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Switching from Breastmilk to milk

From Breastmilk to Milk

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

So my baby is almost 1, OMG! I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding this whole first year…but I’m tired of pumping. I’m down to pumping once a day at work, and nursing in the morning and evening. I’m not getting enough supply during my pumping to keep up with her milk needs at daycare and my freezer supply is almost out! I’m freaking out about what to do once I can’t keep up anymore. Cow’s milk? Soy milk? Some other latest greatest idea, kefir? What do I give her next? I’ve read a bit into both, and I haven’t come across anything that screams THIS IS THE RIGHT CHOICE! Maybe I’m giving it too much thought, but I feel like after giving her breast milk for this long I’m going to taint her with something else. HELP!

milk freak

First of all, a heart congratulations and heartfelt FISTBUMP on breastfeeding exclusively for so long.

Second of all, yes. You’re totally overthinking this, but I do understand why. Please though, for your own future long-term sanity as a mother, try to steer yourself away, FAR FAR AWAY, from the “I will taint or damage my daughter if I ever let anything less-than-optimal pass her lips” thing. Trust me, that line of thinking is a one-way street to McNeuroticVille, with a side of annoying everybody else, and will probably result you spending a ton of time and money on things that may only offer a slight nutritional benefit over something else, but meanwhile your brain is all KERFFFLLLBBTTTZZZ, so what’s the point?

Kids live and eat in the real world, and our cozy time of controlling every nutritional choice for them is shockingly short. I’m certainly not saying we should make the most of that time and make the very best choices and try to instill good food preferences and habits, but if this is the way you’re approaching the choice of MILK…well. I just…don’t want you to like, self-destruct when you see the spread at your average toddler birthday party, or when your daughter decides to go on a month-long food strike and will only eat peanut-butter crackers.

What’s important here, about the choice of milk, are three things:

1) It should be something your daughter is not allergic to.
2) It should be something your daughter will actually drink.
3) It should not be a burden on your family to acquire (ie. driving three grocery stores away to spend $8.99 on a half-gallon of a specialty milk product), especially if there is an easier, cheaper option that fulfills Thing 1 and Thing 2.

It’s also important to remember that:

1) Milk IS NOT the same as what breastmilk was to your daughter for her first six months or more of life.

It is, at this point, a BEVERAGE. Yes, it’s full of protein and calcium and vitamins, but it (cow’s, soy, whatever) should not ever be a baby’s be-all end-all diet component. It can be constipating, for one, and fill up a baby’s tummy so they will eat less solid food, which, at a year, should be your focus: Getting your daughter to taste and explore a wide variety of foods and textures and nutrition sources. NOT bottles of liquid, no matter how great the liquid may be.

(Ask your pediatrician too: Mine recommended keeping my boys’ milk intake to about 16-24 ounces a day. Eight ounces at meals, basically. Your doctor might have a different preference, though.)

Personally, and I’ve written about this before: I am extremely anti-soy milk for young children, especially for young children who don’t have a problem with cow’s milk. Unless you find that your daughter is allergic (though I imagine you’d probably know or suspect by now), I would suggest not giving her soy on a regular, high-intake basis.

My children drink whole milk — organic, no growth hormones — and have been drinking that since they were around your daughter’s age. (A lot of kids Noah’s age will switch to 2%, but he’s so stubbornly skinny that our doctor prefers he stick with whole.) Sometimes we’ll get the DHA-fortified stuff, sometimes we buy the not-super-pasteurized awesome creamy stuff at the farmer’s market. Sometimes we just run to the closest grocery store for whatever organic variety they offer because HOLY CRAP DO WE EVER GO THROUGH A LOT OF MILK. They love milk. They are crazy about milk. They would drink twice as much of it if I would let them. That’s why I have to laugh at the idea of purposely going with some teeny little specialty product as our primary milk source.

That said, there’s no reason why you can’t give her cow’s milk and something else. Give her a goat’s milk yogurt smoothie instead of whole milk for breakfast sometime, if you feel like it. Try making your own kefir (I hear it’s stupid easy, and you can get the starter kits online) and see if that satisfies some inner nutritional hippie vibe. But repeat after me: It’s not a life force, it’s just a beverage.

