Running from the Law: One Year and Beyond - Weaning to Cow's Milk

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Year and Beyond - Weaning to Cow's Milk

Hello mamas!  Today is the second post in our "One Year and Beyond" toddler blogging series. Last week's topic of Taming the Temper Tantrum seemed to really get some great feedback and I'm thrilled that so many of you linked up with us.  Today's topic is Weaning off Breastmilk or Formula to Cow's Milk, which is an issue that I remember being very curious about when we were going through this, but didn't find a lot of information/stories on.  I'm hoping this prompt will encourage you to share your experience so other new moms have more information to go on.

As I've mentioned before (numerous times), I am no expert on any of these subjects (this is the lawyer in me making a full disclosure).  I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not here to lecture you on the pros/cons of formula or breastmilk, I am not a cow's milk advocate and I've only had one kid, so my experience is limited.  But it's just experience.  I'm just sharing my story. I hope you'll share yours.
I guess you could say that our weaning experience began when Mac was six-months old. Instead of purees or baby food, we decided to do Baby Led Weaning (which doesn't mean "weaning" off breastmilk/formula in the traditional sense) and go straight to whole foods and vegetables.  I plan to talk much more about Baby Led Weaning in the upcoming post on "Getting your Toddler to Eat" (scheduled for June 12), if you're interested in the process, but for now I'll give you the simple version.  Basically, BLW is adding foods to your child's diet of breastmilk/formula and allowing them to self-feed, which helps with hand-eye coordination, motor development and their ability to manipulate food in their mouth.  In theory, it also is supposed to create a better (less picky, more adventurous) eater, since the child gets to choose what to eat and how much.  The food at this point doesn't replace breastmilk/formula at all (merely a supplement), but allows the child to explore new tastes/flavors, be a part of the family during meals and have fun with food.  
For the first few months (6-9 months) of BLW, Mac did not really "eat" any of the food we gave him.  He would lick the food, chew on it, taste it and spit it back out.  Occasionally he would eat something, but for the most part, eating food was just for fun and he was getting all his nutrition from breastmilk/formula.  It's actually recommended that you give the baby breastmilk/formula right before giving them food so they're not super hungry, which could lead to a crabby frustrated baby that can't feed himself.  Between 9-12 months, things started changing.  I noticed that Mac was "eating" much more at mealtimes and taking less and less breastmilk/formula.  It wasn't a dramatic shift, but a gradual change over the course of a few months as he got better with self-feeding and learned how to chew/swallow.  As his food intake increased, he eventually dropped a morning bottle, then an afternoon one.  We were giving him water in a sippy cup during meals and throughout the day.  By the time he turned a year old, we were down to only giving him bottles of formula right before nap and bedtime.  Occasionally he'd wake up in the middle of the night and want/need a bottle to get back to sleep and I knew that was going to be our most difficult habit to break.
Right after Mac turned a year old, we took a family vacation to Florida and surprisingly, he started sleeping through the night and acting uninterested in his bottles.  I don't know if it was all the outside activity and sunshine or just being in a new environment, but he also began sleeping through the night and taking long luxurious naps during the day.  It was a GLORIOUS vacation!  We prayed that it wasn't just a fluke and that everything would change when we got home.  Luckily, it seemed to stick around for a while. When we got home we started giving him sippy cups of cow's milk at mealtimes (we waited a year to introduce cow's milk), which he didn't seem terribly interested in, but tried and drank occasionally.  I watched him very carefully the first couple times he had cow's milk, just to make sure there weren't any issues with allergies or intolerance.  All seemed well, so we replaced his water with milk at mealtimes - the rest of the day he only drank water.  
I made the decision to finally eliminate all the bottles and formula when Mac was about 13.5 months old.  At that time we were down to 2 bottles a day (right before nap and bedtime), plus an occasional middle of the night bottle.  He had basically stopped taking much from the bottles before nap and bedtime at that point and it seemed like the right move.  Honestly, I think he was probably ready before that, but I was hesitant for personal/emotional reasons.  If he wasn't taking a bottle, would he still be my little baby?  Would we still get that time to cuddle and just stare at each other?  I loved that one-on-one time that we got from feeding him, wrapped tight and warm in my arms right before he drifted off to sleep.  I didn't want to give that up.  But I knew it was time.  
Once we made the decision, it was actually a pretty easy transition for him that only took a couple days. For the first few days, I would take a bottle with me when I rocked him to sleep for naps and bedtime, but didn't let him see it or know I had it.  I also took a sippy cup of water, which he did see.  I figured that if he cried because he wanted a bottle, I’d give him the sippy cup first, then only give him the bottle if he still insisted. Otherwise, I hoped that it was “out of sight, out of mind.”  The first night he didn't seem to care a bit that we didn't have a bottle and he fell right asleep on his own.  The second night he fussed a little for the bottle so I gave him the sippy cup of water.  He took one drink, seemed disgusted by it and didn't want any more.  Same thing the third night.  By the fourth night he didn't want the sippy cup or a bottle.  And all of a sudden, there were no more bedtime bottles.
The middle of the night bottle was a little bit tougher to break, but he handled it like a champ.  For a week, if Mac woke up in the middle of the night, we would either let him cry for a few minutes and see if he could put himself back to sleep or go in and rock him for a few minutes (if it was obvious he wasn't going to do it on his own).  Most of the time, just being in our arms and snuggling for a few minutes was all it took to calm him down and get him back to sleep.  We didn't offer any bottles and after a few nights he started sleeping better.  He would continue to have middle of the night wake-ups for a while, but no more bottles at all!

