Transitioning from breast milk to formula



This subject is always challenging and probably different for each child you have. For me, the transition for my son was completely different than my daughter. I can tell that a few things that I did for my son when he was just a newborn helped the transition later when he was about 7 months old. For my daughter, I made a few different choices that I believe made the transition more difficult.

My two children were very different infants. My son was a very calm baby and he never had much colic. However, it took us a couple of weeks to understand why he was crying so much in the beginning. The reason was he didn't how to latch and he was not getting enough breast milk. He was just hungry! I am glad the pediatrician and the lactate consultant thought about this possibility and told me to pump and feed him using a bottle. The improvement happened immediately. He was gaining the right amount of weight and sleeping better. 

My daughter on the other hand knew how to latch from the get-go. She did such a great job that I decided to keep her only breastfeed on demand. It was great to not have to pump and wash bottles. However she had colic and had skin rashes for many months, all related to what I ate. I had to change my diet completely to avoid the rashes on her skin. 

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What can I say really helped and what did not help at all with the transition?

Introducing the bottle early

This is something I regret not doing with my daughter.  It worked pretty well with my son, even without being my initial idea. However, because he wasn't gaining weight, I had to pump and feed him with a bottle for a couple of weeks. I didn't stop breastfeeding him, but I would always give him a bottle after. In a few weeks, he started gaining weight properly and learned how to latch. Then, I went back to breastfeeding most of the time, until the end of my maternity leave. 

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When we did the transition with my son, he was already used to drinking breast milk out of a bottle. So, I simply started mixing some formula with my milk. I started his transition around 7 months old. I was planning to go a little bit longer than that, but a business trip rushed my nursing plans...When I came back, my milk supply wasn't the same anymore. I guess too many days pumping and dumping...But, everything turned out okay because he accepted the bottle with my milk, then a mix of formula and breast milk, and finally just formula.

For my daughter, since I had a lot of milk, I never thought about introducing the bottle for a feeding every day. She never accepted the bottle. She would scream every time someone would try to feed her. Going back to work was a nightmare. We had to use syringes, little cups, and spoons to feed her when I wasn't at home. Also, she didn't accept the same formula I used for my son. She was always very sensitive to a few things from my diet and with formula...it was the same thing. She had to go with a hypoallergenic option when we did the transition at 9 months old.

Babies who don't take the bottle - what to do?

I had tried everything, but my daughter never took a bottle. I still think it was because I didn't give her this option when she was a newborn. Her transition was much harder. Initially, we tried spoons, and syringes, but she didn't want to drink anything, even my milk out of a bottle. So, I continued breastfeeding her until she was about 9 months. We had to start with solids around 4 months, so she would eat something when I was at work. I have tried all kind of bottles with different nipples and not one of them worked! I have also tried many different formula brands to see if she would like one and drink more milk instead of eating so much cereal and pears (her favorite fruit). It took us about 3 months trying all kids of brands and bottles before getting to the one that worked. Finally, at 9 months old, she was 100% formula feed + solids.

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She drinks milk out of a Phillips Avent My Bendy Straw cup and drinks a HIPP hypoallergenic formula.

Be aware of the signs

Breastfed babies may have different reactions to formula. My son had a little constipation, until we switched to a different brand. My daughter had terrible constipation with all regular formulas, until we started with a formula for sensitive tummies. Try different brands until you find the one suitable for your baby. Check my infant formula review post to learn more about all the options we tried.

I hope these tips help you to have a peaceful transition with your baby!

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