How to stop feeding baby formula

When Your Baby Should Stop Drinking Formula – Cleveland Clinic

Make the formula. Feed your cutie. Wash, rinse, repeat. For parents of babies who drink formula, you’ve been doing this dance several times a day (and night) for what seems like forever. But could the end finally be in sight? When do babies stop drinking formula?

“A healthy baby should drink breast milk or formula until they are 1 year old. Formulas are fortified with vitamins and iron, which they need,” says pediatrician Radhai Prabhakaran, MD. “Generally, babies should have at least 24 ounces per day between the ages of 9 months to 1 year. But once your baby starts eating a full diet of nutritious solid foods, make the switch to cow’s milk, which offers protein and vitamin D.”

Signs your baby is ready to wean off formula

Whether babies are ready to hop aboard the milk express depends on their taste for table food. “Some babies settle into a mostly solid food diet early (between 9 and 12 months) because they like it, and it agrees with them. If they’re eating a nutritionally balanced diet, then it’s OK to wean your baby off formula earlier than 1 year old.”

A healthy solid food diet for a baby should include:

  • Fruits.
  • Grains.
  • Protein from meat, eggs or cooked beans.
  • Vegetables.

“Gradually reduce the amount of formula they drink as they eat more. Continue to offer it to drink because sometimes babies aren’t full after eating solid foods,” notes Dr. Prabhakaran. “But wait until they are 1 to introduce cow’s milk, even if they wean earlier.”

Signs your baby is NOT ready to wean off formula

Your baby should continue with formula if they:

  • Are not gaining weight.
  • Were born prematurely.
  • Haven’t established a balanced diet of solid foods.
  • Need to continue with formula based on their doctor’s recommendation. (For example, if your baby has food allergies or problems digesting food or absorbing nutrients.)

Health conditions that affect how long babies drink formula

Certain underlying health conditions may affect how long your baby needs to drink formula. Babies may need to stay on formula longer if they have:

  • Kidney problems.
  • Liver problems.
  • Metabolic condition like phenylketonuria (PKU).

“And if your doctor has already told you that your baby might need to go on a special diet, talk to them before weaning your baby off formula,” adds Dr. Prabhakaran. “They can help you put a nutrition plan in place that will make the transition safer.”

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How to wean your baby off formula

If your baby likes the taste of cow’s milk:

  1. Start giving them a 2- to 4- ounce serving of milk for every two or three servings of formula.
  2. Over the next week to 10 days, increase the milk servings as you decrease the servings of formula.
  3. Stop giving formula once they are drinking the milk with no issues.

If your baby prefers the taste of formula:

  1. Make the formula as you usually do. Don’t add cow’s milk to the formula powder.
  2. Mix 2 ounces of prepared formula and 2 ounces of cow’s milk so you have a 4-ounce drink for your baby.
  3. Feed your baby the mixture.
  4. Over the next week to 10 days, add more milk and less formula to the mixture until it’s all cow’s milk.

Bottle or cup?

Get ready to say goodbye to the bottle. Dr. Prabhakaran says drinking from a bottle is a no-no after age 1. “Bottle feeding can affect teeth growth and cause cavities.”

Instead, transition your little one to a sippy, straw or regular cup at around 9 months of age. “If you’re feeling adventurous, wean them off formula and the bottle at the same time.”

Does my baby still need formula during night wakings?

Dr. Prabhakaran notes that most babies this age don’t need to eat when they wake up at night. “Generally, once babies double their birth weight (which happens at around 4 to 6 months) and are regularly eating solids, they don’t need the extra calories and can sleep through the night. So encourage them to keep sleeping.”

Babies at this age also have most of their baby teeth, so drinking milk or formula at night can lead to dental issues. Nighttime feeding can also make them too full to eat what they need during the day.

But as always, there are exceptions. “If your baby’s not gaining weight, your doctor may give you different advice. Breastfed babies may also take a bit longer because breast milk digests faster.”