I feel like we’ve made things so hard on ourselves sometimes: We’re doing GOOD things by questioning “experts” and traditional wisdom and doing our own research…but we’re also driving ourselves a little crazy in the meantime, with the fear of doing something “wrong” or “NOT THE VERY VERY UTMOST BEST” about things that probably don’t deserve that much of our headspace. Put the pump down and give her some milk, if you want. You do know best; you just need to trust yourself and your common sense a little bit.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • amy corinne

    August 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    The first birthday party my daughter went to had Cheetos, pizza, and juice boxes plus cake and ice cream. She’d never had ANY of those things* in her life (she was about 19 months old) but I left her try everything and I promptly stopped being so neurotic about what she eats. She still eats a pretty healthy and balanced diet, but I’m not so crazy and restrictive anymore. It’s a relief!

    I think you’ll be surprised when your daughter starts eating more and more solid foods how she just drinks less throughout the day in general. My daughter (21 months) has about 16oz of milk a day. When she turned one, it was at least twice that.

    * She didn’t even have her own birthday cake when she turned one. More because we celebrated on Thanksgiving and  there was no need for cake than because I’m a mean Mom.

  • Karen

    August 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Amy – I think this is the best response you’ve ever written.
    PS – My daughter turns one today (WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!).

  • Christine

    August 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    As a pediatrician, I want to say a few things.

    1)  Amy is right, this is not the same choice as when your daughter was born.  This is not all of her nutritional intake, and in fact the 18-24 ounces that Amy’s pediatrician limits her boys to is pretty universal.  Why??  Because if your daughter does too much milk (yes, it happens), she will exclude other foods and the milk will also impact her absorption of iron.  Why is this bad?  Because toddlers can become severely iron deficient and therefore anemic because of it.  To the point that they need to be admitted to the hospital and sometimes (!!!) to the Peds ICU (where I work), because they are so bad off that we must monitor them there and then give them blood transfusions incredibly slowly.  Sorry to scare you, but it happens.  Talk about the limit with your pediatrician, but you’ll likely have a similar limit and should supplement with nutritional food.

    2)  Again, Amy is right (this is why I love Amy), for the primary milk choice you should go with cow’s milk.  There is no real PROVEN benefit for choosing something like soy milk, goat’s milk or other options over cow’s milk.  In fact, some of those more exotic choices may result in different nutritional deficiencies.  If you think the example I gave you with overdoing cow’s milk was scary, you don’t want to hear about folate deficiency from only goat’s milk.  It is worse.  I would go with cow’s milk, soy if your kiddo is allergic.  And yes, even if you had breast feed only, by now you would definitely know if your daughter was milk allergic.

    3)  One last point:  All kiddos from 12-24 months (and some argue 36 months) should be getting only whole milk, not 2% or less.  Even if they are overweight.  Why?  Because their little brains are growing like crazy and the fats found in cow’s milk will help with myelination.  The choice to transition down in fat content later will be somewhat based on how your kid is growing, and skinny kids usually stick with higher fat content for much longer.

    I hope this helps a little bit, and congrats on breast feeding for so long!  I hope I do as well as you did with my little one that is on the way.

    Isabel: Christine, thanks for chiming in. Really appreciate.

  • Courtney

    August 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I’m at this same point right now (although still pumping twice at work, and I bet my stash is smaller!). Anyway, we are going Amy’s route and using whole milk. Just this week, we started sloooowly introducing it. My son gets three 5-ounce bottles at daycare, so this week each bottle was 4 ounces of breastmilk and 1 ounce of whole. We’ll up it slowly so that he will adjust/not reject it and to stretch out how much breastmilk I have left for as long as possible.

  • cindy

    August 20, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Amy, I think you left out a “not” in #3: 3) It should be a burden…

  • Heidi

    August 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    If you are super worried about how she’ll like it, as I was, mix it. I mixed it with formula and other foods. (Sauces, purees, that kind of thing.) Turns out my kid loves milk. As in MILK MILK MILK OMFG MILK MIMI NOOOOOOW! Like Noah, our child errs on the skinny side. You could feed her straigt lard from the bucket my Granma keeps in her pantry and she’d STILL be skinny. We’ve kept her on whole milk and she’s TWO. I personally detest the stuff, but she ADORES it. Don’t overthink it, hon. If you overthink everything your child puts in her precious mouth, you’re going to HORRIFIED when she tries to eat dirt and worms. (Been there.) Talk to your pediatrician, but honestly, as long as she’s growing and healthy you’re doing JUUUUST FINE

  • Stephanie

    August 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I’d also like to chime in that there is nothing wrong with doing half and half (half breastmilk/half cow’s milk) to start the transition to milk. I quit pumping a few months before my daughter’s first birthday, so she was getting formula during the day. She didn’t really like the taste of milk to begin with so the half milk/ half formula (or BM) made things much easier. Now, like Amy’s kids, my daughter guzzles down milk.

