For most mothers, breastfeeding is the decision they take when their baby is born. And many mothers are likely to keep breastfeeding until their baby is one year old or more.
But there are lots of reasons why introducing formula or switching fully to the formula is needed before your baby’s first birthday.
Over half of mothers will do so, and that’s the reason we understand that a lot of parents ask how best to make the transition from breastmilk to formula. No matter if you’re willing to supplement your baby’s nutrition with formula or if you have to do a full switch, get our coverage of everything you have to be aware of to get the most out of the switch for you and your baby.
How to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula?
If your child is still an eager infant but you’re becoming less inclined, allow plenty of time – a couple of weeks or more – for a gentle transfer. Preferably, you begin weaning a month or two ahead of time. To ensure your baby gets the advantages of breast milk for as long as possible, you can begin replacing your breastfeeding feedings with pumping until you are prepared to fully wean your baby.
Start by skipping one feeding after another, giving him a little formula before nursing, or gradually decreasing the time spent at every feeding. For infants older than 1 year, you can substitute breast milk with cow’s milk or a snack.
Slowing it down will be great for you, too.
Gradual weaning will allow your milk supply to slowly leak out and help you prevent unpleasant lumps and clogged ducts. Weaning in advance of the close of your maternity leave provides you with lots of time to reduce the associated emotional stress.
A lot of new moms feel that it’s actually easiest to go ahead and skip or shorten a midday meal to start weaning, particularly if your baby recently ate lunch and perhaps isn’t that hungry for milk. Once you’ve successfully stopped one feeding, you can allow yourself and your child time to get comfortable with it – a couple of days or maybe even a couple of weeks, whichever works right for you – before you begin to discontinue one more feeding.
If stopping breastfeeding gradually is not an option, you can hand pump or have pumping performed to help relieve pressure while your milk supply slowly reduces. Placing cold cabbage leaves inside your bra can be relieving, and putting cool compresses on your breasts or using analgesics such as paracetamol (Tylenol and others) may also be helpful in easing some of the symptoms.
No matter how gradually or rapidly you choose to stop breastfeeding, be sure to take note of how the baby handles the transition. For some babies and toddlers, the weaning process is accepted without a problem. But if your child starts to give signs that it’s happening too quickly – waking up more frequently during the night or being moodier or fussier throughout the day – think about slowing down the tempo a bit.
How long does it take for a baby to adjust to the formula change?
While some moms might feel that an instant switch is a way to go; this is not the case. It’s a big mistake not to switch gradually enough.
It takes your baby some time to get used to drinking from a bottle and adapting to the taste of formula.
In addition, as opposed to discontinuing breastfeeding outright, a slow switch will keep the mom from getting constipated. Give yourself about a month’s time to wean your baby off breast milk so he or she is comfortable feeding from a bottle.
When to switch formulas
Choosing when it is time to wean varies for every baby. Some babies keep their bond with nursing into toddlerhood. While others express less enthusiasm and start weaning before their first birthday (commonly between 9 and 12 months of age).
The AAP suggests breastfeeding your baby only for the first 6 months and continuing to feed him or her a blend of breast milk and solid foods until their first birthday. And if the arrangement is working for both of you, it’s totally okay to keep going longer.
But suppose you decide to wean earlier? The question of when you should quit nursing is really a private choice, and every mother has to do what’s right for her and her little one. However, weaning is often simpler if you take your baby’s or toddler’s lead and let him or her do it. While stopping breastfeeding on the mother’s own initiative is quite doable, going against your child’s wishes can actually complicate the process a bit.
Yet, in some situations, you need to consider trying to delay weaning when possible. You may want to consider delaying weaning if:
- Your baby gets sick or is teething. Your baby will cope with the transition easier if he or she is feeling fine.
- Your family is in a transitional phase. Returning to work, a change in caregiver, or moving can all be stressful. Make sure you wait for things to calm down before you make one more major shift.
- There are a couple of food allergies in your family. If either you or your spouse experience food allergies, nursing can decrease the chance that your baby will become sensitive to specific allergens.
- You have had a rough day nursing. Sometimes days are simply tough. It’s completely fine to stop breastfeeding if it remains challenging or unpleasant. But allow a couple of weeks before you make a firm choice.
So unless you’re a superwoman and are able to be around your little one 24/7, nursing isn’t always sustainable.
And that’s fine.
At times we put unrealistic pressure on ourselves, but the reality is that life happens. We may experience latch-on issues, the milk flow may unexpectedly run dry, there may be some medical problems, and more often than not, we need to go right back to work at our regular full-time jobs, willingly or not.
No matter what the cause for initiating formula with your breastfed baby, you will probably be confronted with anxiety and concerns, wondering how the switch will be.
- Initiate formula gradually
If a baby is exclusively breastfed, it may be difficult to introduce formula in the beginning. This is a huge understating for certain babies. Everything is up to your unique baby. Therefore, it is always better to introduce formula gradually to breastfed babies to make the change less obvious to the baby and also simpler for the mom.
