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  • When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?

    by Agustina Fernandez December 16, 2021 6 min read

    When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?

    When it comes to making decisions about your baby, being an informed parent is one of the best things you can do. As new parents or even as experienced ones, every decision you make matters to your child’s well being, which can be overwhelming. And this is the case when it comes to 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?


    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 made in partnership with 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.

    For any weaning that begins before your child is 12 months, most of your baby's nutrition will be met by their breast milk or formula feedings. Only after 12th months can your baby’s diet change such that breast milk or formula can be replaced by different foods. In other words, breast milk or formula is absolutely necessary to 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 which can only be 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 organic 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 (source).

    While you can begin this phase at any time during the year, there is no need to rush, it can occur between 12 and 24 months depending on the needs of your child. 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. Alongside plain whole milk, your child will naturally ingest critical nutrients by eating a diet rich in a variety of healthy foods as part of 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. Always consult your pediatrician first before offering your little one a toddler formula.

    Stage 3 formulas for toddler months are specially prepared to suit the nutritional demands of a growing kid at this age. While these formulas are not strictly necessary for most toddler, they can be of great benefit in certain cases.

    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 very 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. If you're ever unsure about what's best for your child, be sure to consult your pediatrician. 

    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 with consideration to providing your child this optimal diet for their nourishment in addition to receiving support from your child's pediatrician.

    Furthermore, weaning can be done in a process rather than “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, this transition period will be unique to every child. However, no matter when you decide to switch (12 months, 18 months or any time before 24 months), it should be a 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 if continuing to use formula then toddler milk and adjusting the proportions over time until your baby does not fuss over the new milk. A common recommendation 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 at the guidance of your pediatrician.

    Follow your instincts in this process and observe your baby, 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.

    Learn more: Switching Baby Formula: Guidelines on How Not to Harm Your Infant 


    What Drinks are Appropriate After Weaning a Baby Off Formula?

    • Water: Babies under 6 months whether breastfed or formula fed do not need water, and should not be drinking water until they start eating solid food, which is around this age. Water used for the preparation of formula should be boiled and cooled down before giving it to your child The same applies for children older than 6 months who are able to drink small amounts of water on its own. 
    • 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 or caffeine. 

    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.



    Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

    Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

    Agustina Fernandez
    Agustina Fernandez

    Dr. Agustina Fernandez earned her medical degree from the prestigious Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina. With a deep-rooted passion for pediatrics, Dr. Fernandez is currently on the path to specializing in children's healthcare. Recently, she has delved into the vital field of infant nutrition. Her research interests include breastfeeding, infant formula, and baby food in little ones’ formative years. Dr. Fernandez's commitment to this area of study underscores her dedication to ensuring the health and well-being of children from their earliest days.

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