If you’ve decided to formula feed from the beginning, or plan to introduce it later, you might be wondering when do babies stop drinking formula?
Leading health organisations recommend babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months after birth.
When your baby is 6 months or more, it’s recommended you continue to breastfeed, while also giving your baby other foods.
This should continue for at least one year, or for as long as you and your child are happy.
For a number of reasons, however, some babies are not exclusively breastfed.
Some are given a combination of formula and breastmilk; this is called ‘mixed feeding’
Other babies are fully formula fed.
If a baby doesn’t get any, or enough, breastmilk, the only suitable alternative is infant formula.
When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?
Until quite recently in human history, babies were fed directly from the breast, either from their own mother or a wet nurse.
A wet nurse was a woman – not the mother – who had given birth and still had a milk supply.
Some cultures also used animal milks.
In the mid 1800s, after the invention of infant formula, it became the preferred alternative to breastmilk, for feeding a baby who would otherwise starve.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that formulas and bottles were widely used.
More and more women were entering the workforce and needed to leave their babies with a carer.
By this time, wet nursing had fallen out of favour.
Aggressive marketing by formula companies dazzled women with unsubstantiated claims that formula offered complete nutrition and health benefits.
For social and cultural reasons, women were actively discouraged from breastfeeding.
Today we’re more aware than ever infant formula is not a nutritionally complete food, whereas breastmilk is.
It’s particularly important to use formula correctly.
You can read more in Formula Feeding – 9 Things To Avoid When Using Formula.
At What Age Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?
Most babies don’t need any formula. They thrive on breastmilk alone for the first 6 months of life.
However, there are situations where formula might be necessary.
If a baby is fully formula fed, formula is typically not necessary beyond the age of 12 months.
Toddlers need a wide variety of foods to meet their nutrient needs. If you offer your toddler a variety of nutritious foods you will encourage healthy eating habits.
Parents sometimes worry their children won’t get enough nutrition because they’re ‘picky eaters’.
In fact, it’s normal for toddlers to go through a picky eating phase.
A healthy child won’t starve simply due to picky eating.
Unfortunately, when you give toddlers formula, it tends to fill them up, and they won’t have any appetite for solid foods. This creates an ongoing problem.
It’s also recommended toddlers switch from bottles to regular open topped cups.
Bottles and sippy cups interfere with toddlers learning how to use their tongues properly.
This can affect their ability to chew and swallow food, as well as potentially interfere with speech and language development.
You might like to read more in Why Your Toddler Shouldn’t Use A Sippy Cup.
Some babies might no longer need formula before they reach 12 months.
For example, if a mother has an ongoing low milk supply and is supplementing her baby with formula, it’s possible formula won’t be required after the baby starts consuming solids.
So, what can toddlers have to drink beyond 12 months?
What Drinks To Give Babies When They Stop Drinking Formula
When you make the decision to stop giving your baby formula, you might worry about what to give instead.
After 12 months of age, your baby can drink water or full cream cow’s milk.
Fruit juices aren’t recommended, due to their high sugar content.
There are also various health risks in giving fruit juice to babies, such as increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Other drinks that aren’t suitable options include:
- Tea (including iced and herbal teas)
- Flavoured milks
- Vitamin drinks
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
- Soft/fizzy drinks
Some of these can be hazardous to your baby’s health.