When to pump the brakes on weaning off formula

Dr. Prabhakaran says to take the transition to cow’s milk even slower if babies start drinking milk and experience:

  • Dramatic change in their stools.
  • Stuffiness.

If these symptoms stick around or get worse, talk to your baby’s pediatrician about a potential milk allergy. If needed, your doctor can recommend safe milk alternatives for toddlers.

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Signs your baby may not be able to tolerate cow’s milk include:

  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Rash.
  • Vomiting.

What is the best milk for a 1 year old?

Experts consider whole cow’s milk the best milk for 1 year olds after they wean off formula. “The general rule is whole milk until they’re 2 years old unless there are specific circumstances,” says Dr. Prabhakaran.

Your doctor may recommend 2% milk instead if your baby:

  • Is heavy for their size.
  • Drinks more than the recommended amount of milk (16 to 24 ounces a day or 2 to 3 cups).
  • Is constipated.

Milk alternatives for toddlers

Unsweetened soy milk tends to be among the best cow’s milk alternatives for toddlers because it has a similar amount of protein. But soy milk is lower in calories — which babies need to thrive — than whole milk. Unsweetened rice milk’s calorie count is a bit higher, but it contains less protein and more added sugar.

The best way to decide, says Dr. Prabhakaran, is to look at your child’s overall diet. “There are so many milk alternatives, and babies’ diets vary so much. It’s impossible to have a blanket rule for what’s OK. Some kids may eat a lot of yogurt and cheese. Some babies are vegan. So talk to your baby’s doctor about the best alternative to help your child with specific deficiencies and their overall nutrition.”

When Your Baby Should Stop Drinking Formula & How to Do It | Little Bundle

You probably conducted extensive research to find and choose the best formula for your baby, and it worked well! But before you know it, your little one is not-so-little, and you may begin to wonder:

How long should my baby drink formula? 

How will we make the transition away from formula? 

How do I ensure my child still gets all the nutrients he or she needs when I stop using formula?

Should I continue to use Stage 3 formula after my baby is 1 year old or make the switch to whole milk?  

These are important questions, and we created this guide to help you determine how and when your baby should stop drinking formula.

Parents often think of "weaning" as when a child stops drinking baby formula or breast milk completely. But weaning actually begins whenever a baby starts consuming anything besides infant formula or breast milk. It ends when foods and drinks replace them completely. 

While the weaning process varies from child to child, it’s common to start weaning your baby between four and six months as they start experimenting with solid foods.

At four to six months, babies often need more nutrients than what’s available solely from formula or breast milk. That's why this is a perfect time to begin phase 1 of weaning: the introduction of solid foods. Solids complement formula or breast milk and ensure your baby receives all the nourishment he or she needs.

At 12 months, Stage 3 formulas built just for toddlers might provide the extra nutritional boost you’d like to incorporate into the foods in your baby’s diet. And although milk is the safe, traditional, physician-approved suggestion, the Stage 3 formula is purpose-built for growing young toddlers.

At 12 months, a baby is ready to begin phase 2 of the weaning process: the transition off of baby formula or breast milk. While you can begin this phase at one year, that doesn't mean there's any rush. You can implement this phase of the weaning process as gradually as you and your child need — just as long as you begin no earlier than 12 months. 

Why does your baby have to be a year old for this phase? Because at 12 months, a child's digestive system has matured enough to handle toddler formula or straight cow's milk. Before this point, breast milk or baby formula (formulated to resemble the composition of breast milk) is easier to digest. In addition, it isn't until about 12 months that a baby has established a diet of solids substantial enough to go without their infant formula. 

Once your child is ready for phase 2 of weaning, you can replace their baby formula with either Stage 3 formula (also referred to as "toddler milk" or "growing up milk") or whole cow's milk.  

