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How do you transition from breast milk to formula?

Eventually, babies have to wean off breast milk.  If that transition comes before the age of 1, baby formula will have to be their next source of nutrition.

If you have breastfed your baby for the recommended first six months, congratulations!  You have provided your child with the best food possible full of antibodies, vitamins, and minerals.  Even if you nursed for the first few months and need to switch to formula for whatever reason, you have given your baby a great start.

The transition from breast milk to formula can make some mothers nervous, but it does not have to be a daunting task.  With a little planning and some patience, many babies can feed exclusively on baby formula in two to four weeks.

  1. Pick the right formula

Sometimes advertising and marketing play a role in choosing your baby's first formula.  Whether it is a sample from the hospital or coupons from a friend, there are plenty of varieties from which to choose.  Your pediatrician can make recommendations if your baby needs a special type of formula based on food sensitivity or lifestyle preferences.  Read the ingredient label to make sure that you understand what your baby will eat.  

  1. Find the right time to start a bottle

The baby bottle nipple has a slightly different feel than your nipple, so you should not expect the switch to be an instant success.  You can introduce the bottle during a feeding that is not as urgent, such as in the afternoon when your little one is calm and not ravished.  This can be a good time to see if you have the right nipple flow for them.  However, your baby may be faster to learn how to navigate the bottle when they are hungry and ready to try anything that comes with food.

  1. Consider alternating breastfeeding time and bottle feeding time

Start nursing to take care of your baby's hunger, then finish up with the bottle.  If your little one refuses the bottle, return to the breast and try again another time.  Once your baby takes a bottle successfully, start making it a part of the daily feeding schedule at that same time.  Gradually remove the breastfeeding time and replace it with a bottle until your baby feeds from the bottle exclusively.

  1. Mix breast mix with baby formula

If you are able to express breast milk and store it in the freezer, your baby can get used to the bottle while still tasting that which is familiar to them.  Over time, you can choose to mix breast milk with baby formula.  Before long, your baby may not notice the change in the contents.

  1. Transition with a different person

Some babies transition with more success when their natural source of food is not around.  That is because babies can still smell your milk and may go rooting for it if they know it is there.  Your partner or caregiver may have better results in the transition, especially when it comes to the first taste of formula.

  1. Feeding time is still bonding time 

Whether you nurse or you feed with the bottle, feeding time is that window of time to bond with your baby.  You can continue skin-to-skin contact in a similar way and continue your routine.  Just because the equipment changes does not mean that you and your baby cannot continue to spend time together.


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