Some moms choose to breastfeed their babies exclusively, others have their babies exclusively on formula, and others combine both breastfeeding and formula feeding. One thing is sure: transitioning from breastfeeding to formula-feeding is always hard for both the mom and the baby. This choice can be influenced by several factors like work, sickness, milk supply issues, etc. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is not to feel like you are failing as a mom or guilty for any choice you make, so long as your baby is well-fed, loved, and happy.
The second important point to know is that no one formula will work for all babies-there is nothing like the best or right formula. Still, there are many great formulas in the market that your baby will love. Since all babies are different, you might have to do trial and error until you get the one that works for them and then go with it. You can continue bonding with your baby during feeds while also feeling confident that you are giving your baby the best substitute for breast milk.
Before you introduce your baby to formula, it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician first. Since they are conversant with your specific situation, they are better placed to guide you on how to go about it and what choices will work best for you and your baby’s needs.
How to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula
If you have decided to switch your baby from breastfeeding to formula, there are different ways to go about it.
Weaning your baby off breast milk gradually is the most recommended strategy. This is because it gives your baby time to get used to the taste of formula and their digestion to adjust also. Usually, formula causes digestion problems such as gas, constipation, and fussiness. By introducing the formula gradually, the digestive system is able to handle the formula effectively to avoid or minimize such problems.
One of the ways to transition gradually is by mixing expressed breast milk and formula, where you keep reducing the ratio of the breast milk as you increase formula as days pass until, at last, the baby takes only formula. You can expect the transition process to take up to two weeks to work.
Another way some moms use is by alternating between breastfeeding and formula feeding. This may not work as the baby could potentially refuse formula bottles. Also, it doesn’t allow enough time for the baby to get used to the new taste of formula.
Switching cold turkey
There are certain circumstances where switching from breast milk to formula, cold turkey is the only practical option. It is generally hard, especially if the baby was previously only suckling from the breast, as the baby could reject the bottle right away. Consider getting slow flow bottles with a nipple designed to feel like an actual breast, this will make the process easier. The transition process is a bit easier for babies already used to taking breast milk from a bottle.
Keep in mind switching abruptly to formula might cause tummy troubles for your little ones, such as excessive gas and constipation. On your part, discomforts and painful engorgement are possibilities. That’s why this method is not generally recommended.
Which formula to use when introducing formula first-time?
As earlier mentioned, there is no single formula that is best for all babies. Each baby is different, as are their feeding requirements. That said, we can advise on what makes a good formula for your baby and give some recommendations.
We believe that a good formula is the one closest to breast milk. That means it should be free from GMOs, artificial preservatives, synthetic nutrients, sweeteners such as glucose syrup, sucrose, and corn syrup which are included in many of the formulas in the market. Instead, we favor formulas made from organic cow or goat milk, which have undergone strict testing for top quality and freshness. They should include ingredients like lactose, organic whey, prebiotics and probiotics, vitamins, and minerals for wholesome nutrition.
Here are some formulas that we have found to be particularly great for healthy babies.
Holle Bio Pre
Holle is a European formula brand made in Germany that observes the highest quality standards in the world. Not only has it met European Commission regulations, but also Demeter biodynamic standards as well. That means it’s free of GMOs, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, flavors and colorings, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives hence safe to feed your baby.
Bio Pre features ingredients like organic whey powder, biodynamic skim milk, organic lactose, vitamins, and minerals. Most of its fat content is derived from milk fat, with only a smaller portion coming from vegetable oils.
The other advantage is that the Holle brand of formulas uses organic goat milk. Goat milk is easier for little tummies to digest compared to cow milk because the protein molecules are smaller and easier to absorb. Most parents also remark that the formula is creamy and tasty.
Kendamil is also one of the best and wholesome European formulas in the market. The British brand uses organic cow milk for its formulas. You will find milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) ingredients, derived from full milk cream, shown to support an infant’s brain development and immunity. It also contains plant-based DHA from algae, galactooligosaccharides (GOs), and Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), both acting as prebiotic to support a healthy gut. HMO is also shown to reduce risks of infection and allergies and promote brain development. This formula does not have artificial sweeteners or unhealthy fats like palm oil or fish oil. It uses organic vegetable oil instead.