Kendamil, HiPP, Holle & Lebenswert all offer Stage 3 formula for the toddler months, which are specifically formulated to meet a growing child's nutritional needs at this age. These toddler milks have more protein, vitamins, and minerals, and may provide an easier transition if your baby has sensitivities or is simply picky about switching to whole milk. Some also offer prebiotic & probiotics to promote healthy gut flora. 

Note: Some Stage 3 formulas are safe for your baby to begin as early as 10 months. Stage 3 formulas will specifically indicate the best age range for use. 

In an ideal environment, your baby – now a toddler – will naturally ingest essential nutrients by consuming a diet composed of a variety of healthy foods. But if you’re concerned that won’t happen (parents of picky eaters, we’re looking at you), the Stage 3 formula can certainly help!   

Also, if you are concerned about your baby’s vitamin D levels, one benefit to continuing with a Stage 3 formula is that your child’s Vitamin D levels may improve while on a higher formula stage. Based on a study done by HiPP, children who continued on to drink a Stage 3 formula after 12 months of age had better Vitamin D levels compared to their counterparts who transitioned to whole milk. 

If switching to whole milk instead, it's important to choose a whole fat option. Why whole? A child at this age still needs a high level of fat to nourish their rapid brain development and physical growth. Keep in mind that your child will only need two to three cups of whole milk per day. Then, at two years old, they can switch to a lower-fat milk option if desired. 

Some parents do a cold turkey switch from baby formula to toddler formula or cow's milk — and their babies have no problems with that. If you're the parent of an adaptable baby and this works for you, great! Most parents, however, will find that their babies need a bit more coaxing and time to make the switch without any fuss (or at least a bearable level of fuss). 

We generally recommend transitioning over a period of a few weeks. This allows your baby’s digestive system to completely adjust to a new formula or whole milk. It's best to introduce the new formula or milk gradually by mixing it with the old formula. You can consider following a transition schedule like this:

  • Day 1 & 2: 25% new formula or milk; 75% old formula

  • Day 3 & 4: 50% new formula or milk; 50% old formula

  • Day 5 & 6: 75% new formula or milk; 25% old formula

  • Day 7: 100% new formula or milk

Depending on your child’s unique needs, you may need to adjust this schedule. 

If you're feeling unsure about your baby's readiness to switch, check for these signs. In order to be ready to switch from baby formula to toddler formula or cow's milk, your baby needs to:

  • Be at least 12 months old (or as young as 10 months for some Stage 3 formulas)

  • Be eating a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and proteins each day

  • Be eating approximately 1000 calories each day

If you're still unsure, talk with your child's pediatrician to ensure they're getting enough nutrients from their diet to wean off of the current formula.  

Something else to keep in mind here is the weaning from bottle to sippy cup process. Bottles can interfere with normal teeth development, so it's advised that a child switches to a sippy cup by 18 months. But you don't have to wait until then. Your baby can begin using a sippy cup soon after they begin eating solids — around 6 months, or once they can sit up on their own. 

To wean from the bottle to the sippy cup, start by putting a bit of water in the sippy cup to avoid a big mess. It will take your child some time and practice to get the hang of it, but eventually, he or she will become a pro. Sippy cups are generally inexpensive, so it may help to try out a few different kinds to give your baby a chance to find one that they like best.

Do you need to wean from the bottle at the same time as weaning from baby formula? You can. But depending on your child and their temperament, this could make the transition more difficult. If your child struggles to switch off of a bottle and infant formula at the same time, slow things down a bit and just make one change at a time. This will smooth out the adjustments for them. 

Change can be difficult, and watching your child grow may make you wish you could slow time down. Before you know it, your baby will become a toddler — ready to graduate from baby formula and food to "big kid" milk and food. 

Ultimately, the decision of when to stop feeding infant formula is between you and your baby. Just remember to celebrate each transition on this journey with your not-so-little one. 

Still feeling a little unsure? Use our live chat or send us a message. Our Customer Success team of Infant Nutrition Technicians has a top priority to help you provide the best nutrition for your little one.

