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When and how to swap formula or breast milk for whole milk

Let me start off by saying whole milk isn’t a necessary food for our little ones. That being said, it is a nice package of protein, fat and essential vitamins. Not to mention, it’s an easy food for little ones to accept after a mostly liquid diet for the first year of their life.

Right around the one year mark we can start transitioning baby off of breast milk or formula and start offering whole milk as a beverage. A lot of parents ask how to make this transition so we are going to outline a few options here.

First off you can try cold turkey. Make the switch and see if there’s any push back, you might be surprised!

Second, you can try offering whole milk as a beverage along with a meal or snack and other times providing the breast milk or formula as a beverage. You can slowly increase the frequency that you offer whole milk and decrease how often you offer breast milk or formula.

If that option doesn’t work or you’re thinking those strategies might not be your cup of tea, that’s ok, we can work on the slow transition, my personal favorite.

This looks like filling the bottle or cup with 75% breast milk or formula and then 25% with whole milk. If they accept that, give it a few days then try 50:50. Then in a few days progress to 75% whole milk and 25% breast milk or formula and next stop, you guessed it, 100% whole milk.

This transition may take up to a month or so or as little as a week depending on your little one.

Here are some tips for success:

  • Change one thing at a time. Don’t try and transition them off the bottle, or transition them from warmed milk to cold at the same time.
  • Keep eating times, positions, temperature and who is feeding them all the same
  • If you progress forward and offer a mixture they don’t accept, go back to the old mixture for a few days and try again later - you might need to lesson the percentages changed each time


Now, it’s important to state that if you are currently breastfeeding your baby, there is no need to stop if you don’t want to! You can absolutely offer whole milk in a cup or bottle during meal or snack times and still nurse at the breast as well. There are PLENTY of benefits of breastfeeding toddlers if it’s something that feels right for you and baby, and if it’s not something you’re into, that’s ok too. You get to choose what’s best for you and baby.

If you’re not interested in offering cow’s milk or there is a documented allergy it’s ok to use a milk substitute just make sure the milk you’re choosing has protein, fat, and ideally vitamin D added as well. If you choose to use a dairy milk substitute you may have to be a little more intentional with offering high calcium and protein solid foods as well. If you are using cow’s milk make sure to choose whole milk through at least age two, the fat is a vital nutrient for their brain development.

Hopefully this article was helpful for you. Remember, this transition doesn’t have to be perfect. It will likely be messy, and even if your little one declines whole milk all together, that is ok. Just keep offering with meals and snacks and focus on offering higher calcium or protein foods elsewhere.