Deciding when to stop breastfeeding your baby is a very personal decision, and it varies by mother. Some babies make the transition more easily than others. After your baby has switched to formula, another question will surface: When is it OK to introduce cow's milk?

Because the choices surrounding breast-feeding and supplementing with formula are very personal ones, pediatricians and doctors usually preface their answers by stating that everyone is different. Regardless of the choices and circumstances surrounding the switch to formula and then to cow's milk, nearly all moms and babies will benefit by following these basic steps.

Switching to Formula

Plan ahead for the switch from breast milk to formula, says Jatinder Bhatia, M.D., a neonatologist and nutritionist. This is because there are at least two big steps to the transition.


Step one: The first, if you are breast-feeding exclusively, is transitioning your baby from feeding off your nipple to sucking on the artificial nipple of a bottle. This step alone can be difficult for some babies but easy for others, he notes. To make this easier, some moms pump their breast milk and start feeding the baby using a bottle long before they're ready to introduce formula.

Step two: Transition the baby from the taste and texture of breast milk to the taste and texture of formula. Babies have taste buds, Bhatia notes, and like adults, some will make the transition easily while others will not. For his own daughter, who would not take straight formula, Bhatia started by mixing 9 parts breast milk with 1 part formula. Over time, he changed the ratio to 8 parts breast milk and 2 parts formula, then 7 parts breast milk to 3 parts formula, and so on until she had made the change.

He notes, however, that this can take several weeks, depending on the baby, but it is safe to mix breast milk and formula together in the same bottle.

What to Expect

Once you start making the transition, you may see some differences in you and your baby. Your supply of breast milk may diminish, but for some moms, it doesn't.


You will probably see differences in your baby's stool most babies go less often and feed less often on formula than straight breast milk, Bhatia says. This is because formula generally has more calories than breast milk. It's very difficult to measure the caloric density of breast milk because it depends on so many factors. Your baby's stool will probably change from a seedy, mustard-like consistency to a more formed stool, he notes.

Switching to Cow's Milk

And when can you introduce cow's milk? Bhatia says not before your child is at least 1 year old. This is because cow's milk is generally not digested as well as breast milk or formula (it has a different protein makeup) and doesn't contain as much iron.


Experts stress that everyone is different and what works for your sister, your friend, or your colleague may not work for you or your baby. For this reason, always consult your pediatrician or medical practitioner for additional advice.