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There are lots of reasons someone might want to offer your baby formula instead of or as a supplement to breastfeeding.
In any case, you’ll need to do a little planning.
Talk to your baby’s pediatrician to decide the best time to introduce formula, and whether you should supplement with formula or use formula exclusively.
Take things slowly and gradually introduce the formula, if possible.
And be patient–you might have to experiment with different nipples, formula temperatures, and mixtures to help your baby have happy feeding times.
Starting with Formula
Choose the type of formula you want to use.
Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure which one to use.
Not every type of formula is a good choice for every baby.
Milk-based, iron-fortified formula is what most pediatricians recommend until age 1.
Hydrolyzed formula is easier to digest, but is more expensive.
It may also not be suitable for infants with allergies.
Soy-based formulas are available.
Since they are so different from animal-based formulas, however, they are often not recommended unless the infant has allergies.
Special formulas will be recommended if the child has any metabolic disorders or similar conditions.
You can find different both infant and newborn formulas so you can get the right kind for your baby’s age.
Increase the amount of formula you use over time.
For a very young baby, start with 1 ounce (28 g) to 2 ounces (57 g) every 3-4 hours, or on demand.
Bump up the amount over time as your baby grows.
Most formulas are simple to prepare, just by shaking the right amount of water and powdered formula together in the bottle.
Check your formula’s label for the correct ratio.
A good rule of thumb is to take your baby’s weight and multiply it by 2.5.
This number equals the approximate number of ounces your baby will eat in 24 hours.
For example, a 10 pound baby might take 25 ounces (710 g) of formula in 24 hours.
Your baby may not eat the same amount all the time.
Don’t force them to eat the full amount if they don’t want to.
Offer formula at different temperatures to find what your baby likes.
Offer a bottle of formula at room temperature first.
If your baby does not seem interested, warm it in a bottle warmer and try again.
Do not warm bottles of formula in the microwave.
They may heat unevenly if you do.
That means even if the bottle doesn’t feel hot to your hand, the formula might scald your baby.
Experiment with different nipple types.
You can basically offer any bottle nipple to your baby.
You will see many varieties in stores, and you can experiment with different ones until you find one that your baby seems to prefer.
Many nipples express milk faster than a breast would.
Offering a “slow flow” nipple to your baby at first can help make using a bottle safer and more comfortable.
Some nipples claim to be more “natural” or closer to a mother’s breast.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will prefer them.
Switching from Breast Milk to Formula
Wait until your baby is a month old to introduce formula, if possible.
Most pediatricians recommend breastfeeding only as the ideal until an infant is 4-6 months old.
However, there are lots of physical, emotional, and practical reasons to introduce formula earlier.
If you are able to breastfeed but want to introduce formula to the infant’s diet, try to wait until the second month, so that breast milk production is well-established.
Continue pumping even if you offer bottles, if possible.
Use a breast pump so you can express and store your milk.
That way, you can offer breast milk, formula, or both.
Pump several times a day (about as often as your baby feeds).
Waiting until your baby is at least a month old before offering formula can make it easier to continue producing breast milk by pumping, if that’s what you want to do.
Feed your baby breast milk in a bottle first, if possible.
Offer a bottle of breast milk first, then a bottle of formula if your baby is still hungry.
The taste of the breast milk will be familiar, helping your baby adjust to the new feel of the bottle more quickly.
Offer a bottle of breast milk mixed with formula, alternatively.
Mix enough formula with a bottle of the breast milk you have until you have the amount your pediatrician recommends your baby eats.
This is another way to help your baby get used to the taste of the formula, and to make it easier to digest.
If your baby accepts the bottles mixed with formula, you can start gradually increasing the ratio of formula to breast milk, until your baby drinks bottles of just formula (if you want).
For instance, if your baby accepts a 50/50 mix of formula/breast milk, offer that for a week.
Then the next week, offer a 75/50 mix.
Creating a Good Emotional Experience
Have someone else other than the mom introduce the formula.
Whether you are transitioning from breastfeeding to formula, or starting with formula from day 1, your baby might not understand what is happening if the mother offers the bottle.
Your baby might instead look for the breast.
If someone other than the mother offers the bottle, your baby might be more interested in it.
Once your baby is familiar with taking formula from the bottle, anyone can feed it.
Make skin-to-skin contact while feeding.
Hold your baby in your uncovered arms or against your bare chest while feeding them formula.
This will mimic being close to the mother’s breast, helping the experience feel more comfortable.
Interact with your baby while feeding.
Make eye contact, talk to them, sing to them, and play with them while they’re eating.
Bonding with your baby while they eat is a natural part of its development, and making a good experience will help with the transition to formula.
Don’t wait until your baby is starving.
Offer a bottle of formula at a normal feeding time, or whenever your baby seems interested in eating.
Deliberately waiting until past the normal feed time, when your baby is ravenous, won’t make them more likely to take the formula.
Instead, your baby will be irritable, and the whole experience will just be harder.
A hungry baby may cry and/or fidget a bit, and even start “rooting,” or turn its head and open its mouth as though it were trying to latch onto a nipple.
If your baby doesn’t take the formula at first, don’t give up.
It can take some time for your baby to get used to it.