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When to Stop Formula (and Other Formula Feeding Tips)


Some pediatricians recommend starting foods as early as four months, or as soon as your baby is ready. But, did you know this doesn’t mean you are ready to stop formula feeding your baby just yet?

Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, that is the primary source of nutrition for your little one in their first year of life. They require a constant supply of nutrients and calories designed to support their rapidly developing body and brain.

Keep reading to find out more about when to stop formula and how much you should be feeding your baby at each stage in their life.

feeding-baby

How Much Formula Does My Baby Need?

As a general guideline, you should feed your baby 2-2.5 ounces of formula for each pound of their body weight. Do not force them to eat itbut offer at least that much. Keep in mind that your little one’s appetite is going to fluctuate. You can use this infant formula feeding chart as a guide, but don’t expect your little one to drink the same amount each day. As they go through growth spurts, their dietary needs will change.

Until your baby reaches their first birthday, they should receive most of their nutrition from formula. You should not stop formula before this point.

Some parents choose to introduce food or juice between four and six months of age. This is okay as long as your little one is showing signs of being ready for food. At this age, however, eating foods is more of a supplement for your little one. It does not replace the nutrition from their formula.

One way to be sure they are getting a wide variety of foods is making your own baby food its easy with one of these baby food makers.

Choosing the Right Formula

The sensitive tummies of babies are not always appeased by a one-size-fits-all formula. Some babies struggle with gas problems while others have reflux or colic. While colic might be fixed with an anti-reflux bottle, other babies have reflux because their digestive system does not process the formula well. In this case, switching to a gentler formula might help. There are many factors to consider, but the most important thing to remember is that formula helps your baby stay fed. If you need help making a decision, be sure to check out our best formula reviews.

Gerber Good Start Soothe (HMO) Non-GMO Powder Infant Formula, Stage 1, 19.4 Ounce (Pack of 6)

How to Choose Baby Formula

Baby formulas are modeled after breast milk, with each of them having similar nutritional values. The major difference is the ingredients and how much they are processed. Here are some things to consider:

  • Preparation- Formula comes ready-to-feed, as a liquid concentrate, and in a powdered form that you mix yourself. Ready-to-feed versions are the most expensive, while powdered is most affordable. As each brand is different, you’ll need to read and follow their specific instructions.
  • Additional Benefits- Some formulas are designed in a special way for babies who may have digestive issues. For example, some babies need a soy-based formula instead of a dairy-based one because they cannot digest milk proteins. Other babies might require formula with extra iron or with ingredients that are more processed. There are unique formulas for babies with colic, reflux, sensitive tummies, and other issues. If your little one is having these problems, it can be helpful to talk to their pediatrician about which variety is best.
  • Taste- While formulas taste similar to one another, there may be slight differences that cause your little one to prefer one brand over another. If you have a picky eater, ask your doctor if they have samples of any formulas. You might be able to contact brands directly for samples as well.

Tips to Make Formula Feeding Easier

If your baby does not like their formula, it can make every feeding a struggle. Here are some tips you can use when your baby is being stubborn about drinking their formula.

#1: Consider the Temperature

Baby formula does not have to be warmed. However, a formula that is too cold can upset your little one’s stomach. Warming is also closer to the temperature of breast milk. Even though many babies prefer warmed formula, it is not a necessity. Babies might also prefer cooler formula during the hot summer months. If your baby does prefer warmed formula, be sure to check out these bottle warmer reviews. Otherwise, if your baby prefers the formula cold, let them drink it that way.

#2: Don’t Reuse Formula

Baby formula is expensiveparents who exclusively formula feed usually spend $70-150 per month on formula. Even though it can be frustrating when your little one won’t touch the four ounces of formula that you just warmed up, you should not reuse the formula. If your baby hasn’t touched the nipple, you can store the formula for up to 48 hours. If he or she has taken a drink, you should throw out whatever is left after a feeding. Backwash or bacteria could have entered through the nipple.

