How to Introduce Formula to a Breastfed Baby
It Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing
Many new mothers are under the impression that they have to stop breastfeeding if they give their baby formula. Breast milk and formula offer the best nutrition for an infant younger than 12 months old. However, you don’t have to choose one over the other.
For some parents, offering a combination of formula and breastmilk is the ideal solution. Some reasons that you might not be able to breastfeed exclusively include:
- Your baby has a poor latch.
- You or your baby has medical issues that make breastfeeding difficult or impossible.
- You’re going back to work and can’t pump enough to supply milk for your baby.
- You’re not getting enough rest due to nighttime feedings.
- You want to wean your child.
Because it’s best to switch to formula gradually, some parents find that they can continue to breastfeed even after they begin supplementing with formula. They may continue to offer both types of nutrition until their infant no longer needs either one. Some parents choose to switch to formula completely.
You should know that as you give up breastfeeding sessions, your body will compensate by making less milk. You may notice a drop in your supply. If this happens and you want to maintain your supply, you’ll need to pump around the times that you’re feeding your baby formula.
A Gradual Transition
If you want to try to introduce formula, choose a product that’s made for your infant’s age and stage. Many formula brands, such as HiPP, offer various formulas that you can use for babies of any age.
Start by replacing one nursing session with a bottle-feeding session. You may choose to swap the breastfeeding session that’s most inconvenient for you. You might also offer the bottle at a time when your infant isn’t typically interested in nursing for a long time.
What If Your Baby Refuses the Bottle?
Infants may have trouble getting used to the nipple on a bottle if they’re used to breastfeeding. If your little one rejects the bottle, there are a few strategies that you can try to make things easier:
- Have a loved one who is not the mother feed the baby with the bottle.
- Try a few different nipple styles.
- Feed your baby when they’re calm and peaceful; if you wait until they’re tired or hungry, they may be too cranky to take the bottle.
Paced Bottle Feeding
You can also try paced bottle feeding to introduce formula to a breastfed baby. This feeding method allows your little one to control the flow of liquid through the bottle nipple.
Infants that are accustomed to breastfeeding take breaks throughout their feeding sessions. They learn how to regulate the milk flow using the muscles in their mouth and tongue.
To perform paced bottle feeding, hold the bottle parallel to the floor. Allow your baby to suck a few times with no milk coming through the nipple. Then, tilt the bottle for about 20 to 30 seconds so that your child can take three to five swallows. After that, tip the bottle down again, giving your baby a break.
Additional Tips on How to Introduce Formula to a Breastfed Baby
You might be wondering when to introduce formula to a breastfed baby. There are no hard-and-fast guidelines for switching to formula.
If you plan to continue nursing while you supplement with formula, you might want to wait to introduce the bottle until your infant is at least three months old. By that time, your milk supply should be more stable, and you may not experience the dramatic drop in supply that could occur if you reduced your breastfeeding sessions earlier.
Some parents choose to offer formula when their babies start to eat solid foods. Because the child is already transitioning to different foods, they may be more likely to accept the bottle at that time.
Any time you feed a baby, it’s essential to notice hunger cues. Little ones may make suckling noises or movements with their mouths when they’re looking for food. They may nuzzle your shoulder or cheek with their lips. Don’t wait until your baby is crying before you feed them. Doing so can make mealtimes stressful.
You should also notice when your child seems full. Many parents continue to offer the bottle until their little one drains it. However, your baby may only need a few ounces during some feeding sessions and take in more at others.
Some signs that your baby is full include:
- They stop suckling after you tip the bottle back up for a stronger flow.
- They turn away from the nipple.
- They push the bottle away.
Continue to Bond With Your Baby
Babies breastfeed for comfort as well as nutrition. The suckling action soothes them, and they may continue to nurse even when there is very little milk coming out of the mother’s nipple.
Infants feel calm when they can smell their parents and feel their mother’s skin against their own. They love to be snuggled and rocked.
You don’t have to stop snuggling with your baby just because you stop breastfeeding. Whoever gives your infant a bottle should take time to rock them and hold them in their arms. Speaking gently or singing to a little one during a feeding is a great way to bond.
When your child is particularly fussy, holding their skin close to yours can provide soothing relaxation. Feeding your little one in only a diaper can give them the skin-to-skin time that they need.
- Jennifer Akiyama