  • […] done breastfeeding your one-year-old and it’s time to transition to milk — it really is as easy as it sounds (unless you have an allergic or lactose intolerant baby), […]

  • Astie

    August 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Mmm…I got pretty excited when I read “half and half” in Stephanie’s comment. “Sweet! I can buy half-and-half for the baby and sneak some for my coffee in the morning!”
    Oh. You don’t mean half WHIPPING CREAM. Darn.

  • ras

    August 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I’m jumping on the fact that there is a pediatrician on here (I don’t know why this fact excites me so much, but it does, even though I know darn well I can ask my own pediatrician next week) to ask: how important is it that the milk one’s toddler drinks be whole milk?

    I ask because my 18-month-old HATES milk. Hates it. Won’t drink more than a sip at a time. I still try to give her milk every other day or so, because of that whole “a kid has to reject something 3 squillion times before she likes it” idea. She’s never had more than two sips.

    So, I don’t buy whole milk. My 4.5 year old drinks 1%, and when I give the baby milk, I just give her the same. Of course, if she ever did actually agree to drink milk, then I’d buy her the creamy stuff. It just seems like a waste right now, since nobody else in the family needs it and her intake can be measured in milliliters.

  • Amy

    August 20, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I have been doing a fair bit of nutritional reading ever since I found out my three-year-old has several food allergies. A lot of what I read surprised me, so, in the vein of giving all the information possible and letting people do with it what they will, here’s a little bit of what I’ve learned. Let me forewarn: this is going to sound wrong.

    I know people love love love cow’s milk. I did too. Turns out, cow’s milk might actually be akin to drinking poison. It has been linked to juvenile diabetes. It also has been shown to actually grow certain cancers (check out the book The China Study, among others). 

    So. Now we drink rice milk. 

    • Trina

      December 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      I am just wondering if you have looked at some of the issues with rice itself? I know the benefits, especially being higher in iron. However what about the arsenic levels in rice?

  • Bridget

    August 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Absolutely one of your best responses thus far, Amy! Thank you for providing some perspective. Yes, my child will eat the best foods when I am feeding him, but when it comes down to it, he will have a twinkie someday. I’m okay with that 🙂

  • sarah

    August 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I think you are missing a VERY IMPORTANT not. “It should be a burden on your family to acquire”

  • Christine

    August 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Ras- I’d check with your own pediatrician about that (I haven’t done general pediatrics in 4 years, I’m actually a critical care doctor only now, though my dad is a general pediatrician so he and I discuss stuff like this), but what I was always taught in my general peds residency is that a picky toddler will average their intake out over several days.  While moms might freak if not every meal is balanced, over a 3 day period or so, the kids do it themselves without realizing it.  So, I’m hoping that your little one is somewhat doing this on their own with other dairy options like cheese and yogurt and such?  My sister was like this when we were growing up.  Dad just made sure we had other dairy options to tempt her, and we always had Nesquick around, since she could sometimes be tempted into strawberry milk.
    I’m also going to say that if you really can’t get any more milk in to her than a few mL’s at a time, then I don’t think it makes any difference at all if it is whole milk or what your older kiddo drinks.  We make a big deal about the whole milk, but that’s when kids are pushing it with a lot of milk and they need the fats for their brain.  Your daughter is likely getting that fat and calcium and such elsewhere… It’s not worth buying whole milk and just having it go bad.  My 2 cents.

  • Anna

    August 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    If you have an EarthFare or Whole Foods nearby, you should come across Goat Milk pretty easily.

    I became pregnant with my twins when my first daughter was 10.5 months old. I nursed her until she was 16 months old, but we had to look for additional “milk” for her at that point. Cow milk gave her a horrible red rash on her cheeks and diaper area.

    We used Meyenberg Goat Milk. I don’t have any affiliation with the company, but their milk was great for us!

    The taste is closer to breast milk, so it made for an easy transition. It’s growth hormone and antibiotic free and easier to digest than cow’s milk.

    Congrats to you on making it to a year! 🙂 

  • Marnie

    August 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    As several already mentioned, we were told Whole Milk from 1-2 because of the fat content to help developing brains. But I have a little different take on the 2-yr mark. My daughter loved, Loved, LOVED milk. Couldn’t get enough. Asked for it all the time. She was always in the “skinny” category – around or below the 10th percentile for weight. When she had her 2-yr check up, her Ped told me to switch to 2%. I was hesitant because of her size, but he told me she was getting too many of her calories from milk, and that if I switched, she’d be hungrier for other foods. I waited a month or so, but finally decided to give it a try. He was so right. We switched to 2%, and suddenly she was chowing down on anything else she could get her hands on. Cheese, pancakes, fruit. She’s still in the 10-15 percentile for weight (but, as my mom pointed out, so was I, so no one’s worred (if only I were now, too, lol!)), but she now has a pretty balanced diet, not made up primarily of milk.

