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Feeding Your Baby

How to Switch Baby from Breastmilk to Formula?

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There are lots of reasons you may want to switch your baby from breastmilk to formula. At the end of the day, your “why” isn’t important. You know what’s best for your baby, and you know how to make the right decisions for their health. 

Once you’ve decided to make this change, it’s important to learn how to smoothly switch your baby from breastmilk to formula. 

Whether you choose to breastfeed, formula-feed or combination feed your baby, the choice is uniquely and confidently yours—and we’re here to help you do it! Read on to learn how to switch your baby from breastmilk to organic baby formula

Start Slow

If smooth sailing is your goal, you should probably introduce formula to your breastfed baby slowly. Utilizing a gradual process can ensure that both you and your baby are ready for the switch instead of going cold turkey—because nobody really likes cold turkey!

Give yourself and your baby plenty of time to adjust to your new routine.

Create a Plan and Timeframe

Start the process by creating a plan for you and your baby. Choosing a specific time frame can help you make a schedule that works for everyone. 

For instance, If you’re on maternity leave and need to start bottle formula feeding before going back to work, you can plan a gradual switch that you can complete before your return date.

Your plan should include enough time for you and your baby to acclimate to your new normal. Your baby will need to adjust to the bottle and their new feeding positions, and your breast will need to adjust to providing less milk. 

Speaking of your breast, now is a good time to consider getting a breast pump. When we transition away from breastfeeding, moms often experience breast engorgement. 

Engorgement occurs when the breast is too full of milk. This can happen if you stop breastfeeding suddenly without pumping. Engorgement can be painful, and it can cause your breast milk to leak onto your clothing. 

So, make a plan and put it into action over time. There’s no need to rush.  

Choose a Formula

An important element in successfully switching your baby from breastfeeding to formula feeding is choosing the right organic baby formula. There are plenty of options, so you’ll be able to find the perfect formula for your family. 

You may want to focus on the ingredients, the nutrients and vitamins, the brand’s values, and the formula’s price.

Flavor may also be a consideration, as your baby needs to like the taste of the formula if you’re going to supplement their diet with it. 

Types of Baby Formula

You can find most baby formulas in 3 common forms: 

  • Powered Formulas: You mix this type of formula with water fit for drinking.
  • Concentrated Liquid Formulas: This type of formula must also be mixed with water fit for drinking. 
  • Ready-to-Feed Formulas: This comes pre-mixed and ready to serve.  

When choosing which form to choose, conduct some research, ask your pediatrician, and discuss it with your family. 

As for types of baby formula bases and ingredients, here are some typical ones you may see on the market. 

Cow’s Milk Formula

This is the most common type of infant formula. Cow’s milk formula helps protein be more digestible, and they tend to be iron-fortified. You can find conventional, organic, and even grass-fed cow’s milk formulas. 

Although cow’s milk formula is nutritious and can usually be digested easily, some babies are allergic to the proteins found in cow’s milk. Thankfully, there are plenty of other great baby formulas on the market!

Soy Formula

This type of formula is a vegan option often recommended due to family dietary preferences—like vegan families—or cow’s milk allergies. Soy formula comes in conventional and organic forms.

Protein Hydrolysate Formula

Protein hydrolysate formula contains proteins that have been broken down to be even more digestible. This type of formula is used when babies are intolerant to cow’s milk and soy-based infant formulas. 

Choosing a Bottle

Once you have a formula, the next step is to choose a bottle

The wrong bottle can cause a lot of issues when bottle feeding or formula feeding. Sometimes a baby may reject bottle-feeding simply because the nipple of the bottle doesn’t feel right or the milk doesn’t flow well. 

If you begin feeding and your baby rejects their bottle, you can experiment with bottle types to see if another bottle works better. There are glass bottles and plastic bottles to choose from, alongside latex and silicone nipple options.

Alternate Breastfeeding and Bottle Formula Feeding

The next step in the transition process is alternating breastfeeding and bottle feeding your baby. There’s no issue giving your baby both formula and breast milk, and some parents choose to provide both consistently. This is referred to as combination feeding. 

Mix it up within your regular feeding schedule, and be sure to keep track of when you choose to feed your baby formula and their response. You can use a feeding journal or an app on your smartphone.

You can also introduce formula feeding if you leave the baby in the care of someone else, like a family member or trusted babysitter. This will also provide an opportunity to introduce your baby to feeding without you present, which could be helpful if you’re planning on returning to work. 

Experiment With Exclusive Formula Feeding

If your goal is to combination feed your baby organic baby formula and breast milk, congratulations! You’re completely set on your transition journey. 

If you plan to exclusively bottle feed, there are a few more steps to consider. After alternating between breastfeeding and formula feeding for a while, it’s time to feed your baby exclusively with formula. 

Continue feeding within your regular schedule as much as possible. If you want to adjust the schedule just a bit if your baby is used to a midnight feeding, now’s a great time to start. 

While formula feeding, you can keep tracking how your baby responds to their formula and make changes when needed. If you find yourself worried for any reason, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician. They can help you get back on track and provide some much-needed peace of mind.

Bonding With Your Baby

Many people may worry that transitioning to formula feeding affects the bond between mother and child. Bonding with your baby is extremely important, but breast milk supply and breastfeeding are not a necessity for bonding with your child.

There are many ways outside of breastfeeding that you can bond with your baby. Your baby requires touch and love, first and foremost. Introduce other bonding activities like play, sing or talk time, and extra hugs!  

You can also bond by mirroring your baby’s movements or introducing mommy and me bath time to maintain skin-to-skin contact. 

Conclusion

The switch from exclusive breastfeeding to bottle-feeding may seem daunting, but if you take it slow and steady, it can be a breeze. Remain open to making adjustments throughout the transition, and know that you can always reach out to your pediatrician for help when you need it.

With an infant, everything is new. It takes time and patience to get things in order—a little anxiety is normal. Just do the best you can when you can. You’ve got this! 

Sources:

Breast Engorgement | University of Michigan Health

Types of formula milk | NHS

How to Feed a Combination of Breast Milk and Formula | New York Times

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.
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The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

Meet the Author

Bridget Reed, contributing writer for Milk Drunk with the expert advice of Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann

Bridget Reed is an experienced writer, editor SEO content manager and proud mom of three.

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