needs from food.

However, if you're worried that all the nutrients are not being provided, using Stage 3 formulas can certainly help.

Stage 3 formulas for toddler months are specially prepared to suit the nutritional demands of a growing kid at this age. These toddler milks are higher in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and may make the transition to whole milk simpler if your child has sensitivities or is simply finicky about it. Some even include prebiotics and probiotics to help maintain a healthy gut flora. Most of the formulas we sell at Organic’s Best for stage 3, are ideal for this transition process.

However, if the transition is being done to cow’s whole milk, it is of great importance to choose a whole fat option. This is due to the fact that by this age your child still needs a great amount of fat to properly nourish their fast developing brains and their growing bodies. This will only be required until they become 2 years old.

When to stop formula and start cow's milk? 

In general, it is recommended for children to stop having formula or breast milk by the time they are 12 months old, however this is just a common age that has been used as a marker for most parents.

This does not mean that it is an established “rule”, as we mentioned previously, it is a process of personal exploration and decision. While studying different points of view and understanding the reasons behind this topic is important, it is also important to trust your instincts. 

Nonetheless, we also know that using your instincts when it comes to your child’s well being is not the answer you are looking for, which is why the following information is key to making the decision. By the time your baby is 1 year old, he or she should be ingesting around 1000 Calories per day, balanced through 4 different food groups; fruits and veggies, dairy, grains and proteins. This intake is ideal, and choosing when to wean off of formula should be done considering that this ideal nourishment is happening while also receiving support from your child's pediatrician.

As well, weaning can be done in a process, not in a “cold turkey” style, which will allow you to notice if your child is receiving the appropriate nourishment. 

How to transition from formula to milk?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, switching from formula to cow’s whole milk or toddler formula, can be an extensive process or a short process, it depends on your own decision on how to handle this transition. However, no matter when you decide to switch (12 months, 18 months or any time before 24 months), it should be the process that your baby accepts and takes on more easily. 

It is highly recommended to wean off your baby by mixing baby formula with cow’s whole milk or toddler milk, adjusting the proportions over time until your baby does not fuss over the new milk. A highly recommended option is to transition in the following proportions:

→  First 25% new formula or cow’s milk and 75% old formula.

→ Second 50-50% new formula or cow’s milk and old formula.

→ Third 75% new formula or cow’s milk and 25% old formula. 

→ Finally 100% new formula or cow’s milk. 


This process can be done in different extensions of time, varying from using each proportion for two days to even weeks. It should be adjusted to your own child’s process. 

Follow your instincts in this process, observe your baby and make decisions, however, always check that the nutrition being provided is enough and remember to lean on your pediatrician for support and look for the best solution for the weaning process. 

What drinks are appropriate after weaning a baby off formula?

  • Water: Children under 6 months do not need water, and should not be drinking water until they start eating solid food, which is around this age. Babies fed with formula under 6 months, can be provided with water in case of warm weather. This water should be boiled and cooled down before giving it to your child. After 6 months, children can have water and boiling it to sterilize it is not necessary. 
  • Goat’s and sheep’s milk: can be given after 12 months and must be pasteurized. 
  • Fruit juice and smoothies: Babies under 12 months don’t need juices, however if you decide to give them to your child, make sure to dilute them in a 1:10 parts ratio (1 part of juice, 10 times water), as they contain a lot of sugars that can cause tooth decay. 
  • Hot drinks: Tea and coffee are not suitable for babies or toddlers, especially if they contain sugars. 
After 12 months, your baby can be given water, tea, juice, milk, smoothies, and other drinks without sugar or caffeine.

When should a baby stop drinking from a bottle?

Even though the weaning process is not related to the use of bottles, it is key to know that it is recommended to stop using the bottle by the time your baby is 18 months old (at maximum).

According to the American Association of Pediatricians, a baby should not use a bottle further than this age while it can lead to teeth decay. This is due to the fact that in milk there are certain sugars that when in contact to your child's teeth for an extensive period of time, can lead to cavities. When a baby drinks from a bottle, the milk will remain in their teeth for a longer period of time.

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