How to Handle Switching Baby Formula
One of the most challenging parts of baby’s first year is how quickly everything changes. Yes, the over-used adage that “the days are long but the years are short” is true. But that first year really keeps you on your toes unlike anything else. Just as you feel like you’ve got this whole newborn thing handled, there’s a sleep regression and new baby milestones to shake things up.
Sometimes the unexpected pops up, and you need to make a change. It happens with baby formula, too. Maybe your little one is experiencing discomfort after feeding, or your usual brand is out of stock at the store. No matter the reason, switching your baby’s formula can be a big decision for parents. Perhaps you’re wondering about the side effects of changing from breastmilk to formula, or don’t know about switching formulas within the same brand. But don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with a roadmap for switching infant formula as easily as possible.
“Can’t You Just Breastfeed?”
This frustrating question has been asked of many mothers of young children. As parents, the number of choices you make for your child is limitless. Some are fun—like what color should you paint the nursery—while others require longer deliberation (and with it, perhaps, stress).
High on that list is thinking about how and what you’ll feed your child. And if we had to guess, this was a conversation that started before your child was born as you weighed the decision to breastfeed, formula feed, or a combination of the two.
But when your preferred choice doesn’t work out (real talk: breastfeeding is hard!) or your go-to formula out of stock, what do you do? Parents who have been there know that transitioning primary feeding can lead to upset tummies, infant gas, and fussiness. If your baby is in the middle of swapping or you just want to be prepared with a backup option, read on for some suggestions on managing the change.
Changing Baby Formula: Step-by-Step
When you’re considering making a formula adjustment, you can always check in with your pediatrician to help you decide the best course of action. In the meantime, our guide to changing baby formula can be a helpful resource for those planning to introduce formula in the transition from exclusively breastfeeding. Be mindful of general safety advice for changing formulas, and consider these tips on the best way to switch formulas.
- Be prepared for gas. One of the most common side effects when switching to formula is gas. If your baby has tummy troubles like gas after eating, their formula could be causing their tummy troubles. To help with baby’s gas, our Infants’ Mylicon Gas Drops gently break down gas and help promote your baby’s natural ability to expel it. If gas is persistent over time, a variety of baby formulas are available, some specially made for gassy babies with sensitive digestive systems.
- Start slow. Most babies will do just fine with different formula brands, as long as they're the same type, like cow's milk-based, soy, hypoallergenic, etc. However, you might notice that your little one appears not to like the taste or isn’t tolerating the new formula. If this happens (and you have the option), try slowly introducing small amounts of the new formula by mixing it with your regular formula. Gradually increase the ratio of the new formula over time.
- Stock up on diaper cream. Changes in your baby's diet may increase the frequency of stools, which can lead to diaper rash.
- Carefully wean. To help transition from breastmilk to formula, let the baby have a few days (or weeks, if possible) between each time you substitute a breastfeeding session with a bottle. For your comfort, express a little milk from your breasts if you get engorged. Your body will get the signal to make less milk over time, slowly.
Changing Baby Formula Side Effects
Even for the most seasoned parent, it can be difficult to pinpoint what is causing your baby discomfort. Below are common signs of a baby who is not tolerating their new formula well, so you can be on the lookout. Call your pediatrician or health care provider if you notice any of the below.
- Prolonged gas pains (consider these gas-relieving tips)
- Crying and can't be calmed down during or after feedings
- Losing weight or slow weight gain
- Diarrhea, blood or mucus in their poop
- Straining to poop or constipation
- Excessive spit-up
Changing From Formula to Cow’s Milk
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between six and 12 months should get their calories and nutrients from a combination of solid foods and breast milk or formula. (And before six months they recommend formula or breastmilk only.)
After their first birthday, little ones can transition to whole cow’s milk. But what is the best way to transition from formula to whole milk? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Opt for whole milk. The higher fat content is required for healthy brain development (which occurs within the first two years of life).
- Transition, if needed. If your little one isn’t taking to cow’s milk, you can try mixing equal parts of whole milk with breast milk or formula. This can help your baby get used to the new taste of cow’s milk. Gradually increase the ration of whole milk as you go.
- Swap in a sippy cup. Transitioning to whole milk is a good opportunity to make the change from nipple-topped bottles to sippy cups. Many pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend transitioning off bottles as soon after your child’s first birthday as possible.
- Remember, it’s a drink. As your child gets more calories from solid food, milk transitions to a beverage choice versus a meal replacement. Supplemented with other dairy products, cow’s milk will now be their primary source of calcium and vitamin D. Aim for 8-10 ounces of whole milk daily, capping the limit at 24 ounces unless otherwise directed by your child’s pediatrician.
- Whole milk until 2. Unless your pediatrician says otherwise, babies should drink whole milk until their second birthday. After that, a lower-fat option might be recommended by their doctor.
Is It Bad to Keep Changing Baby’s Formula?
No, switching formulas for newborns isn’t bad. A change might be required if there is a formula shortage, financial implication, or even just a preference.
How to Change Baby Formula: Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician
Always speak to your child’s physician about the proper formula for your baby. Your health professional can advise on your baby’s nutritional needs, and you will need their support if you have trouble with the switch. Here are a few other questions to consider asking your child’s pediatrician.
- What do I need to know about gas and changing formula?
- How long does it take for my baby to adjust to a formula change?
- How do I know if my baby is allergic to formula?
Changing your baby’s milk can be daunting at any time—whether you’re swapping formula milk brands or transitioning away from breastmilk altogether. Gas may become an issue during these transitions, but you can help keep your little one happy with Infants' Mylicon Gas Drops and a baby massage, which can help a sore tummy. To the parents who are ending their breastfeeding journey, we’re here to remind you that you’ve got this!
Learn More About Feeding Your Baby
If you’re interested in learning more about feeding your little one, we have more resources you may find useful. Check out our helpful guide on storing your breast milk, tips to increase your breast milk supply, and what to do if you’re wondering if your kid may be lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.