  • marissa aka "milk freak"

    August 23, 2010 at 11:16 am

    THANK YOU AMY for answering my question!

    You’re totally right, I’m way over-thinking the milk thing. I guess I never stopped to think that after a year, milk is a beverage…..duh Marissa!!

  • Alissa

    August 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I actually kept my DS on formula until he was 18 months.  So I breastfed almost exclusively til 12 months, then sloooooowly weaned to formula, then just recently sloooowly weaned to whole milk.  It was an easy transition.

    I can’t be bothered to look for other alternatives to cow’s milk, and my wallet doesn’t really want me to try.  So we’ll stick to whole cow’s milk, which DS loves.

  • Dawn

    August 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    My son will turn one in two days and aside from the past 2 weeks where we’ve had to supplement with formula, he’s been an all-breastmilk baby. As of Wednesday, he’s getting organic whole milk and whatever pittance I’m still able to produce. I blame the alarmingly low supply on 2 instances of strep throat (for me) once when he was six months and my output dropped by about an 8-ounce bottle a day and now when suddenly getting 2 bottles produced is a massive undertaking. He doesn’t nurse so it’s all pump controlled and I haven’t taken antibiotics so it’s not that. I’ve got nothing left to blame but the strep.
    But he’s fine, he’s thriving and couldn’t really care less if we put milk in his bottle or iced tea. Not that we have but you get the idea.

    Good luck and congrats on breastfeeding for so long!

  • Kelly

    August 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I breastfed exclusively for 2 years, so I understand what you’re going through.

    Maybe try to pump one more time during the day or if you can go and see the baby and let her feed that may help increase the flow. I’ve always heard breastmilk was use it or lose it. When I pumped, I pumped THREE times a day, but i kept my flow going.

    Good luck. As for other type of milk – rotate between oat, almond, soy, goat and even hemp!

  • kim

    August 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I actually went back to a breastfeeding support group with my first, because really? Just boom like that, cow milk? Weird. But true. My oldest is not into milk, but will down a gazillion cheese sticks a day if I let her. I kept her on whole milk until she was 3. I also upped the fat in my milk and my yogurtbecause my research suggested that the less processed the milk, the better, but I’m overweight and can’t really see doing full fat all the time. But for my littles, and my yogurt, oh yeah. Oh, and rice milk has plenty of detractors, too. Eat in your particluar real world, feed your kids as best you can, and let it go….

  • Ashley

    August 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    We are coming up on a year too, but have a different problem. The kiddo got a stomach bug about a month ago, and the pedi switched him to soy formula. I’d like to get him to milk when we make the switch though. Not sure how to do it and the pedi won’t even discuss it with me until he’s one. Grrrr. Anyone had this problem? He doesn’t have a problem with dairy products, he eats cheese, yogurt and milk based sauces with zero issues but I have to wonder how to wean to actual milk?

  • Diane

    August 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    To the Amy who commented: The China Study has been demonstrated to be junk science, and the underlying data does not demonstrate what the book claims. Be very careful about reliance on this book!

  • Amy

    August 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    To Diane: Thanks for the heads up. The China Study was a very convincing read. Do you happen to remember where you heard it was junk science? Because I read a few other books that agreed with it, but perhaps all the authors are connected in some way? Hmmm….

  • Christine

    August 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Pretty much any study that is only published in a book (with none of it appearing in a peer reviewed journal, meaning other doctors/scientists review it for methods, whether they drew the correct conclusions or even just did their math right) is junk science.  

    It’s so much more prestigious to publish in the journals and then in books, that if your science is remotely well done it will be published in that order.  Everything in the China Study was in the book only first (those other books that reference it don’t count as they fall into the same category).  Unfortunately this book is sometimes in the medical literature, but the references when you look at them are all legit people who are disproving it, and they usually do so pretty well.  

    The things proven to be linked to Type 1 Diabetes include genetics (very strong), other auto-immune issues such as thyroid issues, and there are some who have linked a “recent infection” in the patient’s recent past to presenting with diabetes.  Most docs think this is because the infection is just the last step in pushing the patient’s immune system over the edge to attack the pancreas and it was only a matter of that week or the next anyways.  Cow’s milk and other foods have never been linked in the literature.

    I hope that helps some.