The HiPP family prides themselves in producing formulas that are free from genetic engineering and, at the same time, nutritionally complete. It is one of the most popular European brands in the market, and they also have special formulas for kids with digestive issues such as reflux, allergies, and intolerance.
Their formulas contain organic whey, organic skim milk, organic lactose, vegetable oils, prebiotics omega-3 and 6, vitamins and minerals, and more. You will also not find refined sugars, synthetic nutrients and preservatives, soy, and other unhealthy substances.
You can choose the HiPP UK stage 1 for infants or HiPP UK Stage 2 for babies aged six months and older.
They also have HiPP Dutch Stage 1 and 2, which closely resemble the UK version. The only difference is that Dutch formulas also contain probiotics similar to those in breast milk, in the form of organic lactic acid cultures.
Feeding specifications /conditions
For babies with digestive issues and conditions, the HiPP organic formula line has special formulas designed to cater to babies with these conditions.
Reflux and Spit-ups– For babies with reflux, you can try the HiPP AR Anti-Reflux, gentle formula with locust bean gum as a thickener to help keep the formula down after feeding.
Milk protein allergies-For babies with milk protein sensitivities can use the HiPP Germany HA Hypoallergenic formula, which contains extensively hydrolyzed whey proteins that are highly unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction.
Cow milk intolerance-For babies that have indigestion issues like gas from proteins in cow milk, Holle Goat milk formula may work best for them. This is because the proteins in goat milk are smaller and more similar to breast milk hence easier to digest.
Transitioning gradually to formula
If you plan to continue breastfeeding combined with formula feeding, it is recommended to wait until your little one is at least one month old before introducing formula. This will give your body time to establish a consistent milk supply, so you can continue breastfeeding even as you supplement with formula. It also allows your baby time to learn how to latch and suck.
Transitioning your baby to formula may take a few weeks, which gives enough time for the baby to get used to the new taste and for their digestion to adjust. This also applies even if you are switching from one stage formula to the next.
During the transition, we recommend mixing formula and expressed breast milk in one bottle. This means preparing the formula according to instructions and then adding it to expressed breast milk- you shouldn’t just add formula powder to breast milk.
To do it gradually, you can follow a schedule like this:
- Day 1 and 2: mix 25% formula and 75% breast milk
- Day 3 and 4: mix 50% formula and 50% breast milk
- Day 5 and 6: mix 75% formula and 25% breast milk
- Day 7: give 100% formula
This is simply an example. You may need to vary the schedule in terms of days or ratios to what works for you and your baby. Plus, your health care provider may advise you differently.
Something else to note is that prepared formula doesn’t last as long as breast milk, so you may need to discard whatever is left after your baby feeds.
Tips to feed your baby with bottled baby formula
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely when preparing the formula. This includes boiling the water and letting it cool for about 30 minutes to kill any bacteria that may be in the formula powder.
- Always make sure you use a clean and sterilized bottle and nipple. A slow flow nipple is the best for small babies and those who are used to breastfeeding.
- When bottle-feeding, always keep your baby in a slightly upright position, so they can swallow easily. Make sure to support their head.
- To encourage your baby to drink from the bottle, gently brush their lips with the bottle’s nipple. It will cause them to part their lips and open their mouth.
- Ensure the bottle is almost full to prevent your baby from swallowing air. Also, hold the bottle upright when feeding.
- If the nipple flattens during feeding, gently stick your finger into the baby’s mouth to get the nipple to reflate.
- Burp your baby frequently during feeds to prevent gassiness.
- Remove the bottle promptly when your baby finishes drinking.
- Place the baby against your shoulder as you gently rub their back to get them to release any trapped gas in their tummy.
- It’s okay for the baby not to finish the entire bottle, or to spit up after a feed.
Changing from breast milk to formula side effects
Some babies will have spit-ups, gas, fussiness, and changes in stools such as constipation until their digestive system adapts to the formula. This is normal and should not worry you.