Actually, looking back at the whole process, it was relatively easy and I'm a little sad now that I didn't take more time to soak up and appreciate those last couple bottles that I gave him.  I just didn't know that he'd handle the transition so well and that they'd be the last bottles I'd ever feed him.  It's such an important milestone and it happened so quickly, without me even realizing the significance of it.  Of course I was thrilled to be able to stop washing bottles and buying formula, but it was also the official end of the "baby days."  Or maybe this is just the crazy pregnancy hormones talking and I'm out of my mind. :)  I need another baby!

Now (at 2 years old) Mac drinks milk at mealtimes, but not a ton.  I'm not very concerned with it, since Ryan and I aren't really milk drinkers either.  He's getting plenty of calcium from yogurt, cheese and vegetables and our pediatrician is happy with his intake.  So, that's our weaning story.  This is something I've never really blogged about, so I'm glad I had a chance to put it all down now, before I forget.  I'm curious to see how this goes with Mim and must try to remember to write all that down too.  Remind me 16 months from now, ok?

Anyway, if you're interested in the topic or reading more about other mamas' experiences, please visit the blogs of some of the other host mom's below.  I'm really interested to see if this was as easy for everyone else as it was for us.  And of course, we'd LOVE to hear your story.  Please feel free to use the link-up below and join in on the action.

From Here to EternityWords About Waverly
my delicious adventure Photobucket
My Delicious Adventure                  The Life Of Faith
Running From The LawThe Olive Tree

May 8:          Taming the temper tantrums
May 15:        Weaning from breastfeeding or from formula to cow’s milk 
May 22:        Dealing with "Mommy Guilt"
May 29:        When people share their opinions and how to lovingly handle it
June 5:         Traveling with your toddler
June 12:       How to get your toddler to eat their veggies…or their food at all
June 19:       How to make time to blog in the busyness of motherhood
June 26:       Bedtime battles (nap or bedtime)


  1. Great, informative post mama!!!! We also waited a year & Waverly drinks milk about once a day now! :) Love doing this link-up!

  2. We waited until Owen was a year too to switch to 2%, and now that he's two we've switched to 1%, per our Ped's recommendations. Owen is addicted to milk. He requests it whenever he's hungry and I have to try to get him to eat real food first. It's quite frustrating, because he would just live off milk if it were up to him, and that's just not healthy.

  3. Great tips! This gives me hope that the transition will be smoother than I'm anticipating. Thanks!

    The Joni Journey

  4. We did BLW too! It was amazing her improvement with motor skills and what not, loved it. It is a bittersweet ending when feedings stop...and then it is also a party for not having to be on that schedule anymore!

  5. This was great, and I can't wait to read your post on BLW. We did a mild version on that with our third and really enjoyed it. Feeding no matter what form is so intimate for the parents, I think we take it harder than the baby! Haha

  6. This is so interesting to me! I was the first of my friends/family to have a baby and these are all of the things I wish I could have read then!! I think sharing experiences is so helpful!

  7. I'm excited to read about your BLW! I'm curious to try that with my next baby! But the mess... OH THE MESS! It kills me now to let Mia get messy with her food, but I know I gotta let her do it to learn!
    I'm so glad the process was easy! Even though we look back and wish we would have taken advantage of the little time we had left... I would much rather have the process be easy on Mia than hard!