For babies growing and developing normally, it's perfectly fine to switch to whole cow's milk at 12 months of age, although toddler formulas are also acceptable. Toddler formulas (aimed at children nine to 24 months) have the same amount of calories, fat, vitamin D and calcium as cow's milk, but also contain iron and vitamins C and E, which may benefit children who are not eating much in the way of solids.
Plus, formulas fortified with DHA and ARA (omega fatty acids) may help with brain and eye development. If you choose to use cow's milk at this point, your pediatrician may recommend a multi-vitamin supplement to make sure your baby gets all the nutrients she needs.
Keep in mind that when babies are taking in more than about 24 ounces of any liquid, they may have little room left for solid foods. If you think this might be the case, here are a few things you can try:
- offer foods first and limit bottles or sippy cups to three or four times a day
- offer her smaller bottles or cups (four ounces for example)
- give her a small amount of milk or formula at mealtime to take the edge off her hunger, followed by as much solid food as she'll take. You could then finish off with a little milk or formula if she's still hungry.
Finally, remember that a serving size for a 12-month-old is very small–about the size of her palm–so don't be surprised if she doesn't eat large amounts of solids. In rare cases babies who don't take well to solids may have a problem with their swallowing and may need an evaluation by a feeding specialist. Be sure to consult with your pediatrician for the best approach to your individual situation.
Dr. Jennifer Shu is a board-certified pediatrician in Atlanta and editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Baby & Child Health: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years and co-author of the award-winning book Heading Home with Your Newborn and Food Fights, both published by the AAP. www.jennifershu.com