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Introducing infant formula after breastfeeding

You feel that your baby is starting to wean off breastfeeding and you would like to introduce infant formula? We tell you all the steps you need to take to make a smooth transition!

Weaning from breastfeeding

Although the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and even encourages mothers to continue breastfeeding while introducing solids until the age of 2 years old, there are several reasons that can make you want to stop breastfeeding before that. It’s important to know that there is no universal method to stop breastfeeding and the method, moment and time it takes will depend on you and your baby.

As babies need a lot or iron to develop properly, it’s not advisable to introduce cow milk before the age of 9 to 12 months, when the baby already has a varied diet. Before this, it’s recommended to give an iron-fortified baby formula made for infants so they can receive all the nutrients they need to grow.
How to transition?

Although there is no universal method to stop breastfeeding, it’s still recommended to go slowly and to follow your pace and your baby’s pace to make sure that the experience is a positive one for both of you. Here are some simple guidelines that can help you make a smooth transition:

  • Start by replacing one feeding a day with a bottle of iron fortified formula or breast milk if your baby refuses the formula. Choose a feeding where your baby is in a good mood and not too hungry to increase your chances of success.
  • After about a week, you can begin to substitute another feeding. This period may be shorter or longer, the important thing is to wait until are your breasts no longer feel congested during the feeding you’ve stopped. To relieve your breasts between feedings, you can express your milk manually or allow them to empty themselves by standing under a hot shower.
  • Continue this method at your pace until you have stopped breastfeeding and replaced all the feedings with the bottle. To prevent your breasts from becoming engorged, make sure to always alternate feedings with the bottle with nursing until you are completely done. This could take anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks.
What if your baby refuses the bottle?

Some babies react negatively to the bottle at first. Don’t worry if that is your case, as it’s quite normal. The key is patience. You can also use these techniques to help your baby get used to the bottle:

  • Start by giving him his first bottle in the morning, when he’s very hungry and less fussy.
  • You can also offer him the bottle several times during the day for a little snack.
  • Start by putting your own milk in the bottle to get him used to the change in texture.
  • Ask dad to offer the bottles at first.
  • Give the bottle in a different position than when you are breastfeeding. Also try to sit in a different chair or even in a different room altogether.
  • Integrate other times where you have reassuring contact with your baby, like rocking him, massaging him or carrying him in a baby carrier.
  • If your baby is older than 7 or 8 months, you can try to introduce the glass or the cup.

Sources: Canadian Paediatric Society, Dairy Goodness, Abbot nutrition.

By Mariem Melainine

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