#3: Use Safe Preparation Techniques

Formula feeding is safebut only if you prepare your little one’s formula properly. You should always wash your hands before making the formula. Additionally, properly wash and sterilize your little one’s bottles and equipment once they are done feeding. It can be challenging to keep up with several feedings a daybut bottle sterilizers can make it significantly easier.

#4: Position the Bottle Well

It is not always the formula that makes your little one spit-up. Babies might spit up because they were not burped properly after a feeding or because the angle of their bottle made them swallow a lot of air. In addition to bottle positioning, you should consider the type of bottle you are using. Some bottles are better than others, especially if your baby has colic or reflux.

#5: Avoid Formula-Feeding Shamers

When you are having a difficult time feeding your little one, it is not surprising to hear from moms that insist that your problems come from formula feeding. It does not matter why you have chosen to formula feed. Feel confident in your decision. Know that the most important thing is that your baby is fed.

FAQs About Formula Feeding

Can I stop formula feeding before one year if my child doesn’t like it?

As a parent, there will be many times when your child doesn’t enjoy what you are doing. However, something like taking your little one to the doctor for regular check-ups is meant to keep them safe.

Formula feeding is as important as those check-ups. Formula is more than a milk-based product meant for babies. It is your child’s source of nutrition for all the growing they are going to do in their first year of life. This means even if they are difficult, you should continue to give them formula until their first birthday.

Sometimes, switching the brand you use might appeal better to your baby’s preferences. You can compare the differences between Enfamil and Similac formulas here.

Do I need to use bottled water in my baby’s formula?

If the tap water in your home is safe to drink, you can use tap water to mix your baby’s formula.

If you are going to use bottled water, you should speak to your pediatrician about your baby’s fluoride intake once they are six months of age. Fluoride is found in tap water, but not bottled water. It is a necessary mineral for encouraging dental health. As many babies start cutting teeth around six months old, it is important that they are getting fluoride to support this process.

When should I introduce milk to my baby?

You should not introduce milk to your baby until they are at least one year old.

However, you can introduce dairy proteins in foods like yogurt and cheese around six months of age. Yogurt and cheese are more processed than milk, so the milk proteins are broken down. When choosing yogurt for your baby, be sure to select full-fat varieties.  

baby eating yogurt with a spoon

How do I know if my baby is drinking enough formula?

Before your little one starts talking, they rely on you to understand their needs. While this can be frustrating when they are crying and cannot tell you what is wrong, most parents figure it out eventually.

As your little one’s nutritional needs fluctuate, you cannot depend on their feeding schedule to alert you to feeding issues. Instead, you’ll need to be aware of hunger and fullness cues.

When your baby is hungry, they’ll let you know. Opening and closing their mouth, point to their mouth, pointing at food, and appearing excited when formula is offered are all signs that your little one is ready to eat.

Babies will let you know they are full by closing their mouth and refusing to accept food. If they appear full, you should stop feeding them. Baby’s hunger and satiety cues are still being learned by the body. Forcing them to eat can cause problems with their appetite in the future.

If you really want to be sure, you can also teach your little one baby sign language. This is a type of communication your baby can use before they have the ability to form words. It prevents misunderstanding and helps parents understand what their child wants.

Final Take

Your baby’s body and brain demand high levels of nutrition and many calories during their first year of life. The bottom line: even when you start introducing foods, your little one will need to continue drinking formula or breast milk for at least the first year. After that, you can slowly wean your child off of formula. In the meantime, make sure your baby is getting the most from their bottle feedings.

If you still find yourself wondering when to stop formula, speak to your child’s pediatrician. They will be able to provide specific advice about your baby’s caloric and nutritional needs.

Samantha Davis
Samantha Davis
Samantha Davis is a part-time writer and a full-time mommy of two boys, Apollo (age 3) and Adrien (age 5). She has been working as a writer for five years and one day plans to run her own writing company. For now, Samantha is content working as a writer and spending all her free time with her little boys. They live together with dad in Ohio and spend their free time crafting, hiking, and baking.

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