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#41: When To Stop Feeding Your Baby Formula

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Once your little one hits the 12-month mark, they become a full-on toddler. And when they become toddlers, we want to start weaning them off formula. (Side note: Isn’t that wild? We get one baby year. Like who gave them permission to stop being the baby I brought home?!)

Anyway…stopping formula sounds nice and simple, right? But it brings up SO many questions. Can you move them off formula early? Do you jump straight into milk? Cow’s milk? Soy milk? Bottles? Sippy cups? Straw cups?! It’s a lot to figure out.

If you’re here, don’t worry, mama. Because, in this episode, we go through it ALL!

In This Episode, We Discuss…

  1. When Should Your Baby Stop Drinking Formula (01:22)
  2. Making the Switch From Formula to Milk (02:05)
  3. Why You Shouldn’t Take Them Off Formula Early (05:00)
  4. How To Wean A Baby Off Of Formula (08:30)
  5. Baby Formula: The Cliffs Notes (10:09)

Listen to the full episode here:

This episode was sponsored by Amara Organics Baby Food POWDER. You have to try this product if you’re in the baby stage! I’m super into this variety pack and use code MAMAKNOWS for 20% off.

Keep Learning Going With These Resources & Links

Here a link to everything we discussed, recommended, and name-dropped during this episode:


Episode #41: When To Stop Feeding Your Baby Formula (Complete Transcript)

If you’re using formula for your baby or toddler, you’ll wanna listen in to this episode to hear when, why, and how to transition away from formula. It might be earlier than you think! 

Welcome to Feeding Toddlers Made Easy. I’m Kacie Barnes, registered dietitian nutritionist with a Master of Clinical Nutrition, mom of two, and I can confidently say that parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. So my goal with this podcast and all the resources at mamaknowsnutrition.com is to help make feeding your little one easier. Whether that be with picky eating help, recipes and meal ideas, or the reminders that you are doing a good job despite your little one flipping out when you cut their toast the wrong way.

I see you, and I know how hard you’re working. Let’s dive into this chat on formula and give you all the tips you need to know to transition off of formula when the time is right.

When Should Your Baby Stop Drinking Formula

Now, your pediatrician may have given you some information on this, but if your baby is younger than one, and you don’t know when the transition is coming, or they’re older than one, and they just didn’t give you any advice on how to actually do this–we’re gonna walk through it today. 

So, around 12 months is when you’re going to want to transition off of formula. It does feel young. They do kinda still feel like a baby at that point, but at 12 months, that’s officially toddlerhood. Isn’t that crazy? You got one year with your baby, that’s it, and then they’re a toddler. So this is when we’re making the transition off of formula, and they’re going to move into the phase of eating real food.

Making the Switch From Formula To Milk

I know you’ve been working on it already, but we’re really making that big transition away from bottles once they turn one. The CDC guidelines recommend that when your toddler is 12 months old, you switch from infant formula to plain, whole cow’s milk or fortified, unsweetened soy beverage. That is the official guidelines that they give. I’m a little bit more lenient there in a couple of ways. Number one, I don’t say that you have to use soy as an alternative to cow’s milk. The one that I really like these days is that the silk protein blend–almond cashew, something like that–it’s really similar in nutrition to whole cow’s milk. Should you choose, or need, to avoid cow’s milk, you can do soy milk as well. I’m just saying that’s not your only option.

You can do this gradually. It doesn’t have to be like, it’s their first birthday, and you throw out all the bottles and throw away all the formula. It does not have to be just one day we’re doing formula, the next day we’re not. You can do it that way, but most families have an easier transition when you do it more gradually. Now, I would suggest that you first replace one formula feeding with cow’s milk to help your child transition, but they’re probably not going to need as much cow’s milk as the formula that you’ve been feeding them. It depends. You might have already started to decrease their amount of formula. But I would really say that I don’t want them drinking any more than, say, two whole cups of milk per day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 16-24 ounces of cow’s milk. That’s two to three cups. I really find three to be too much, especially if they eat any other servings of dairy. They’re just gonna get too much dairy and not enough opportunity for the other foods that they need in their diet. So I really suggest keeping it closer to that 16-ounce guideline rather than getting up towards 24 ounces. You can just cut out mid-day bottles. Little ones usually have a harder time dropping either the morning or the night one anyway, so I would say just cut out those mid-day ones. And we are gonna bring cow’s milk to meals versus on their own, ’cause we’re working towards that schedule of three meals and two snacks. I do have posts to help you with that schedule. I have a one-year-old feeding schedule post, and I have a 12-month-old feeding podcast episode–that’s episode number 15–and then I also have a Q&A on cow’s milk, that’s episode 17. These are all super relevant to what we’re talking about right now. 

