Baby Development,  Psychology

Transitioning from breastmilk or formula to whole milk

In my previous post (introducing a sippy cup to a 6-12 month old), I shared about our experience for different cups! Now here’s another transition, when your baby hits 12 months, they no longer need the bottle for formula or breastmilk! Our pediatrician informed us that we should instead give 4 ounces of whole milk during meals and water throughout the day.

No more formula!

Transitioning to whole milk means that we don’t need formula anymore! That’s right, mamas of formula babes, no more formula purchases! I fed the twins formula since day 1! If you have been tracking with our blog, we fed the boys 2 bottles of formula during those night feeds when they were newborns. When the boys began sleeping through the night at 5 months, we did 1 formula bottle at night. I saved so much money by breastfeeding and pumping milk for the twins. I really worked super hard to keep up and increase my supply and did everything I could to produce enough for both boys with a sufficient freezer stash as well.

But let me tell ya that we still fed formula everyday, and by the time the boys were at 11 months and shortly after weaned off from the breast, they chugged that formula stuff so much that we went through a tub of formula within a few days. This meant we took several Costco trips just to get the 4-pack tubs of enfamil in the past month. I felt like I got a year’s worth of formula for a single baby in the last few months. I’m so happy that we no longer need it, because that powdery goodness is so expensive!

I was scared to give the boys regular milk

Though I had weaned my boys off the breast by 11.5 months (read my blog post on how I weaned off the twins from breastfeeding!) it was still daunting to me to get them completely off any formula bottle since they were drinking about 5-8 ounces 4-5 times a day. To not give them a bottle right when they wake up in the morning or after a nap or before bed didn’t feel right for me. Their formula intake contributed to a pretty big chunk of their daily nutrition, so to take that bottle away seemed like I was going to starve them or something. By 12-months, babies should be getting most of their nutrition from their table food meals and snacks and not breastmilk or formula. It might be more natural to take them off the bottle/breast and for the baby to not even want the bottle/breast anymore. It was just gonna have to be a process for us.

How my boys did with their first cup of whole milk

Well, I did attempt the no formula thing and gave it a shot. I provided the boys a 4 ounce bottle of organic whole milk for the boys during a meal. I gave them milk in their favorite cup (the thinkbaby thinkster), but it was quickly shut down with faces of disgust and still-full cup. The boys shook their head in disapproval every time I offered it. I didn’t want to force them, so I tried it again at the next meal, but only got the same reaction, and the boys ended up drinking only water.

Upon this disappointing reaction, it didn’t feel right to not provide any formula, especially when they weren’t even drinking any regular whole milk. I realized that I approached this whole introducing whole milk incorrectly. I decided I would take them off the formula bottle at our own slow pace.

Shaping behavior: transition to whole milk

I’m a bit of a psychology nerd, and I wanted to share one way in how I apply behavior theories for the boys. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner theorized the concept of shaping. Well, he pretty much is considered the “Father of behaviorism”, and alot of what I do for the boys come from his theories. Shaping means you make successive approximations to reach a certain goal. Pretty much, shaping means that you reward successful small steps to get to a desired goal behavior. It’s a teaching tool for complex behaviors.

In this case, I take our “complex behavior” and apply the concept of shaping with drinking whole milk. We made small successive approximations by combining formula and milk to eventually teach the boys to drink whole milk without any mixins during mealtimes.

Some tips to remember

  • Motivation is key! Mealtimes are when you should teach how to drink milk because that is when they feel thirsty and have increased desire for some sort of drink. However, I also have offered them milk while at play and they wanted to drink something. Pretty much, whenever I saw an opportunity where they were motivated, I offered them the milk so we can see more success!
  • Set the tone for a positive experience. I tried to make it a positive experience by not forcing them to drink the milk. If they even tried it and took few sips, I always praised them each time. I have to admit, in the beginning I was pretty disappointed and couldn’t help but feel sad and make a frowny face when they didn’t drink any milk. Especially, when the boys showed a face of disgust with the first sip, I also made the same face at them. But I realized the goal is to try to get them drink the milk. The next time they didn’t drink the milk, I would just end the task and take the milk away. I restarted and offered the milk again when I felt that they looked thirsty again. If they continued to shake the head and swipe the bottle away, I stopped everything and just looked forward to the next opportunity.
  • Model desired behavior! At this age, the boys love to imitate everything I do. Sometimes I would drink water or milk with them and they were definitely more motivated to drink their milk as well! Another plus for us is that my guys are twins. Sometimes, I see more leadership in one of them. In this case it was Wyatt. He began to drink milk and Owen wanted to copy his brother so they copied each other! Woohoo!
  • Extra praise for desired behavior! I really really praised them alot when they drank a lot of milk. Sometimes they would finish a whole 7 ounce cup!! I would kiss them, clap for them, or try to make them laugh and smile. Though they are little babies, they have the cognitive capabilities to understand simple emotions and it increased their motivation to drink their milk!

Sample schedule of transitioning to whole milk!

Each child is different in how they may learn, so the number of days in between of each step can vary. For one, your baby may not even need this whole formula mix in thing because they might take whole milk from day one! But that was not the case for us, so here is a sample of what we did! It took us about 1.5 weeks to transition for our mealtime milk.

  • day 1: offer 4 ounces of formula mixed with 0.5 ounces of milk
  • day 2-4: offer 3 ounces of formula mixed with 1 ounce of milk
  • day 5-7: offer 2 ounces of formula mixed with 2 ounces of milk
  • day 8-9: offer 3 ounces of formula mixed with 1 ounce of milk
  • day 10: offer 4 ounces of milk (the boys ended up drinking more by this time! about 4-7 ounces of milk at each meal)

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