When Can I Transition My Baby From Human Milk and/or Formula to Other Beverages?
As parents, we often face many questions and uncertainties when it comes to raising our little ones. Transitioning your baby from human milk and/or formula to other liquids is certainly a notable milestone. However, it can also be a source of confusion and questions. One common question in early stages of parenthood is, “When Can I Transition My Baby From Human Milk and/or Formula to Other Beverages?” In this blog, we discuss the appropriate age for various beverages to be introduced to your baby. Keep reading to learn more!
When Should Human Milk and/or Formula be Introduced?
Human milk is safe to be offered to babies right after birth. In fact, it’s recommended that your baby starts human milk as early on as possible. Similarly, formula is considered a suitable substitute and/or supplementary source of human milk and can start after birth (1).
Click here to check our blog post that covers the differences between human milk and formula.
When Should Water be Introduced?
Water is important to balance electrolytes in the body. For babies under 6 months, enough fluid intake is usually met through human milk and/or formula. Human milk and formula are mainly made up of water, so it’s not necessary to offer your baby water before the age of 1 (2). If you do choose to offer your baby water, they can start drinking small amounts between 6-12 months old. It’s recommended to have less than 4-8 ounces.
When Should Cow’s Milk be Introduced?
As your baby grows, they need calcium and vitamin D to keep their bones strong. Whole, pasteurized cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin Ds. Cow’s milk has many proteins and minerals, which makes it hard for your infant’s kidneys to process it (3). This is why it’s important to hold off on offering cow’s milk until your child is 1 year old or older.
It’s recommended that babies one year old and older are recommended to have 16 ounces (2 cups) of milk daily. If your child consumes too much cow’s milk, their appetite may be affected. This might lead to eating less foods containing vital nutrients to growth. Also, having too much cow’s milk can reduce iron absorption. When your baby is old enough to try cow’s milk, you can also offer other sources of dairy, like yogurt and cottage cheese.
When Can Juice be Introduced
100% juices may carry some nutritional benefits, such as antioxidants and fibre. It also adds more carbohydrates to the diet too. However, it’s recommended to not introduce juice to babies under 12 months old. After 12 months, 4 ounces or less is appropriate but is not required to maintain a healthy diet. Offering juice at an early age could increase the risk of tooth decay, replace human milk and formula, or cause an upset stomach (3).
When can Soda, Sweetened and/or Caffeinated Beverages be Introduced?
Beverages containing added sugars (soda, flavoured milks, sports drinks, etc.) should be avoided for children under 24 months of age (4). Also, it’s a good idea to steer clear of caffeinated drinks, like coffee, tea, and energy drinks. This is because children are at a higher risk of anxiety, high heart rate and blood pressure, and sleep disturbance when consuming caffeine (4). Additionally, there isn’t a safe caffeine limit set for children.
Final Notes from The Nest
It’s an exciting time when your baby is ready to try a fluid other than human milk and/or formula. Water, cow’s milk and other beverages are all ways to add fluid to your baby’s diet. Each beverage has its own benefits. An important thing to consider during this transition is timing. Offering these beverages too early may have negative implications: upset stomach, risk of dental caries, and the body not being able to process the nutrients. If you have more questions about offering beverages to your baby, book a free call with a Registered Dietitian at The Nest.
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- Foods and Drinks to Encourage [Internet]. (updated 2022 April 11; c. 2023 Oct 20). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [about 2 screens] Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-encourage.html
- Boquien CY. Human Milk: An Ideal Food for Nutrition of Preterm Newborn. Front. Pediatr. 2018;6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2018.00295
- Foods and Drinks to Avoid or Limit [Internet]. (updated 2023 June 8; c. 2023 Oct 20). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; [about 3 screens] Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html
- Caffeine and Kids [Internet]. (updated 2022 Aug 3; c. 2023 Oct 20). Columbia University Irving Medical Center; [about 6 screens]. Available from: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/caffeine-and-kids