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Son Prefers Formula to Cow's Milk

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My 18-month-old son still drinks formula from a bottle. He does not like cow's milk. What can I do? Formula is good for him, right?

A: This is a typical age for children to start to express their likes and dislikes. Most children switch from formula to whole milk at approximately 12 months of age, and this is because they no longer need the special combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat that is in the formula. The general opinion is that they can tolerate the cow's milk (which has a higher level of protein) after a year of age.

Also by 18 months of age, most children have shifted from getting a majority of their calories in a liquid form to getting it from the food that they eat. For this and other reasons it is recommended that children try to stop using the bottle by 18 months. My advice to you at this point, presuming your child is healthy and not underweight, is to try to stop the bottle and formula, and allow him to start to increase his intake of food during the day at his meals. You should then try to give him small amounts of cow's milk in a cup at each of his meals. You can also give him milk on his cereal, which is the way that many children begin to drink it.

A major reason for encouraging milk in children is because it has Vitamin D and calcium which children need large amounts of. You can get calcium from other milk products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, as well as from certain vegetables such as broccoli. Vitamin D is not present in those other milk products, however your child can get Vitamin D from other foods at this time, as well as from exposure to sun light.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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