Why You Shouldn’t Take Them Off Formula Early

Now, why should you not transition before 12 months? You might be getting close, maybe they’re really great eaters, and you feel like they’re naturally decreasing how much they’re drinking. Can’t we just give this up altogether? Well, unless they’re really close to 12 months, I don’t recommend it. That’s because of two reasons: 

#1 Their organs are still developing–specifically, their kidneys–and the type of protein that is in formula or breast milk is easier for their body to handle than cow’s milk. So we wanna wait until their body is ready. There’s no benefit for starting on cow’s milk any earlier.  

#2 Formula does have more vitamins and minerals than cow’s milk itself, so it’s a little bit more of a complete nutrition profile. So as they’re still getting fully established on solids, I lean more towards making sure that they’re getting what they need from the formula while we make that whole transition.

But once you switch them over to that toddler mealtime schedule of three meals and two snack opportunities, then formula is no longer a necessary part of their diet. There are toddler formulas that are advertised, but they’re usually not necessary or recommended. There are some cases where these make sense, such as for there are kids who are very picky or delayed in getting started on solids, so they still need that nutrition support. But for most children, if they are pretty open to eating a variety of foods, we no longer need to rely on formula for their nutrition. I want them to get that nutrition from the actual foods. We want them to be learning to eat and expanding their diet and their variety and eating more like a kid than like a baby.

With toddler formulas, I honestly think that the marketing tries to make you believe that your kids need it more than they do. These companies still wanna make money even when you don’t have a baby anymore. But like I said, it’s usually not necessary. They can get everything they need from a regular diet.

How To Wean A Baby Off Of Formula

Another thing that you can think about as you transition off of formula is how to make this transition. You may be wondering, “Do I just go one day from formula to cow’s milk?” You might wanna do half and half. So, half a serving of formula and half a serving of cow’s milk mixed together to gradually introduce the flavor. If your child’s pretty easygoing about what they eat, you might be able to just switch them over all at once. But not every kid is that easy when it comes to switching. So I would recommend switching to cups with straws versus continuing with bottles. You can see the cups I like on my Amazon shop. Those are gonna be better for the toddler’s mouth based on what I’ve learned from OTs and SLPs—occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists. They say to go for the straw cup or the open cup but to avoid the sippy cups because they’re not as good for their mouths.

With my daughter, I actually had to mix milk with water for a little while because she had a harder time getting used to the taste. At the time, I did need to put some weight on her, so I was trying to get some more calories into her. Liquid calories can be a good way to do that, so we were doing a hybrid of mixing it with water. She liked it better that way to start out until we transitioned to actual whole cow’s milk. If putting weight on your little one is a concern, I have an episode–number 33–called Healthy High-Calorie Foods for Kids. It’s totally appropriate for toddlers too. So if you need to get more calories in them or need to boost their growth or their weight gain, that is a good episode for you to check out.

Baby Formula: The Cliffs Notes 

So now you have the basics that you need to know about getting off of formula! It should be around 12 months, not beforehand. You don’t have to do it the second that they turn one. You can give yourself a little bit of grace there as you transition away. You can slowly cut down on formula or start mixing it with cow’s milk to get started before you fully transition. And if you don’t want to or can’t do cow’s milk, you can absolutely do an alternative like unsweetened soy milk or the silk protein blend that I was talking about. Even pea milk is a pretty good alternative as well. Do they need toddler formula? Usually, no. We usually can switch right to that milk or milk alternative, and we wanna do that in a straw cup or an open cup. 

I also have a really helpful blog post on weaning your toddler off of bottles for good. So if you’re having trouble getting rid of the bottle, then check that out. 

That’s it for today, y’all. If this episode was helpful, please leave me a five-star rating and review. They mean the absolute world to me. I read every single one. And I just love you for supporting me and the podcast, so thank you. I’ll chat with you next week.

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