Up to what age to feed the baby at night and how to replace formula

Baby formula is only a forced measure to replace mother's milk in the absence of sufficient lactation or underweight in the baby. In all other respects, the infant formula feeding algorithm remains the same as with breastfeeding. The baby also needs nightly feedings about every 3-4 hours. This is due to scientifically proven facts. Babies up to a year old have an accelerated metabolism, food is digested faster, and naturally, they experience hunger at night. Also, any anxiety of the baby at night forces him to demand his mother's participation, and of course - food as a sedative. There is even a theory that children are genetically woken up to eat to avoid "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome" in their sleep. nine0003

But also can't it continue indefinitely? The child grows, develops actively, from the age of 6 months receives a variety of complementary foods, and over time should form a normal daily routine. And for this you need to figure out: how to wean a child at night to eat the mixture in the most gentle ways.

Up to what age to give the mixture at night

Experts differ on this issue, but the average age when you can do without night feedings is nevertheless deduced. Infants with normal development can sleep peacefully at night without formula 10-12 hours from 9-12 months. Of course, if parents do not consider it necessary to restrict their child in nutrition, they can safely continue to feed their child at night and beyond. But they must be aware that, firstly, over time, these periods of eating become just a habit for the baby. And secondly, mothers should also think about their own well-being after sleepless nights. So, the approximate age of weaning a child from night feedings has been determined, it remains to find out how to replace the mixture for the night after a year for the first time of the transition to a new regimen. nine0003

Night formula alternative

Formula feeding formula is extremely nutritious and delicious for your baby. Therefore, the nightly replacement should be unequal, so that the baby subsequently feels that he does not need to wake up for such food. For these reasons, many mothers, thinking about how to replace the mixture for the night, use not the best products. It is strongly not recommended to use compotes or juices, because the ultimate goal is a complete and painless rejection of night food. In addition, fruit drinking can cause flatulence and abdominal pain - not the most favorable factors for restful sleep. nine0003

It is better to replace the traditional food at first with a well-diluted mixture, and then with pure water. At the same time, you need to try to slightly shift the period of falling asleep and provide the child with peace and a hearty dinner before going to bed. During the gradual transition to a new way of life, it is not necessary to immediately offer a diluted mixture to the awakened baby at night, it is better to try to calm him down in a different way - caress, rock him. And since night meals a priori will cease to be delicious food, the child himself will gradually forget about it, but the wise human body will be rebuilt anyway. nine0003

Up to what age can a child be fed formula milk

— Polina Alexandrovna, up to what age can a child be given powdered milk formula?

— If breastfeeding is not possible, then formula is the best feeding option for the baby. Often mothers are worried that the mixture is not useful enough, it can be harmful or dangerous. Of course, breast milk is the best food for a baby, but if it is not possible, then there is nothing wrong with the mixture, you should not worry. nine0003

To begin with, I would like to say that there is no point in finishing formula feeding as soon as possible. There is no such clear boundary after which it is impossible to feed the baby with a mixture. Usually, the transition from the mixture occurs smoothly, each baby is different. The minimum age up to which it is desirable to feed with an adapted milk formula is 1 year, and then we look at the child.

— How should complementary foods be combined with formula feeding? For example, if a baby at seven months refuses the formula and at the same time eats complementary foods? Is this normal or should I try to keep formula feeding? nine0020

- I can't say this is normal. If you take a seven-month-old baby, then no matter what time they begin to introduce complementary foods, by this age he still receives a fairly limited set of products. Therefore, it is impossible to fill all the needs of the child's body with the help of complementary foods. Complementary foods are an intermediate step in the transition to the "adult" table, and the baby still has to receive a huge amount of nutrients from breast milk or from formula. Therefore, I do not recommend removing formula from the child's diet at such an early age. nine0003

– Polina Alexandrovna, when can you switch from formula to kefir and yogurt and how will this affect the child’s digestion?

