The time leading up to your little one’s first birthday is so exciting! Daily changes and development are peppered with major milestones that keep life interesting (to say the least). One of the many important milestones during this time is the transition from breastmilk or formula to whole milk. As a pediatric dietitian, parents often ask me how to make this transition and why it is so important to wait until their child’s first birthday to make the big switch. These are both great, and important, questions.
Full fat cow’s milk, or whole milk, can offer many important nutrients and vitamins for growing toddlers. It contains potassium, calcium, vitamin A, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Plus, almost all milk is fortified with vitamin D. These nutrients and vitamins can help build your toddler’s bones and teeth, regulate body functions and muscle development. And the fat in whole milk is important for young toddlers brain development.
Although these are great reasons to offer whole milk to toddlers, they are not so great for babies. Infants do not digest cow’s milk very well, and some nutrients in cow’s milk, like potassium, protein, chloride and sodium, can be harmful to an infant’s kidneys because of the amounts that whole milk contains. So it is best to offer breastmilk or formula until their first birthday, in order to make sure that they are getting all of the important nutrients that their growing bodies need.
A few approaches to transition your toddler:
There really is not a right or wrong way to transition to whole milk — it just depends on what works best for you and your toddler. Also, breastfeeding moms may prefer to continue offering breastmilk instead of transitioning to whole milk right away. That’s totally okay! Breastmilk is still extremely nutritious and continues to offer a number of beneficial nutrients and vitamins.
Tips for the big switch:
When you make the change, here are a few more tips to consider that may help to make the transition a smooth one.