Why your baby still needs milk
Although solids are now forming a bigger part of your baby’s diet, milk is still his biggest source of vitamins, minerals and calories, essential for fuelling his growth and development.
What sort of milk?
Until he’s 12 months old, the only milk that your baby should be drinking is breastmilk or formula. Cow’s milk doesn’t contain the right levels of fat or nutrients for growing babies, and isn’t suitable as a drink until he’s one, although you can start using it in cooking (for example, in sauces or on cereal) from six months onwards.
How much does he need?
According to the Food Standards Agency, your baby should be taking a minimum of 16-20 ounces (500-600ml) of formula a day, or having regular breastfeeds, alongside meals and snacks. In reality, the amount he takes on a daily basis is likely to vary according to how much solid food he eats, but at this age, most babies are likely to have a breastfeed or 7oz bottle on waking and at bedtime, with a smaller feed mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Is your baby ready to drop a feed?
Most babies will naturally start to drop a feed once they’re eating three solid meals a day: usually around seven to nine months. It doesn’t matter which feed he drops first; often, the lunchtime feed is the first to go, as it’s easily replaced by lunch, but he may equally go off his mid-morning or mid-afternoon milk.
How to drop a milk feed
Some babies naturally start to refuse one of their daily milk feeds; others gradually take less and less of their feed until you stop offering it completely. If you think he’s having more milk than he should be – for example, if it’s spoiling his appetite for solids – you can encourage him to drop a feed by offering him his solid food first, or giving him milk or water in a cup with a snack instead of a bottle or breastfeed.
One step forwards, two steps back
Remember that if your baby is poorly or teething, he may lose his appetite for solids and want more milk, particularly if he’s breastfed, as he’ll crave the comfort. Don’t force solids on him in this case; just wait until he’s feeling better. Equally, he may go off his milk if he’s not feeling 100 per cent or has filled up on snacks or other drinks, so don’t assume he has completely dropped a feed until he has gone without it for several days in a row.
Too much or too little?
If you think your baby is having less milk than he should, try upping the calcium levels in his solid diet. Using milky sauces, adding grated cheese to mashed potatoes or vegetables, and giving him yoghurts or cubes of cheese as snacks will all boost his dairy intake, and don’t forget there are many other good sources of calcium, such as green leafy vegetables, low-salt baked beans and other pulses.
If you’re worried that your baby is having too much milk and not enough solids, try giving him his solid food before his milk so he doesn’t fill up too much.
Remember, all babies are different, but if you have any concerns about the amount of milk your baby is drinking, talk to your health visitor or doctor.