We recommend only adding 25% formula with 75% breastmilk in the beginning. If everything works fine, you may raise this to 50% formula and 50% breastmilk.
If no issues arise and all goes well, you can begin providing pure formula in the bottles.
- Pick the correct formula
All baby formulas are different. Indeed, some regular infant formulas contain sucrose, a type of sugar that affects tooth enamel faster than other sugars. We seriously doubt you will give your precious baby a spoonful of sugar to eat, and that is what sucrose is! It is terrifying to consider what can be in the food our babies are eating. Even with organic baby food, you need to be sure to actually read the label on the contents and be cautious about what you place in your baby’s mouth. As we have said, not all of them are equal.
It is increasingly common for Americans to get infant formulas from Europe for their babies. If you provide them with a quality product, the changeover will go more smoothly for both mom and baby.
- Use it as a supplement
You might have a bright baby who isn’t into bottle feeding nonsense, so mixing organic infant formula into your baby’s food may be the way to go during the transition. According to your baby’s age, adding some infant formula to the oatmeal or other puréed food is a nice method to start implementing infant formulas.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you delay until your baby is from four to six months old before beginning to introduce solid foods.
But if your baby is over the suggested age, you can begin by mixing small quantities of formula into your baby’s cereal to help get him or her accustomed to it. This way, he will develop a taste for it, and then when you choose to feed him a bottle of formula, it will certainly be a smooth transition.
- The correct timing
In general, timing is king. And that’s no exception for introducing formula to breastfed babies. Though children generally adapt to new circumstances quite quickly, chances are your baby will resist even handling the bottle. Do not get disheartened! If that’s the situation, you need to wait until the appropriate time. Most experts suggest waiting to introduce bottle feeding until your baby reaches a minimum of three or four weeks of age (once breastfeeding has become firmly).
How to wean a baby from breastmilk to formula?
Guide to weaning by age
Discontinuing breastfeeding a younger baby is completely different from nursing an older baby or a toddler. Below you will find suggestions for some guidance on how to discontinue or decrease breastfeeding, according to your baby’s age:
- Ways to wean at 0-3 months
Sometimes early weaning may be simpler since your baby will not be used to nursing so much yet, unlike a few more months down the road. You will have to get him properly used to the bottle by feeding him before every nursing meal, and then letting him wean entirely.
Do you think your baby may prefer the bottle to the breast? Milk or formula will flow easier from the bottle, reducing the force with which your baby has to suck. But you are able to slow down the flow of milk and get bottle sucking to more closely resemble breast sucking by choosing a bottle nipple designed for early or newborn babies and following the gradual bottle-feeding technique.
- Ways to wean at 4-6 months
At 4 months, your baby has likely become used to his or her preferred food source: your breasts. So weaning may be more challenging.
Some distractions never hurt anybody, and it’s particularly useful once your baby starts to become aware of the world outside at approximately 5 months of age. Gradually begin the daily feedings in which he shows the least interest, and then take them down.
- Ways to wean at 6-12 months
For some babies, weaning themselves between 9 and 12 months is something that can make the whole experience a lot easier. When your baby breastfeeds for a shorter period of time, becomes upset or easily distracted while nursing, or often tugs at the breast rather than eating, all of these are signs that your baby might be losing interest.
However, keep in mind that other kids may not handle it well if they’re told that breastfeeding is out of the question. Luckily, introducing solid foods around 4 to 6 months could be a great boost. Is your baby going “gah gah” while breastfeeding? Give it a go by using delicately mashed or pureed bananas or sweet potatoes to keep it entertained.
- Ways to wean a toddler
Some toddlers wake up someday and decide they are ready – that they no more need the safety of breastfeeding and are willing to switch to cow’s milk and solid foods.
Others don’t lose interest in nursing and may need a push in that direction. It may be useful to remind him that he is a grown boy now and it is now time to quit breastfeeding. And then slowly decrease breastfeeding to only the specific times when he asks for it. It can also be useful to modify the routine to times when he usually breastfeeds, as well as to give him a snack before he normally nurses.
The transition from breast milk to formula is quite natural and completely normal for your baby.
If you begin feeling bad about bottle-feeding your baby rather than breastfeeding, keep in mind that any way you do it, your baby has all the nourishment he or she could possibly need.
But if you are still worried, you may find these hints useful:
- Include some new activities in your schedule to make up for the missing bonding time. For example, try playing with your baby or doing interactive books together to promote this intimacy.
- It is simpler to move to infant formula after you have introduced solid foods into your baby’s diet. Your baby is probably getting a lot of the nutrients he or she needs from solids by now, though, so it could be simpler to get him or her to take formula together with the solids.
- Wait until your baby is a minimum of 1-year-old before giving him cow’s milk since his body is unable to digest it before that. Plus, it won’t supply the necessary nutrients that your baby will get from breast milk or formula.