  • Diane

    August 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Amy- I will look for the references and post them. They are all science based except one very entertaining article where a free lance journalist took the actual raw data from the The China Study and showed how the author had turned most of the actual results on their heads to ‘prove’ his ideas. Christine has it right about peer review being essential to establish the accuracy of the information reported. Thanks Chirstine! I expected that if you saw my post you would be able to confirm my concerns.

  • Amy

    September 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks so much!  My head is spinning! 🙂

  • Monica

    September 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Actually the American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with revised recommendations. If your child is at the top of the weight chart and/or you have a family history of high cholesterol or obesity, it’s 2% at 1 year old and skim as early as 3. Our pediatrician recommended it as we have a ahem, husky, girl.

  • Claire

    January 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    THANK YOU so much for this post! I could have written the question as I am in exactly the same place as milk freak!!
    The part at the end when you said ‘put the pump down and give some milk’ made me cry!! I have been really struggling with ALL of this milk stuff and driving myself crazy!
    My Son is having his first bottle of 50/50 (cow/breast) today, not sure if he will take it but if it is a BEVERAGE then not such a big deal!!!
    Cut pumping from 3x to 2x at work today, I feel so free!!

  • Christine

    March 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Omg, I’m so thankful I found this post! I have also struggled with the switch from EBF to cow’s milk. Thank you all for your comments!!!!!

  • Erin

    April 19, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you thank you for this post! It’s like you wrote it just for me!!

  • Jenn

    December 23, 2013 at 3:18 am

    We’re going to give our first 50/50 bottle of breast milk & cow’s milk tomorrow to our 14mo old and I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful post, and all of these incredible comments! It’s a bittersweet transition with nursing/pumping coming to an end and knowing that my little guy is growing up so fast. This is exactly what I needed to read before taking this next step!

  • Rhonda

    February 27, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you! I’ve been nursing my 14 month old since birth and I’ve been trying to wean. It’s been stressful and I feel so much better now!

  • ivona

    September 11, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I am so glad I have found this post,struggling with supply for the past 3 days,looks like that’s it for us,sad,sad but at least now I know what to do next,thank you so much

  • Terri

    November 11, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It is so easy to loose perspective when trying to do the best you can for your children. This post and subsequent discussion has me crying because it is so relieving to know that I’m not completely crazy for struggling with this in the first place, but also that it is ok to calm down a bit. Thanks again!

  • Danielle Gonzales

    February 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    This post was super helpful first of all! But I’m ready all the weaning comments. And my LO is just about a year and how do I make an easy transition when I can hardly keep breastfeeding? I’m pumping literally nothing. Do I just start slowly with a few ounces? Sorry to be dramatic it’s just been taking a toll on me!

  • Vanessa

    August 21, 2015 at 5:22 am

    What if I wanted to give hard cheeses, yogurt and kefir instead of whole milk? Would those give the same vitamin and calcium benefits? With the added benefit of probiotics.

  • Amber

    January 28, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    First off let me say all of these post have a lot of information. I do however have a problem with getting my daughter to drink milk. I have been excusiving breastfeding for almost 2 years(she will be 2 in May) and i must say she refuses to drink any milk out of a sippy cup or a bottle. She drinks everything else out of a sippy cup. She eats her soild foods but comes to me when shes tired. Ive cut down on any other times for breastfeding besides nap and bedtime. The cows milk is something she will sip (literally a sip) out of when its in my cup and reduses to drink it. Is there a different type of milk i should use?

    Thank you in advance.

  • Megan Folkins

    April 2, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    I have been struggling to find the information about how to balance breastmilk and cow’s milk! I am still breastfeeding my 12 month old, usually at least 3 times a day (morning/pre-nap snack/before bed). I have no idea how much cow’s milk I should be serving her to complement that! I usually give her 4-6 ounces at lunch, and maybe a few more ounces with supper (average of 8oz per day), but she’s been waking up at night… I wonder if I should be giving her more! She eats well, but I can also tell I am not making as much milk as I did even 2 months ago. As she eats more, naturally my supply would diminish. I want to do both, but how much of each?

  • Alyssa Unruh

    June 10, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    So I have discovered that I am one of those weird moms who is absolutely SICK of breastfeeding after 9 months of faithfully nursing my daughter. My Mom suggested adding in some goat’s milk and using it to replace one of her four milk feedings a day, just for the sake of my own sanity (and my husband’s). I took her advice and baby is quite happy to drink it (once I warm it a bit). But I decided to do some research on the benefits and disadvantages of goat’s milk and wound up reading this article. All of that to say, that was flat out hands down the most enertaining informational article I’ve ever read. Thanks for the laughs lol.