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Breast milk and formula each can provide your infant with a healthy start to life. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new mothers breastfeed throughout their baby's first year of life, sticking it out isn't always possible. If you've decided to make the switch, you can make the transition smooth. It is best to begin introducing formula before completely weaning your baby from breastfeeding.
The First Bottle
When you’re ready to make the switch from breastfeeding to formula, don’t rush into it too quickly. Start by trying out just one bottle. Offer the formula before your baby is too hungry—a starving baby is less likely to cooperate with your plan—and begin by replacing the breastfeeding session with which your baby is least attached. For example, if the last feeding of the day normally is the longest and your baby is quick to end a mid-afternoon feeding, replace the afternoon session instead of the evening feeding. If possible, have another family member give your baby his first bottle of formula. Since your baby can smell the breast milk from you, he’ll be less likely to give the bottle a try. Nursing at your breast is what he is familiar with, and he might resist the change.
The type of nipple you choose for your baby’s switch from breast to formula can influence how easily she makes the transition. Find one that is shaped like a real nipple—a wider base that curves into the natural shape of the areola and nipple. You can warm the nipple with warm water to simulate your body heat. If your baby rejects the bottle at first, you can rub a little breast milk on the nipple to encourage her to give it a try. Keep the flow rate of the nipple in mind when making your selection. For a very young baby, a slow-flow nipple is best. However, once your baby is 6 months old, the slow flow of the bottle’s nipple might frustrate her when she is used to a quicker flow rate from your breast.
Slow and Steady
After your baby accepts one bottle of formula, incorporate a bottle into every day's feeding schedule for at least a week. As he becomes accustomed to the change, you can introduce an additional bottle into the schedule each day for another week. Continue to increase the number of bottle feedings by one each week until he is drinking formula exclusively. As your baby begins to drink more formula than breast milk, the frequency of his feedings might change. Since formula takes longer to digest than breast milk, he might go longer in between feedings. Talk to your health care provider if you’re concerned about a decrease in feedings or any other issues that arise after the transition to formula begins.
Making the switch from breastfeeding to formula feeding can be stressful for your baby. Easing her into the transition slowly can minimize the stress and anxiety, but it may not eliminate it completely. During the transition process, your baby might look for other comfort measures. She might begin to suck her thumb or she may find an item of comfort, such as a special blanket or stuffed animal.