But, symptoms such as excessive crying, forceful vomiting, excessive gas, fatigue and weakness, diarrhea, and red and scaly skin could signal that your baby is allergic to the formula. In this case, contact a doctor promptly.
If you are concerned about any changes, it’s always reassuring to speak with your pediatrician.
Introducing formula to breastfed baby at night
There are many reasons moms choose to substitute breastfeeding with formula during night feeds. It could be due to the baby’s medical condition such as poor weight gain or being premature, low milk supply, demanding working schedule like night shift, feeling drained from breastfeeding multiple babies or shared responsibilities with other family members. Some moms also believe that formula feeding at night helps the baby sleep longer. The reasoning is that formula is harder to digest than breast milk, so the baby stays full longer and is unlikely to wake frequently from hunger. This has not been scientifically proven, and your baby might still keep waking from various other reasons that don’t relate to being hungry.
Introducing formula at night may be challenging, but a few strategies make it easier for you.
- One is to have a dad or another family member help you give the baby their bottle for the first few days. This is because babies smell the scent of your breast milk, and might reject the bottle if you are close. You get a breather to rest while giving dad a great opportunity to create strong bonds with his little one.
- The second strategy is to introduce the formula gradually. You can do this by replacing one night feed the first week, then doing two night feeds the following week, and so forth. This gives enough time for your baby to adjust and for your body to accommodate the reduced demand for milk supply to avoid discomforts.
Breastfed baby refuses formula – what to do
Trying to introduce formula to a baby accustomed to breastfeeding is hard. Unless your baby is easygoing and doesn’t mind taking different things, most babies will reject formula for the taste and smell, among other reasons.
Here are some tips to use:
- Introduce the formula slowly, consistently, and gradually. This gives your baby time to adapt to the flavor and also helps their digestion adjust as well.
- Wait until your baby is hungry before feeding. A hungry baby will gladly accept anything.
- Change aspects of the bottle like the shape, size, or nipple to see which one your baby will like. It could be that the flow is frustrating them- too slow, too fast, etc.
- Try feeding warm formula. Breast milk is usually lukewarm so make sure the bottle isn’t too warm or cold.
- Let someone else help feed the baby. It will prevent your baby from being distracted by your presence.
Mixing formula and breast milk
If you are wondering, it is okay to mix formula and breast milk in the same bottle. But, there are some requirements you must adhere to.
- First, you need to prepare the formula. Whether you are using powdered or concentrated formula, you need to prepare it closely following the instructions given, making sure to use the correct amount of safe water.
- Second, mix the formula and water thoroughly.
- Third, add the mixed formula to your breast milk.
Note, you should never add undiluted formula to the breast milk before directly. Doing this will not maintain the correct nutritional content of the formula.
FAQs on Introducing Formula to Infants
How to introduce formula to breastfed baby at 7 and 8 months
Most moms introduce formula before six months, but you can still do so after seven months. Toddlers this age are now experimenting with more foods besides breast milk to meet their daily nutritional needs.
There is not much difference in how you introduce the formula to a seven or three-month-old baby- they can like or reject it. But you have to get around it with some patience.
The first thing we advise is to consult with your pediatrician since they are better placed to guide you on the formula and how to go about it because they know your child’s specifics better.
Once you have settled on the formula, introduce it to your child gradually. Mix the formula with milk; you can start with 25% formula and 75% breast milk. If they like it, move to 50% formula and 50% breast milk. Keep increasing the formula ratio every few days until they are only taking formula.
The second way you can do it is by preparing the formula and mixing it with their cereal, pureed food, etc. This helps your child get familiar with the taste of formula. After this, they might be more willing to take a bottle of formula without fussing.
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Hi there! I am Ashley Davis, a mom of three kids and the editor here at Motherhoodhq.com. I have been a parent since 2011 and have been doing full-time consulting as a baby sleep expert since 2019. When I am not researching or testing the next baby gear hitting the market, you’ll find me teaching my toddlers a trick or two – especially over the last few months with the lockdown. I hope you’ll find my guides and reviews helpful as you make your next purchase decision. If you have any questions, you can reach me at email@example.com.