Mistakes that mothers make when switching to formula
1. Switching too fast.
Some mothers may feel that it’s easiest to transition immediately, but this is wrong. It is a big mistake not to transition gradually enough. Your baby takes a while to get used to drinking from the bottle and getting accustomed to the flavor of formula. In contrast to discontinuing nursing cold turkey, a gradual switch also keeps mom from getting engorged.
Spend about an entire month weaning your baby off breast milk so that he or she can be comfortable feeding from a bottle.
2. Omitting too many breastfeeding foods in one go.
The next mistake moms make when transitioning is omitting a number of breastfeeding meals at one time. Choose which breastfeeding meals to substitute first – maybe the meal you’re least comfortable with – and substitute it with supplemental foods.
Give your baby time to adjust to this transition before dropping another one. This is a “one step at a time” process.
3. Keep the dad out of the picture
Since the mom is the one with the breasts, breastfeeding the baby is a responsibility that falls on her. But when it’s time to transition to formula, let the father give the baby the initial bottle feed to build some connection. Besides, it will facilitate the process, as the baby won’t be stressed by your presence and can simply focus on the bottle.
It will also decrease breastfeeding stress for you since you can relax while the dad is feeding the baby. If the father isn’t present on the scene, every relative will be able to help.
4. Use the incorrect nipple
Babies do have their likes and dislikes, the same as anyone else. For instance, rather than getting a kit of Avent bottles or nipples, get one first and check if your baby is comfortable with the nipple size. If it works fine then, go ahead and get stocked up. Otherwise, go on to the next one.
5. Choice of formula
All the thinking about the feeding regimen, the nipple, and the bottle can make it easy for moms to get distracted from paying proper attention to the formula itself, which is particularly crucial.
When your baby is not taking formula well, you should consider changing to a new formula.
In instances of allergies, your pediatrician may be able to offer help in advising a formula that is most appropriate for your baby and his/her unique requirements, perhaps such as Nutramigen or Alimentum. If the allergies are intense, there are specialized baby formulas like Neocate or Elecare for you to try.
6. Use old formula milk
Breast milk is always prepared and is never stale. With formula, though, it’s not the same. A bottle of formula that has been standing at room temperature for longer than an hour is old.
Moms have to watch the clock to ensure that the formula inside the bottle is still fresh enough to be consumed by the baby. If you feed your baby old formula, he or she may become unwell.
7. Warming up the formula
Nursing mothers do not have to think about heating up the milk before breastfeeding, as the temperature of the breast milk is usually accurate for the baby.
Is it okay to switch from breastmilk to formula?
The feeding of infant formula in combination with breastfeeding is called complementary feeding. Many families choose this type of combined feeding, either out of necessity (for example, when the amount of breast milk is insufficient), convenience, or simply personal preference. Sometimes breastfeeding and complementary feeding are recommended by a doctor for health reasons.
Feeding one or two formula bottles a week should not compromise your body’s supply of breast milk.
But giving your baby one or two bottles of formula per day may reduce your milk supply.
Your baby’s actions provide you with insight into what’s going on in his or her body. It’s up to you to be aware of this and take action appropriately. We will list the usual signs and symptoms that your baby is showing. But these symptoms might be the outcome of some other condition, so the stress is on seeing your pediatrician.
- Watery stools.
- Fatigue or faintness.
- Fussiness and restlessness right after a feeding.
- Abnormal bloating.
- Grunting and weeping.
- Flaky skin.
- Profuse vomiting.
While there is nothing wrong with mixing breast milk and formula in the same container, it is not suggested simply to avoid losing a single drop of your valuable breast milk. Formula prepared from a bottle that your baby has drunk from needs to be discarded away within an hour after preparation. Breast milk, however, will “store” refrigerated for a few hours inside a bottle that was fed.
For example, when you mix 2 ounces of pumped breast milk with 2 ounces of formula and your baby sips just 2 ounces in total, you must throw away the remains, thereby throwing out a portion of your breast milk.
To prevent this type of waste, a great backup plan is to feed your baby the pumped breast milk and then add a couple of ounces of breast milk if necessary.
Some moms blend the powdered formula with their breast milk to boost their baby’s calorie supply during feedings. Do not do this, please! It not only modifies the composition of the breast milk, but the micro-nutrients in the formula get so highly concentrated that it may be hard on your baby’s immature kidneys. Therefore, you must keep strictly to the directions on the container of powdered or concentrated formula, and you should never mix the formula with something else besides distilled water.
The introduction of formula to your baby, either to supplement breast milk or to switch to formula entirely, takes a lot of patience. Understanding that your little one will need time to get used to the modifications you are implementing and that this change can’t be done all of a sudden. We hope the tips we have covered here will assist you in making a smooth transition. Also, be mindful of any possible reactions and consult with your pediatrician or breastfeeding consultant for any additional worries you may experience.