Introducing Your Baby To Cows Milk

For most of your baby’s life you will have been worrying about whether or not they are getting the right amount of milk. You will have been breastfeeding, bottle feeding or combination feeding for the first twelve months and then all of a sudden that changes.

At twelve months you are allowed to give your child cows milk and although it can seem like a simple switch it’s not always the easiest. Believe me.

When Molly hit 12 months I thought I would try and move her on to cows milk straight away. It didn’t work. I tried all the tricks I’ll detail below but she refused it and so we continued to give her the formula she had been having since six months old. She would happily guzzle bottles of this but refused it if I so much as put a splash of cows milk in. It got to the point where I just stopped trying to give it her as it wasn’t working. By this time I also had Alice and so the battle was not one that was worth me fighting and I was buying formula for Alice as she got older so they both just carried on. It was only whilst away in Devon when Molly was nearly three that I managed the switch. I wanted to move Alice on to cows milk and somehow miraculously they both started drinking it. I wonder if it was due to the water being different and making their formula taste different. We will never know!

When To Make The Switch

Breast milk or formula should be given until 12 months as opposed to cows milk or other alternatives such as almond or coconut milk. It is recommended that you wait until 12 months to start giving your baby cows milk as it isn’t as easily digestible as breast milk or formula. It can also be high in protein and minerals which can be problematic for your baby’s digestive system and kidneys. Of course you may choose to continue breastfeeding past 12 months and there is no need to wean your baby off breast milk in order to introduce cows milk.

You can introduce cows milk and dairy mixed with their food from 6 months.

The benefits of cows milk once they hit 12 months is that is contains high levels of calcium and is a great source of vitamin D, all essential for strong bones and growth.

How Much Milk Should They Have?

It is recommended that your toddler has around one and a half cups of milk a day (between 8 to 12 ounces) and by two years old they should be having around 2 cups. This should provide all the nutrients they need. You shouldn’t give them more than four cups a day as it can be too much for their body to process.

You should make sure you use full fat cows milk or other milk alternatives until they are two years old when you can switch to semi skimmed if you prefer.

How To Make The Switch

For some it’s an easy switch but as I mentioned above it’s not always straightforward. Cows milk has a different texture and taste which can take some getting used to. Much like when you try to move a baby from breast milk to formula you can be met with resistance.

The first trick is to mix a small amount of cows milk with their normal milk. Try a splash at first and slowly increase the ratios until you are able to move purely to cows milk. This may need to be done over a period of tea.

Try using cows milk in cooking or on their breakfast. Mixing it in with food will start to get them used to the taste.

If they are filling up on food and refusing the milk try giving them a small cup of milk about half an hour before their meal.

If they still refuse the milk then you can get calcium in to them via other dairy based products such as cheese and yoghurts.

Exceptions & Allergies

There may be times when you are unable to give your baby cows milk due to allergies, intolerances or if you are vegan. In these cases your doctor should be able to recommend alternatives. You could try soya milk or almond milk instead. Again use the tips above to try and introduce it. I was given a lot of goats milk as a child as the dairy aggravated my eczema. Might explain my love of goats cheese now!

Your baby should be able to tolerate cows milk as they will likely have been exposed to cows milk protein via your breast milk or a cows milk based formula. If you are concerned about any symptoms or changes in your baby after making the switch please do speak to your doctor.

You can read more about Cows Milk Protein Intolerance here.
Are you ready to make the move to cow’s milk or how did you find the switch?

6 Comments. Leave new

Perfect timing RMF. My baby turns one on Thursday and I’ve been thinking about the transition from his bottles. He still has a morning bottle and one at bedtime. Any tips on taking the bottle away? X


Oh gosh Claire, I think we need a whole post on this but probably from someone else on the team as I didn’t succeed! Molly had her bottle for years and when I tried to take it away that was the end of her having milk. Hopefully someone has some expert tips for you. xx


My daughter was only having one bottle a day by the time she was one – we had introduced a cup of milk alongside breakfast a few months before, which she didn’t seem to mind. But removing that evening bottle…wow! We made the milk transition first and then tried to introduce a cup in the evening, but she would scream blue murder!! We gave up a few times and kept trying every couple of weeks, until I eventually thought “sod it, this needs to happen.” We battled with her for 3 days , during which she screamed in anger when she saw the cup, reluctantly taking some milk (it was one of her usual cups I should add, nothing new). After the three days she miraculously got over herself and glugged it down!


We discovered that Zachary liked a bottle of milky tea in the morning so it was quite a straight switch. Then he’d just have regular milk through the day. He has to have a full fat diet for his toddler diarrhea so we’re pleased he took to milk straight away. He’s already been on sippy cups since 6 months for water so the bottles went quite quickly at 12 months.


This has been such a struggle for us. It took 6 months to transition from formula to cows milk as whenever we tried he would refuse after only a little milk. He also got terrible trapped wind and sleep went to pot. Very gradually we increased the ratio of cows milk to formula and now at 2 are entirely on cows milk.
He still has a bottle, that is the next battle! My eldest stopped drinking milk entirely when we stopped giving it via bottles so going to stick with it for now. Whatever works for your child I reckon!


Just wanted to add a positive comment as we had no problems switching from breast and formula to cows milk, or from bottles to cups. We used an Avent cup with a soft teat first, I think he took that from about 9 months with formula in it when I went back to work and stopped breast feeding. We were already using the same cup on a different colour for his water since 6 months so he was used to it. At 12 months I started replacing 1oz of formula with cows milk for a few days, then 2ozs etc until it was all cows milk. We switched from the soft teat cup to a basic tommee tippee free flow sippy cup at about 15 months and he’s taken both water and milk like that ever since ( he’s now just over 2).

Interesting point on the volume of milk they should get, he loves it and would drink way more than 4 cups a day if I let him but I worry it’ll fill him up too much and he won’t eat real food! He usually gets 3, one after breakfast, one after dinner and one before bed but I’m not sure when/if I should change this and offer it as an alternative drink to water with meals?


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