Typically, babies should move from formula to baby food gradually over the course of months. In fact, it is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that from ages four to six months a newborn should only have breast milk or formula. From this point onward, if the child shows the physical signs of being ready, a slow introduction to solids and weaning may be initiated. The standard timeframe for a child to stop receiving formula and drink cow’s milk is normally after the first birthday.
There are several physical signs a parent or guardian must first notice before a child is weaned from formula to baby food. The baby should be able to sit up either assisted or unassisted and have at least doubled in weight. Good neck control is also necessary, meaning the baby should be able to hold his or her head up without assistance and be able to look around. The tongue thrust reflex must also be gone or else the baby may just spit out the food. It is also important that the baby is able to communicate that he or she no longer wants to eat, which is typically done by moving the head away or pushing the food away with the hands.
Once a readiness for weaning from formula to baby food has been established, plain rice or oat cereal or single vegetables and fruit may be slowly introduced. Typically, one new food should be introduced each week until enough has been introduced to serve mixed versions with one additional new food added. By nine months, a wider variety of foods with chunkier textures and a variety of ingredients may be introduced as long as no added salts, fats or sugars have been added. By 12 months, the baby should be able to eat finger foods with supervision, and whole cow's milk may be introduced.
At 12 months, a parent or guardian may ask the pediatrician if the child shows a readiness to fully switch from formula to baby food and begin drinking cow’s milk instead. Once the baby is approved to start drinking cow’s milk, there are two ways in which the child may be weaned. In some cases, the baby may wean himself or herself from formula without additional assistance. Most children, however, require a weaning process.
Some pediatricians recommend mixing whole cow’s milk and formula together in order to begin the weaning process. It is important to remember to mix the formula with water and not just the cow’s milk. Usually, through the course of four weeks, more cow’s milk is used compared to the formula until there is no more formula in the bottle or sippy cup. At this point, the baby should be fully switched from formula to baby food.