Breastfeeding is the best nutrition a child could have, from birth onwards and until they learn to eat regular food. This statement is true, but there are also various reasons (including medical ones) to use alternatives to breastmilk.
It’s not a light and easy decision to switch to formula, as this is a topic well-disputed by many. If you have chosen formula milk for your child’s nutrition, please read on.
At the first few months of age, gradual weaning should be done with proper feeding positions. Around 6 months old, babies who are used to breastfeeding may take more time to transition to formula. At 1 year of age, some toddlers self-wean, while others need some encouragement through the use of complementary foods.
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Quick overview of your child’s nutrition
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age. Afterward, complementary feeding is slowly introduced.
By one year of age, other forms of nutrition, such as fortified cow’s milk, may be started. Breastfeeding may continue as long as possible.
Formula milk may be introduced to your child when needed. As your baby grows, the amount of calories, protein, and amino acids that they need to take in can change, depending on their age and other conditions (such as prematurity).
Formulas are made with your child’s specific nutritional requirements in mind, so make sure to choose milk made appropriately for their age.
How to bottle feed
For infants, use a sterilized bottle with a soft, slow-flow teat or nipple. Position them in a semi-upright position, supporting the head.
Angle the bottle so the milk fills up the whole nipple. Offer the nipple at the mouth, but let your child initiate the feed.
Transitioning at 1 to 2 months old
For children 1 to 2 months of age, weaning should be done slowly. At this stage, start feeding sessions with breastfeeding, so your child can still take in nutrients and immune factors. This includes immunoglobulins, which help develop your baby’s immune system.
Five minutes before the session ends, switch to your chosen formula. Allow your baby to drink as much as they want, but make sure to burp them properly afterward.
For every succeeding day, increase formula feeding by five minutes, and decrease breastfeeding by the same amount of time, until your child becomes used to formula.
Another option is to take one whole session per day for formula feeding. For every succeeding week, switch another session to formula as well.
Transitioning at around 6 months old
At this age, the principles of weaning are more focused on switching one whole session per week, as compared to gradually replacing breastmilk.
However, your child is most likely used to breastfeeding. You may need more patience as they adjust to receiving their nutrition from a bottle and not the breast.
Start off by choosing the time of day when they seem disinterested to feeding time. After one week, switch another session, and so on.
Transitioning at 1 year old
Weaning may be easier (or harder) at this age, depending on your child’s preferences. If your breastfeeding sessions have been stellar so far, or your toddler is quite attached to breastmilk, you may need to include other strategies to wean them off.
Some toddlers actually self-wean at this time, or even a few months earlier. They become interested in complementary foods – this makes weaning much easier, as they may suddenly just stop breastfeeding altogether.
If you find yourself in between these two scenarios, don’t worry. You can actually substitute breastfeeding sessions with more complementary feeding sessions. Use fresh fruits and vegetables that are prepared according to their age.
Another way to switch from breastfeeding is simply to provide formula milk and gently explain to your child that they cannot breastfeed, but they can drink milk in a different way.
It’s a good idea to offer milk through a cup at this stage, which may pique their curiosity and interest.
Children who are at least one year of age can take in pasteurized cow’s milk or milk that is fortified with vitamin D. Low fat or skimmed milk are generally discouraged until they turn two years of age or older.
While breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for your child, there are instances when mothers decide to use alternatives to breastmilk. Weaning may be done at different stages during your child’s first year of life.
Make sure to choose the right type of formula milk and to observe if your child is responding well to this transition.
Sarah is a healthcare writer, motivated by her love of reading books while growing up. She took up human biology and further studies in medicine, in order to fulfill her passion for helping kids. While she isn’t a biological mother yet, she has taken a young Siberian husky named Indy under her wing. She would love to someday travel the world and meet kids from different cultural backgrounds.