Many new parents wonder how to wean a baby off formula. Introducing solid foods is an excellent first step. But how and when should you stop giving bottles?
Weaning a bottle-fed baby can pose greater challenges than weaning a breastfed baby. However, with a little planning and a lot of patience, you can smoothly transition your baby from bottles to solids.
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What Is Weaning?
Before beginning the process of weaning a baby off formula, it’s important to understand what, exactly, we mean by weaning.
Weaning can refer to one of three processes: transitioning a baby from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, from breast- or bottle-feeding to a cup, or from breast- or bottle-feeding to solid foods.
No matter which process you’re undertaking, you’ll have the best results if you do it gradually. Don’t start weaning your baby when he or she is sick or undergoing significant changes to routine. This is because weaning can be challenging both physically and emotionally for parents and babies.
When is the best time to start weaning your baby?
Knowing how to wean a baby off formula successfully requires proper timing.
Formula-fed babies should get most of their nutrition from formula for the first nine months of their life. Because formula is so crucial to your baby’s health, give your baby a high-quality formula. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites here. And if you’re interested in learning more about organic options, we’ve got you covered with this roundup.
Most doctors suggest transitioning a formula-fed baby to whole cow’s milk around the age of 12 months. However, if your baby has a lactose sensitivity, you may wish to offer a soy baby formula — check out our favorites in this roundup.
It’s a good idea to wean your baby from his or her bottle by 12 or 18 months of age. If you choose to continue giving your baby bottles past the 12-month mark, try to discontinue your baby’s nighttime bottle. Nighttime bottles increase your baby’s risk for tooth decay. This is because formula contains natural sugars.
How to Wean a Baby off Formula and Introduce Solid Foods
Before beginning the process of how to wean a baby off formula, it’s essential to start introducing solid foods.
Start offering solid foods as smooth purees, appropriate to their age, at around six months. Don’t worry about how much your baby eats. Instead, try to get him or her accustomed to the process of eating solids. As your baby gets the hang of eating, increase the quantity and variety of foods you give your baby.
All babies develop differently, so this six-month mark is not set in stone.
A baby who is ready to start solids should be able to sit up without assistance. He or she should also have enough hand-eye coordination to pick up food and bring it to his or her mouth unaided. A baby whose tongue-thrust reflex is still functioning will naturally spit out solids — a good sign that your baby is not yet developmentally ready for solids.
Once your baby is eating solids, and you feel ready to start weaning, gradually decrease the number of bottles you offer. It’s generally easiest to begin by skipping a midday bottle. Drop one feeding every five to seven days. Typically, the first and last feedings of the day are the most difficult to discontinue.
Your Baby’s First Solids
When you begin introducing your baby’s first solids, offer only single ingredients. Start only one new food per week. This way, if something upsets your baby’s digestion, it’s easy to figure out what it was.
Never force your baby to eat. But if your baby rejects a food, don’t give up. Continue to offer the food item — it can take several attempts to get a baby to try a new flavor or texture.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains make good first solids. Fruit should be ripe and washed. Sliced bananas, stewed peaches, and unsweetened applesauce are all good options. We love this baby feeder, which makes it easy to introduce a variety of fresh fruits. It can also double as a teething toy — add a chunk of frozen fruit to soothe tender gums.
When introducing grains or vegetables, cook them well. Avoid canned vegetables, which tend to have a high salt content. We recommend pureeing freshly-cooked vegetables for maximum nutrition. While some vegetables, like potatoes, are easy to mash with a fork, a baby food blender makes quick work of other veggies like carrots, green beans, or peas.
Many babies also enjoy well-cooked and shredded chicken or boiled beans with the skins removed.
How to ensure your baby’s nutrition needs are met during weaning
Weaning your baby can be a nerve-wracking process, especially if your baby is a picky eater. So, how to wean a baby off formula without compromising his or her nutrition?
When you begin introducing solids, which typically starts at around the age of six months, your baby will be getting most of his or her nutrition from formula. This is a good time to begin introducing a sippy cup to your baby.
At around seven to nine months of age, solids will slowly begin to replace your baby’s formula. Your baby will start transitioning to eating three times a day, and you can gradually reduce bottle feeds to around four or so per day. Aim to give your baby approximately 20 ounces (600 milliliters) of formula per day during this phase. Continue familiarizing your baby with cup feeding.
In the next weaning phase, typically between 10 and 12 months, reduce your baby’s bottle feeds to 3 per day, offering up to 13 ounces (400 milliliters) of formula daily. At this point, you should begin giving your baby a vitamin D supplement. During this phase, you may wish to offer formula only via a cup.
Finally, at around a year of age, your baby should be eating three meals and a couple of snacks a day. At this point, you should discontinue formula feeding, offering whole cow’s milk in a cup instead.
How to Wean a Baby off Formula: Now You Know
To master the process of how to wean a baby off formula, it’s a good idea to start by making a game plan.
Introducing a wide variety of solid foods when your baby is developmentally ready will help establish lifelong healthy eating habits. The more flavors and textures you introduce, the less likely you’ll end up with a picky eater later on.
However, don’t worry if your baby is developing on his or her own timeline. Use your intuition — you’ll know best what is right for your baby.
What was your baby’s first food? Comment below to let us know!