Infant formula is a fantastic supplement or replacement for breast milk, and babies can drink it as their only food.
But when do babies stop drinking formula? And what’s the best way to transition babies to other foods?
Let’s learn when do babies stop drinking formula.
When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula
Phases of Weaning a Baby
The truth is, babies usually don’t stop drinking infant formula all at once.
The process of gradually transitioning a baby from formula or breastmilk to solid foods is called weaning, and it happens in stages. The usual phases of weaning are:
Breastfeeding to Bottle-Feeding
Usually, babies can start drinking from a bottle during their first 2-4 weeks, and may breastfeed or bottle-feed after that.
Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding to Drinking From a Cup
Babies can start drinking formula or breastmilk from a sippy cup at 4-6 months of age.
Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding to Solid Foods
Babies can start eating small amounts of solid foods and drinking a little water at about 6 months old.
Pediatricians recommend that parents start introducing solid foods at about 6 months of age, and be exclusively eating solid food, without using a bottle, by 12-18 months of age.
How to Transition a Baby from Formula to Solid Food
Babies should exclusively drink formula or breast milk for their first 4 months, while their digestive system is still developing.
Six months is the best time to start introducing solid foods when their bodies are mature enough to digest simple foods.
Foods to Avoid the First Year
- No milk, juice, or other beverages. Babies should still be using breastmilk or infant formula as their primary source of nutrition. No other beverages should be given until they are at least a year old
- No honey. Honey may occasionally contain bacteria that their developing immune systems cannot fight off, and it may make them sick. Avoiding honey also prevents the baby from getting unneeded sugar.
- No small foods that pose choking hazards. Whole nuts and peanuts have a risk of being choked on, so babies should only have ground up nuts and small foods for their first few years.
- No added salt, sugar, or flavorings. These ingredients can be unhealthy and difficult for a baby to digest. New babies should have foods without added flavorings or ingredients, simply pureed
How to Introduce Solid Foods
- Start a single item of solid food at a time. The best starter food is a teaspoon of iron-enriched infant cereal, mixed as directed.
- For 3-5 days, offer a teaspoon of infant cereal at mealtimes. Feed the baby with a spoon, to help them get used to eating with silverware.
- After 3-5 days, you can gradually increase the amount of cereal offered, up to a tablespoon a day.
- Add a teaspoon of baby vegetables to their daily mealtime.
- Always offer new foods just a teaspoon at a time, and allow several days after the introduction of a new food. This gives you time to learn your baby’s preferences and to identify any potential allergens.
- Introduce infant cereals, then vegetables, then fruit, and finally meat.
- When babies start to eat solid foods, they may also start to drink water as needed.
- From 8-12 months, start to reduce the amount of formula and increase the feeding of solid foods, so they are getting all the nutrition they need from food rather than formula.
How to Wean a Baby Away from a Bottle
Even after a baby gets all their nutrition from solid food, they may want a bottle because it helps them feel secure and comfortable. The truth is, drinking formula from a bottle for too long can damage a baby’s teeth, and they may start to miss important nutrients they need as they grow.
When a baby is strong enough to sit up by themselves and has the motor skills to hold up a sippy cup and drink from it, it’s time to start transitioning them away from using a bottle.
Introduce the sippy cup at about 6 months of age, so they are accustomed to it. Let them get used to playing with the sippy cup and drinking out of it at mealtimes.
While the baby is 9-12 months old, start reducing the number of bottles used for daily feedings, replacing them with cups of formula or water.
You may let your baby pick their favorite cup, or use fun straws to help them get more excited about their cup, and reduce attachment to the bottle.
By the time a baby is 12-15 months old, they should transition away from infant formula and baby foods, which are more nutritionally balanced for babies over 12 months.
Introducing foods gradually, starting early, helps make this transition easier physically and emotionally.