Bottles & Boobs

How to Switch Baby from Breastmilk to Formula?


There are lots and lots of reasons why you may want to switch your baby from breastmilk to formula. The many reasons aren’t worth mentioning, mainly because the reason why you want to do it, isn’t important, what’s important is having some insight as to how to switch baby from breastmilk to formula smoothly, with little to no hiccups along the way. 

Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula-feed your baby,  or even use a combination of both the choice is uniquely and confidently yours. Here is how to switch baby from breastmilk to formula:

Utilize a Gradual Process 

If a smooth process is your goal, then it may be best to gradually introduce formula to your breastfed baby. Utilizing a gradual process can ensure that both you and your baby are ready for the switch as opposed to going ‘cold turkey’ -because nobody really likes cold turkey!- 

Create a Plan and Timeframe 

You can start this by creating a plan for you and your baby. Say you have a specific time frame that you are working with, having a thought out plan will help to guarantee your success. 

For instance, If you are off on maternity leave and you will need to start bottle formula feeding before going back to work, then you can start the gradual process approximately one month or so, before your return date.  

During this adjustment process, both you and your baby will get used to what’s to come. For your baby, he or she needs to adjust to the bottle as well as the varying feeding positions. As for you, your breast needs to get used to not having the milk being used in the same quantity. Therefore, this is why we suggest that it may be best to do it as a process, gradually over time.

This is also a good time to start thinking about getting a breast pump. When there is a change in feeding, moms may often experience engorgement of the breast which may be painful as well as cause leaking of breast milk onto clothing.  Engorgement occurs when the breast gets too full of milk. This may usually happen if you stop breastfeeding suddenly and you are not pumping. 

So, make a plan and put it in action over time. There is no need to rush the process in an unhealthy way. 

Choose a Formula 

An important element in successfully switching your baby from breastfeeding to formula feeding is choosing the right formula. There are plenty of options for which formula may be right for you and your baby. 

What you want to focus on are the ingredients, the nutrient profile of the product, where the product is made as well as the values of the brand (if that matters to you), of course, the price may be a factor. 

Types of Baby Formula 

As for types of baby formula, here are some common ones you may see on the market: 

Cow’s milk formula- This is the most common type of infant formula. This type of formula is beneficial in helping protein to be more digestible. They are usually iron-fortified, so your baby will get the required amounts from this type of formula. While this type of formula has a good nutrient profile and is easily digestible some babies may be allergic to some proteins found in cow’s milk.  You can find conventional, organic, and even grass-fed cow’s milk formulas. 

Soy formula- This type of formula is a vegan option often recommended in cases of allergy to cow’s milk or just a matter of dietary preference. This is available in conventional and organic forms. 

Protein hydrolysate formula- This type of formula contains proteins that have been broken down making them even more digestible.  This type of formula is used in cases where babies have an intolerance to cow’s milk and even soy-based infant formulas. 

These types of formulas may be found in 3 common forms. They are: 

Powered formulas- you mix this type of formula with water fit for drinking.

Concentrated liquid formulas- this type of formula must also be mixed with water fit for drinking. 

Ready-to-feed formulas- This comes pre-mixed and ready to serve. 

Conduct some research, ask your pediatrician as well as discuss it with your family. Once you have a formula then the next step would be to choose a bottle. 

Choosing a bottle 

Many people may not say this out front but the wrong bottle can cause a lot of issues with bottle feeding or formula feeding. Sometimes a baby may reject bottle-formula-feeding simply because the nipple of the bottle doesn’t feel right or the milk doesn’t flow well from the nipple of the bottle. 

Spend some time here researching different bottles and how they may impact feeding. You may see the option of glass vs plastic bottles as well as latex vs silicone nipples. 

If you begin feeding and the baby rejects the bottle then you may also experiment to see if another bottle works better. You also have the option of running it by your pediatrician. Remain patient and adjust accordingly. 

Alternate Breastfeeding and Bottle formula feeding 

The next step is to alternate breastfeeding and bottle feeding your baby. It is okay for you to give your baby both. For this aspect, you will want to choose a time that works best for you and the baby. This time should be within your regular feeding schedule. 

Say you normally feed the baby at mid-day, perhaps this may be a good time to introduce the baby to formula feeding. Here, you can also keep track of the time you started the formula feeding and how your baby responds to it. Get a feeding journal or use an app on your smartphone. 

You may also introduce formula feeding if you leave the baby in the care of someone else at any point during the day. If you are returning to work then it might be a good idea to gradually introduce the baby to feeding with you not present, but that is completely up to you. 

Experiment with exclusive formula feed 

This aspect depends on your end goal. If your goal is to alternate between formula and breastfeeding then you are all set. However, if you plan to exclusively bottle feed then keep going. 

So, you’ve been alternating between breastfeeding and formula feeding for some time. It may be a good time to try feeding your baby exclusively with formula. 

Ensure that feeding is within your regular feeding schedule or closely aligned. You may want to adjust the schedule of feeding just a bit if your baby is used to a midnight feeding or other feeding that occurs outside of normal feeding time, use your judgment. 

While formula feeding, you may still want to keep tracking how your baby likes or doesn’t like the formula. Record how your baby feels before and after feeding as well as any concerns you may have. If you ever find yourself worried for any reason, do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician. 

Bonding with your baby 

When it comes to transitioning to formula feeding, many people may worry that it breaks the bond between mother and child. Bonding with your baby is extremely important so it is understood why this may be a worry. However, to this, the best thing to say is to think outside of the box. 

There are many ways outside of breastfeeding that you can bond with your baby. Your baby requires touch and love first and foremost. Food is important of course! But your baby will still be feeding via a bottle. 

What you can do is introduce other bonding activities such as play, sing or talk time, and of course extra hugs!  Another activity that you can do is mirroring your baby’s movements, this is a form of play and a great way to bond. You can even introduce ‘mommy and me’ bath time so that you still maintain skin to skin contact. Overall, just keep a positive attitude and adjust accordingly. 


When it comes down to how to switch baby from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, a gradual process works best. If you are unable to utilize a gradual process then you should remain open to making adjustments along the way. 

With a new baby, everything is new and it takes time and patience to get things in order. Try not to worry or stress too much, just do the best you can when you can. You may use the tips provided here as a guide. Here is a summary of the most important information: 

  • Use a gradual process when switching the baby from breastfeeding to formula feeding.
  • Create a plan of how you are going to do it with a time frame. 
  • Choose the best baby formula from your research. 
  • Choose the best baby bottle from your research. 
  • Alternate between breast and formula feeding. 
  • Try feeding exclusively with formula if that is your goal.
  • Remember to remain open and ready to adjust. 
  • Make notes along the way in a journal or baby tracking app on your smartphone.
  • Do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician. 
The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

Meet the Author

Bridget Reed, contributing writer for Milk Drunk with the expert advice of Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann

Bridget Reed is an experienced writer, editor SEO content manager and proud mom of three.

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