Considering the Switch from Breastfeeding to Baby Formula? Here’s What to Know


Updated on:

Considering the Switch from Breastfeeding to Baby Formula? Here's What to Know
Switch from Breastfeeding to Baby Formula

The transition from breastfeeding to formula feeding is one many new parents grapple with as babies grow. 

While breastmilk provides unmatched health benefits, the demands of life sometimes necessitate considering other feeding options. If you’ve found yourself weighing the switch to formula, know that you’re not alone- and there are ways to approach this change thoughtfully.

Let’s explore the key factors in the breastfeeding-to-formula decision together. Your questions and concerns are always welcome.

Understanding the Types of Baby Formulas

Baby formulas are broadly classified into formulas for full-term infants, preterm infants, and enriched formulas. They are designed to provide all essential nutrients for a baby’s growth and development.

Most full-term babies can be fed basic infant formulas that aim to mimic breast milk nutrients. These contain around 20 calories per ounce with protein, carbohydrates from lactose, and other key nutrients sourced from cow’s milk. 

Formulas specially designed for preterm or low birth weight babies have higher calories, protein, and minerals.

Soy-based formulas source protein from soy instead of cow’s milk for infants with lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy. 

Certain anti-reflux formulas are formulated to ease frequent spitting up through carb sources or amino acid modifications without impacting growth. Toddler formulas catered to 1-3-year-olds transitioning away from breastmilk/formula typically use cow’s milk as the protein base.

In addition to cow’s milk-based formulas, some parents choose formulas made from goat milk. Goat milk has similar nutritional properties to cow’s milk but may be more digestible for some infants. 

A few popular goat milk formulas are Nanny Care First, Holle Goat Organic Milk formula, and Kabrita. Parents sometimes select goat milk formulas if their baby has a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.

Other parents seek organic options for potential gut and overall health benefits. Several companies offer organic baby formulas in the U.S., including Earth’s Best, Happy Baby, and Burt’s Bee. 

These organic varieties closely mimic breastmilk composition while using certified organic ingredients free of sucrose or artificial additions. Some brands enhance their organic formulas with extras like omega-3s or probiotics.

Tips for Choosing the Right Formula for Your Baby

Tips for Choosing the Right Formula for Your Baby

Be Cautious When Selecting a Baby Formula Brand

According to TorHoerman Law, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious digestive condition that can affect premature infants. It causes tissue in the intestine to die, leading to symptoms like severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some research has investigated potential links between NEC and certain infant formulas.

One study found that babies fed formula containing cow’s milk protein were more likely to develop NEC than those who were breastfed or received a hydrolyzed protein formula. Formulas produced by major brands like Similac and Enfamil have been involved in lawsuits related to NEC.

Specifically, Similac formulas Neosure and Pro-Advance are designed for preemies and infants with low birth weight. Enfamil also markets Premature and EnfaCare formulas for that vulnerable population. 

However, research suggests bovine milk-based formulas may raise the risk of NEC in preterm babies compared to human milk or non-dairy formulas.

In one such study, premature infants fed cow’s milk formula had a higher rate of NEC than babies receiving human milk or a non-cow’s milk formula. Another found higher risks of NEC and other gastrointestinal issues for preemies on cow’s milk formula versus human milk.

This evidence points to potential increased NEC risk from bovine milk formulas in preemie infants versus milk from their mothers or alternative non-dairy formulas. 

If you have a preterm baby, consulting your healthcare provider can help determine the safest feeding option. This decision should consider your infant’s individual needs and circumstances.

While the scientific evidence is still emerging, the Similac lawsuit has brought more attention to the need for formula companies to improve product safety based on the latest research continuously.

Be Cautious of Formula Marketing Claims

Marketing phrases like “closest to breast milk” should be viewed skeptically. No infant formula can fully duplicate the complex composition of human milk. While formulas must meet nutritional standards, certain living cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk cannot be replicated.

All approved formulas sold in the U.S. must satisfy the same minimum nutrient requirements set by regulatory agencies. However, beyond those basic standards, formulations may differ slightly while providing comparable nutrition overall.

Don’t Ignore the Cost Consideration

The price of baby formula can really add up quickly. If your baby consumes an average of 25 ounces per day, formula costs alone could range from around $821 to nearly $3,000 by their first birthday. 

While filling your registry with 1000 cans of formula up front may seem like a good idea for savings, it’s not very practical for most families. It’s important to consider your budget when choosing a formula carefully. 

Powdered varieties will generally cost less than liquid formulas over the long run. Knowing the potential feeding costs ahead of time allows for smarter financial planning as babies grow.

Consult Your Pediatrician for Guidance

When choosing an infant formula, it’s natural to seek input from family, friends, and online sources. However, the medical professional who knows your baby’s needs best is their pediatrician. 

Discussing your options directly with the pediatrician allows them to consider your infant’s specific health profile and history. They can provide personalized advice tailored to your baby. 

As medical experts, pediatricians stay up to date on the latest research regarding infant nutrition. Their formal training and experience examining many babies over time puts them in an excellent position to guide parents through the decision-making process. 

Most pediatrician offices also have sample cans of different formulas available. Consulting the pediatrician helps ensure the formula you select will deliver optimum health benefits for your unique baby.

Can You Switch Baby Formula Brands?

It is generally safe to switch between different brands of baby formula. Most experts agree that occasional changes in the formula should not harm a healthy baby. This is because major infant formula brands contain similar essential nutrients in proportions appropriate for infant nutrition.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a  pediatrician, notes that breastfed babies naturally receive variations in their mother’s milk composition depending on diet. Formula-fed babies can similarly adjust to minor differences between formula recipes, just as breastfed babies do.

Dr. Rashmi Jain, a concierge pediatrician, adds that core nutrients like proteins, fats, and vitamins are consistently present across leading formula brands. Ingredient sources may vary slightly, but these essential nutrients remain consistent. As long as nutritional needs are met, an occasional change is unlikely to disrupt a baby’s health.

While powdered, concentrated, and ready-to-feed liquid formulas contain comparable nutrition, some extra care may be needed when switching between types for certain groups. 

According to Dr. Jain, preterm or immunocompromised babies under 3 months may still be adjusting. It’s best to maintain them on the same formula type until cleared by their pediatrician. Otherwise, most healthy babies can generally move between formula types when needed.


1. How can I determine the best formula for my baby’s needs?

A: If your baby has specific issues like a milk protein allergy or colic, consider starting with a formula tailored to address those concerns. Otherwise, choose a formula that aligns with your budget and ingredient preferences and observe how your baby responds to it.

2. At what age should I discontinue formula feeding?

A: Formula feeding is typically stopped by the time your baby reaches 12 months of age, including toddler or stage 3 formulas. By this age, toddlers should primarily receive their nutrition from solid foods and can transition to cow’s milk as a beverage. Continued use of toddler formula may diminish their appetite for solid foods.

3. Is it safe to mix breast milk and formula together?

A: Yes, you can mix pumped breast milk with formula in the same bottle. If you’re using liquid-prepared formula, simply add it to the bottle containing your breast milk. For powdered formula, follow the mixing instructions provided on the label, combining it with water before adding it to the breast milk.

Making the choice to switch from breastfeeding to formula is a personal one that requires carefully considering your baby’s needs and your family’s situation. While breastmilk provides unmatched benefits, formula is a suitable alternative when needed. Consult your pediatrician for guidance tailored to your infant to feel confident you are selecting the best option.

Leave a Comment