When should my child start
drinking
whole milk?

Written by our Horizon Organic Dietitian, Alysse Ritter, MS, RD

<   Parent Resources

After 12 months, nutrition continues to play an important role in your child’s growth and development. By their first birthday, they have likely already tried many foods and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), can now be introduced to whole cow’s milk. Whole milk, sometimes referred to as 4% fat milk, offers your little one a wide range of nutrients including high-quality protein, vitamin D, and calcium and also fat that can serve as an energy source important for rapidly growing brains. Developed with pediatricians, Growing Years® Organic Whole Milk contains all the nutrients of whole milk plus it is fortified with choline, DHA Omega-3, prebiotics, and is high in vitamin D.

Transitioning to Whole Milk.

Sometimes, the first introduction to whole cow’s milk may not go as planned and your child may not like its taste initially. Here are some tips and tricks to ease the transition to your child drinking whole milk:

  • Whole cow’s milk can be combined with breastmilk or infant formula to help your little one adjust to its taste. If using cow’s milk combined with infant formula, prepare the formula correctly with water according to package instructions prior to mixing with whole milk*.
  • Whole milk can also be added to cereals or mixed with gravies and sauces in place of breastmilk or infant formula.
  • Whole milk can be a part of a snack or meal but should not be consumed in place of a snack or meal, as it could displace other nutrients.

Children younger than 24 months should not consume any other dairy milk other than whole milk because whole milk has a higher fat content, which is important for young children.

The AAP recommends 16 ounces of whole milk per day, and no more than 24 ounces per day, so milk is not displacing iron-rich food.

Switching to a cup.

Around the time your child is transitioning to cow’s milk, their dexterity skills are advancing. They are now able to grab, hold, and release objects, such as cups and toys, making this a great time to introduce a cup. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:

  • The AAP recommends transitioning from the bottle beginning at around one year of age.
  • The AAP recommends children be completely weaned off the bottle between 18 and 24 months. However, temporary transition to a sippy cup is acceptable as your child makes this switch.

You may need to try multiple cups while your child is weaning off the bottle to an open cup or straw cup.

Continued and prolonged use of a bottle or sippy cup have been associated with a higher risk of excessive weight gain, tooth decay, and the potential to displace iron-rich foods in the diet which could lead to deficiency.

Regardless of how you serve milk, consuming it when laying down to sleep can increase the risk of choking, tooth decay, and ear infection.

Transitioning to reduced-fat milk after 24 months.

After the second year of life, your child has likely mastered steadily holding and drinking from an open cup. At this point, some children might be ready to start drinking a dairy milk containing a lower fat content like Growing Years Reduced Fat Milk. Please consult your child’s health care provider for specific recommendations.

Here are some facts to know as you transition:

  • Though not necessary, a slow transition may be considered, particularly if your child notices a taste or texture difference that is not well-accepted. In doing so, whole milk can be switched out to 2%, then to 1%, and to skim, if desired.
  • Some parents may opt to continue providing their child with whole milk which is also acceptable and can be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Research suggests continued consumption of whole dairy milk during childhood is not associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese.
  • At two years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consumption of 2 to 2.5 servings of dairy per day, which can include fluid milk.
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*It is important to note that if using in combination with infant formula, the infant formula must be prepared correctly with water according to package instructions prior to mixing with whole milk.

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