- By and large, this is not a transition. When we introduce fermented milk products - yogurt or kefir - into complementary foods, the baby usually still receives enough nutrition in the form of a mixture (2-3 feedings). And replacing them with yogurt or kefir would be completely wrong. Despite the fact that these are fermented milk products and some of the proteins in them have already been broken down by the bacteria that are contained there, the protein load remains quite large. And at this age (they are introduced at about 8 months), it would be wrong to consider a fermented milk product several times a day as a complete source of nutrition. It is better to introduce dairy products into the child's diet as one of the additional types of complementary foods along with the milk mixture, which remains in the baby's diet for up to a year. And it is advisable to start not with kefir, but with yogurt - its acidity and composition will be more gentle for a small child. Kefir is better to enter by 9-10 months.

- Let's move on to the older kids. Why is it better for children from one year to use a mixture of the third formula, and not whole cow or goat milk?

  1. The protein composition of cow's and goat's milk differs significantly from that of breast milk and adapted formulas based on cow's or goat's milk.

    When a child consumes whole milk, there is a risk of getting an excess of proteins and microelements, which is not a very good factor - the child's body begins to intensively remove excess substances. A very large load falls on the kidneys, there is a violation of their function. Microelements are also excreted, which are few, but the child still needs them. nine0003

  2. Whole cow's and goat's milk is rich in some elements and proteins, but contains quite little in others.

    For example, cow's milk is not very rich in iron and goat's milk is not very rich in folic acid. There is an imbalance - the child receives an excess of some substances and at the same time does not receive others. Therefore, adapted milk mixtures are more relevant.

  3. When buying whole cow's or goat's milk, you can't always be sure of the quality of the product. nine0046

    Even when buying on the market in "verified places", no one will give you a guarantee that this milk is really good. No one will talk about how goats and cows are kept, how milk was stored. But when you buy formula milk, you can be sure of its quality - baby food is produced under very strict control.

  4. Proper use of the mixture reduces the risk of bacterial growth.

    The undoubted convenience of mixtures is that they are usually sold in dry form and diluted immediately before use. Due to this, the risk of reproduction in the product of pathogenic bacteria, which lead to various problems of the baby's gastrointestinal tract, is reduced. nine0003

— When can a switch to pure cow's or goat's milk be recommended? It is believed that up to 3 years the child's digestive system does not tolerate them well.

- Yes, indeed, there is such an opinion. I completely agree with him and do not recommend transferring babies under three years old to adult goat or cow milk for the reasons indicated above. It must be understood that if proteins undigested by the baby are retained in the gastrointestinal tract, they remain in the intestinal lumen. And if these are proteins of the casein fraction, they can negatively affect it - irritate the intestinal walls and lead to discomfort. And large molecules that are not crushed by enzymes, but enter the bloodstream, can cause allergic reactions. nine0003

It is better not to risk and use those products that are recommended for babies under three years old, namely, special milk formulas. They are adapted to this age, fortified and contain the optimal ratio of proteins and microelements so that the baby gets what he needs, and at the same time does not eat anything extra.

- Is it true that “normal milk is not found now” and the mixture will be healthier for the baby?

— Yes, indeed, when we buy whole milk, it is not always possible to be sure that the milk is produced as they say. Infant formulas are produced under strict control, according to certain technologies. Therefore, of course, there is much more confidence in such products. nine0003

— Polina Alexandrovna, there is a myth that if you feed a baby with milk formula for a long time, he will not learn to chew properly. Is this true?

— There is some truth in this. If we feed a child only formula and nothing else, then, of course, he will not learn to chew, because we do not offer him the kind of food that can be chewed. The baby will not learn to chew on its own without your help.

