How to wean baby to plant-based milk. Whether you’re breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination, it’s normal to have questions about weaning, including when to introduce plant-based milk. Find step-by-step tips for switching baby to plant-based milk here.
It’s normal to have a lot of questions around weaning your baby, including when (and how) to introduce them to plant-based milk if you’re choosing to go dairy-free.
There’s no one “right” way to approach the details of weaning, and you’ll find a groove that works best for you. We both moved our babies from breast milk to plant-based milk and went through a lot of trial and error (like everything else with parenting!).
What’s the best plant-based milk for babies, and when is it appropriate to make the switch? How do you transition safely between fluids? We’re sharing our best tips below.
Best Plant-Based Milk for Babies
First things first. Contrary to what you’ve probably heard before, babies don’t need dairy milk to thrive. So if you’re concerned about nixing cow’s milk from your babe’s diet, don’t be.
While cow’s milk is one way to make sure your baby gets the calories, protein, fat, calcium, vitamins and minerals they need for optimal growth, it’s not the only – or necessarily the best – place to get these.
Making sure a child gets enough of these nutrients without cow’s milk doesn’t have to be difficult.
In addition to offering foods rich in bone health nutrients (particularly calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K) as you start offering your baby solid foods, choosing the right plant-based milk is also critical.
We recommend using unsweetened, fortified non-dairy milks, such as pea milk or soy milk, for new eaters as these contain the same (and sometimes more) calcium than a serving of cow’s milk.
Plus, fortified plant milks can also help meet littles meet their daily needs for vitamin D, protein, and fat.
Additionally, pea and soy milk contain the essential amino acid lysine, which can be limited on a plant-based diet. Soy milk is also one of the richest sources of choline, and important nutrient for brain health.
While nut milks and unfortified plant milks certainly aren’t “bad”, they don’t contain the calories and nutrients needed to support a baby’s growth and shouldn’t be relied upon as a beverage at this age. Use these sparingly, if at all, in the first few years to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
How to Introduce Plant-Based Milk
When it comes to plant-based milk, we recommend starting by offering 1-2 glasses of fortified pea or soy milk per day at 12 months of age.
For instance, you might give your baby one cup first thing in the morning and one cup as an afternoon snack or right before bedtime.
Keep your baby’s plant-based milk intake to under 16 ounces per day. This helps prevent them from filling them up too much, which could displace other crucial nutrients from solid foods, like iron.
You can also incorporate plant milks into smoothies or use it to make oatmeal and baked goods, like baby-led weaning muffins.
Sample Feeding Schedule
Baby should still be receiving breast milk on demand from 6-12 months. We know from experience that this can make it hard to navigate when – and how much – plant-based milk and solid foods should be offered.
Since plant-based milk shouldn’t be introduced as a beverage until 12 months, here’s an example feeding schedule.
- 7am: Breast milk or plant milk
- 8am: Breakfast food
- 10am: Mid-morning snack food
- 12pm: Lunch food
- 3pm: Mid-afternoon snack food + Breast milk or plant milk
- 6pm: Dinner food
- 7pm: Breast milk or plant milk
Keep in mind that this is just a starting place to help you find what works best for you and your baby. Together you’ll make a natural progression toward relying less on breast milk, making room for plant milk and foods.
At 12 months old, your baby should predominantly be offered solid foods while offering breast milk or plant-based milk a few times per day.
It’s normal to have lots of questions around how to wean baby to plant-based milk and when to introduce plant-based milk to your little. If you’re thinking of switching baby to plant-based milk, we support you! Keep the tips above in mind when choosing the best option and designing a good schedule for your baby.
Chime In: Share your own experiences introducing your baby to plant milks below!
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