When do babies stop drinking formula: Transition to milk

Updated Apr 26, 2024
When do babies stop drinking formula: Transition to milk | Huckleberry

Around their first birthday, your baby will go through one of the biggest transitions when it comes to feeding. The switch from formula to whole cow’s milk or another milk alternative can feel tricky and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Keep reading for all you need to know to make the transition from formula to milk with confidence. 


Age baby stops drinking formula

Signs baby is ready to stop formula

Signs baby is not ready to stop formula

How to start weaning baby off formula: Tips to wean your baby

What to do if the baby is intolerant to whole milk?


When do babies stop drinking formula? FAQ

Your baby will be ready to stop drinking formula around 12 months. Around this time, your baby should be able to meet their nutritional needs with solid foods and will no longer need formula to do so. Whole cow’s milk or a milk alternative may help meet these needs more easily.  

While most babies are ready to begin this transition shortly before or after their first birthday, some babies do need more time. If your pediatrician is concerned with your baby’s growth or other medical conditions, they may recommend using formula longer. Always discuss when the right time to stop formula is with your healthcare provider.

The biggest indicator that your baby is ready to stop drinking formula is their age. Formula no longer meets the amount and combination of nutrients they need once they reach 12 months. In the United States, it’s often recommended to wait until your baby’s first birthday, but other countries, such as Canada recommend the transition happen anywhere between 9 - 12 months [1]. European countries also have formula stages:  0 - 6 months, 6 - 12 months, and 12+ months which ensures the formula is tailored to particular age groups [2].

Besides their age, you will likely see an increased consumption of solid foods in your baby’s diet. However, there aren’t specific solid food volume requirements that need to be met before your little one stops drinking formula. Children should be eating a fairly varied diet including fruits, vegetables, protein foods (meat, fish, beans, etc.), whole grains, and dairy foods. As they eat more solid foods, there is typically a natural decrease in how much formula they are consuming. They may take fewer bottles or simply drink less at each feeding.

Sometimes, babies need a little more time before weaning off formula. This decision should always be made with your healthcare team, but some signs they may not be ready to stop formula include: 

  • Premature birth 

  • Difficulty gaining weight

  • Solid food diet isn’t well established 

  • Doctor recommendation 

There is no one “right” way to wean your baby off of formula, but there are some best practices you can follow to help ensure success. Overall, take it slow and allow your baby time to adjust to this major diet change. Some babies will take to whole milk or an alternative easily, whereas others will need more time to get used to it. 

Follow these tips to wean your baby off formula: 

Make sure your baby meets the signs of readiness to wean off of formula including being around 1 year old and having a varied diet of solid foods.

Be sure your baby is eating a variety of solid foods over the course of about a week. 

If you plan on adding cow’s milk to your baby’s diet, whole cow’s milk is recommended over milk with less fat. Fat supports the rapid brain development that occurs before 2 years of age. 

Also note that if your baby has a history of intolerance to dairy-based formulas or a milk protein intolerance/allergy during infancy, consult with their healthcare provider about which type of milk to try first. Many babies outgrow their allergy/intolerance by 1 year of age and can be transitioned to whole milk. 

If you decide on a non-dairy alternative, it’s best to start with an option without any added sugar. If your child is not eating other dairy products either, aim to find a non-dairy milk alternative that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D to help your little one meet these nutrient requirements. You may also skip milk altogether as long as you make up for the nutrients elsewhere.

Differentiate between milk and formula by serving milk in an open cup or a straw cup. Most healthcare professionals recommend stopping bottle use around this age too, so this helps meet two goals in one!

If you are worried about how your baby will adjust to the taste of milk versus formula, try doing a mix of them to start. Make sure to mix powdered formula with water first then add to the milk. Consider starting with a 50/50 milk and prepared formula ratio then gradually reduce the amount of formula until there’s only milk left. 

Treat milk as a beverage instead of a meal to help your baby get used to a more solid food diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends toddlers between the ages of 1 - 2 drink 2 cups (16 oz) milk per day and children ages 2 - 5 drink between 2 - 3 cups (16 - 24 oz) per day [3]. Higher volumes of milk consumption can lead to iron deficiency anemia. 

If your baby is intolerant to whole milk, you may choose a non-dairy alternative or skip milk altogether. Either one is fine as long as you are careful to make up for the nutrients that whole milk provides. For example, other dairy foods such as yogurt or cheese can offer calcium and vitamin D. Other nutrients to pay attention to are protein and fat. Make up for these by offering a protein- or fat-based food with each meal or snack. 

Huckleberry Tip

Always talk with your pediatrician or other healthcare professional if you feel your baby is intolerant to whole milk. They can help you troubleshoot and navigate building a nutrient-dense diet. Additionally, they can help ensure your baby doesn’t have a food allergy. 

Weaning your baby from formula is a big step, but you can do it with confidence! 

  • Babies generally stop drinking formula around their first birthday, as they become capable of meeting their nutritional needs through solid foods.

  • Look for increased consumption of solid foods in your baby’s diet as a sign they're ready to transition. Additionally, consider recommendations from healthcare providers, as some babies may need more time.

  • There is no “right” way to wean off formula. Ensure your baby is ready and has a varied diet of solid foods. Serve milk in a cup instead of a bottle, and consider mixing milk with formula (making sure to mix powdered formula with water first then add to the milk) initially to ease the transition.

  • If your baby is intolerant to whole milk, opt for non-dairy alternatives or skip milk altogether, ensuring to compensate for lost nutrients through other foods like yogurt or cheese.

  • Remember to take it slow, allow your baby time to adjust, and consult with your healthcare team if you have questions. 

When do babies stop drinking formula? FAQ

Q: Is whole milk as nutritious as formula?


It’s difficult to compare the two because they serve different purposes. However, when your baby is at the appropriate age, yes whole milk is as nutritious for them as formula.

Q: Do babies need formula after 12 months?


No, most babies do not need formula after 12 months of age. By this point, they should be eating a variety of solid foods that will provide the nutrients they need. If you think your baby needs formula beyond 12 months, talk to your pediatrician.

Q: Is formula still necessary for babies during nighttime waking?


No, formula isn’t likely necessary for babies who are waking at night beyond 12 months of age. If they are hungry, they likely aren’t eating enough during the day and that should be addressed accordingly.

Q: What are the alternative drinks for toddlers after 1 year?


Once toddlers reach 1 year old, the main drinks should be water and whole milk or a cow’s milk alternative. Breastmilk may still be offered as long as mom and baby both want to. Juices are recommended to be limited to 4oz a day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics [4], beverages that are marketed as “toddler formula” are not nutritionally complete and do not provide an advantage over a well-balanced diet for most children. However, they can be safely used as a part of your child’s varied diet.

Q: Are there any potential risks associated with transitioning a baby to milk?


Transitioning your baby to milk is a relatively safe process and you shouldn’t be concerned about risks. It is possible to discover a food allergy or intolerance, but your healthcare team can help you navigate either one safely.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

4 Sources


  1. Bakshi, S., et al.(2023). A comprehensive review on infant formula: Nutritional and functional constituents, recent trends in processing and its impact on infants’ gut microbiota. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10320619/

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2023). Recommended Drinks for Children Age 5 & Younger. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/recommended-drinks-for-young-children-ages-0-5.aspx