While formula feeding, we start the introduction of complementary foods with a homogeneous puree without pieces. There is nothing to chew there, but when the baby gets used to it, we gradually introduce food with small and soft pieces, then the pieces become larger and harder. And it is thanks to this that the child learns to chew. If, along with this food, the baby receives a milk formula, then, of course, he will not forget how to chew from what he eats from a bottle. Therefore, it is fundamentally important here not how long you feed the formula, but whether you offer the child pieces that he can learn to chew. nine0003

Read also
  • about what foods to start feeding your baby with and how to combine complementary foods and artificial feeding

— If a child of more than two years old eats formula with pleasure, is it necessary to worry and limit it? Or will he eventually give up on her?

- There is definitely no need to worry, there is nothing wrong with that. If a child receives a mixture adapted to his age (for two years this is the third stage), then, of course, this should not bother you. But you need to regulate the consumption of the mixture. nine0003

It is important to be aware that the mixture, although liquid, is a source of a huge amount of nutrients, it has a fairly high calorie content. So this is not a drink that can be consumed up to five times a day. Such a mixture can be equated with a meal and, accordingly, left or introduced into the child's diet adequately to his needs and age norms. A two-year-old child can be given formula for an afternoon snack instead of a dairy product. In this case, this is adequate nutrition adapted to the age of the baby, and he will only benefit from it. There will be harm if this product is abused. nine0003

— How many times a day should the child be fed the 3rd formula?

— Everything depends not only on the age of the child, but also on how much complementary foods he receives.

  • The child receives a sufficiently large amount of complementary foods.

    He receives the main part of his food during the day from complementary foods, there is one milk feeding at night. In this case, we leave the mixture for night feeding.

  • The child is accustomed to getting formula for the afternoon snack. nine0046

    It will not be a problem at all if he receives the mixture both day and night.

Always start from the needs of the child. For example, if the baby is one year old and he still has two or three milk feedings, then you do not need to strive to quickly get away from the mixture and reduce such feedings to a minimum. Do this when the child is comfortable. That is, there is no such thing that the mixture can be given only at night or only during the day.

- When does it come time to completely transfer the child to the "adult" table? How can a mother understand that the child’s body no longer needs the mixture and that he receives all the nutrients from other foods? nine0020

— You need to pay attention to a few things:

  • consult a pediatrician who can take into account the characteristics of the child and focus on his opinion;
  • it would be nice to count calories, proteins, fats and carbohydrates, although it is unlikely that mom will do this;
  • analyze how the baby eats, how much food and nutrients he receives with complementary foods.

Based on this, we look at when to move away from formula. But if a 2.5-year-old child uses formula once a day and this is not another extra meal, but the same afternoon snack with fruit or cookies, then everything is quite adequate. nine0003

– Polina Alexandrovna, and at the end of the conversation: what is the use of MAMAKO ® Premium mixtures for children and up to what age should they be given?

  • Range 0 to 3 years

    — First of all, I would like to note that MAMAKO ® has a specially adapted formula for each age. For babies in the first six months of life - 1, from six months to a year - 2, and for babies older than 1 year - adapted milk drinks marked 3. This, of course, is a big plus, because babies get what they need at each specific age. nine0003

  • Saturation of mixtures with useful components

    - Secondly, the rich composition of the mixtures is a big plus. Every age child has different needs. Dry infant formulas MAMAKO ® contain both a complex that supports the development of the nervous system, a complex that protects the eyes, and pre- and probiotics that promote comfortable digestion. Thanks to this enrichment, of course, this mixture is quite useful for the baby. nine0003

  • Adequate protein composition

    - Thirdly, the protein composition of the mixtures is adapted to the specific age of the baby, which means there is no protein load on the kidneys.

  • Benefits of goat milk

    - If we are talking about the basis of the mixture MAMAKO ® Premium - goat's milk, then, of course, it is more preferable for feeding babies than cow's milk. Goat milk proteins have a composition closer to breast milk proteins, and it is easier for a child to digest them than cow milk proteins. nine0003

There is no clear boundary when you need to remove the mixture from the child's diet.

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