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When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula? Find The Answers Here

It’s important that your baby gets the nutrients she needs to grow healthy and strong. Determining which sources those nutrients should come from and when is up to you, and can be tricky.

 Babies need the nutrients in breastmilk or formula until they are at least one year old. As cut-and-dry as that sounds, actually making this change is more complex.

You may also have questions about when to reduce the amount of formula your baby drinks. When your baby starts to eat solid foods, she will continue to need formula, but not as much as before.

When do babies stop drinking formula? The answer can vary by family and personal preference. 
Read on to learn exactly when and how to introduce solid foods, what to introduce, when to wean your baby from formula, and what to give her instead.

When Do Babies Start Eating Solid Foods?

Babies can start eating solid foods any time between 4 and 6 months, or later if you desire. Many holistic doctors and midwives prefer that parents wait until closer to 9 months to introduce solid foods.

Before you can feed your baby solids, however, you must check for readiness. 
Your baby may be ready for solid foods if he:

  • Holds his head up 
  • Sits without help, or with little help
  • No longer uses his tongue to push out a spoon inserted into his mouth
  • Is alert and interested during mealtime
  • Makes smacking noises or motions
  • Tries to grab your food
  • Weighs close to double his birth weight

Some proponents of breastfeeding, such as La Leche League, encourage mothers to breastfeed exclusively until baby reaches onto your plate and puts food in his mouth. The same principle can be applied to babies who drink formula.

A lot of parents want to start feeding their babies solid foods as early as possible to help them sleep better. While this may or may not help, it is important to establish that your baby is truly ready for solids before giving them to him.

Which Solid Foods Should My Baby Eat First?

Rice Cereal

Conventional wisdom in the United States is to make single-grain cereals such as rice your baby’s first food.

Many parents find, however, that this can cause constipation. They are tempted to add fruit juice to ease the constipation.

This is not the way to go. Juice can add extra calories without the nutritional value that formula has.

If you find rice cereal too thick for your baby, thin it with formula, not juice.

Fruits and Vegetables

In other countries it is common for a baby’s first food to be something more exciting than bland rice cereal.

Sweet potatoes make a good first food for most babies. They are packed with nutrients, and their sweet flavor makes them a favorite with many little ones.

Peas are a good first vegetable to introduce because they have a lot of natural sugar in them. Just be careful to blend them very well if you are making your own so that you sufficiently break up the seed coat on the outside of a pea.

Acidic fruits like peaches, pears, and even apples are not gentle enough for young tummies. Save these fruits until later.

Continue Formula

Whichever food you decide to give your baby first, formula should continue to be her main source of nutrients. At six months she is not yet ready to get most of her calories from solid foods.

How Should I Introduce Solid Foods?

Some people think that introducing vegetables before fruit will make children more likely to eat vegetables later in life. Others have refuted this claim. It is more important to introduce solid food systemically to check for possible allergies.

How to Check for Allergies

  • Give your baby only one new food at a time
  • Keep track of which food you give them and on which day
  • Wait 2-3 days between new foods
  • If an allergic reaction occurs, the last food given is the likely suspect

The Skill of Eating

Eating with a spoon is a skill. Even you are feeding your baby, rather than her doing it herself, she is still learning.

It is important that you use a spoon to feed your baby solid foods, including rice cereal.

Do not mix rice cereal in a bottle with formula unless a doctor specifically instructs you to do so.

Don’t Give Up

Your baby may not love every food he tries right away. That’s ok.

You must give your baby a food 8 times before he will begin to like it.

So if the peas don’t go down smooth the first time, don’t fret, just try again.

Remember that starting solid foods does not mean it is time for baby to stop drinking formula.

When Do Babies Stop Drinking Formula?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wean your baby from her bottle somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

Weaning earlier can be disastrous for baby’s health. The nutrients in formula are vital and can only be substituted with a balanced diet.

Do not stop giving your baby formula before 12 months of age, not even if you substitute with cow’s milk. Formula or breastmilk should be her main source of nutrition for the first year of life.

You should wean your baby before 18 months to prevent tooth decay and dental problems that can arise from bottle use, especially bottle use while sleeping.

After 12 months, your baby should be eating enough fruits, vegetables, cereals and small amounts of meat to safely give up formula.

How Should I Wean my Baby?

Weaning your baby is a slow process. Take your time and don’t try to force anything.

Nighttime Weaning

Before you wean, your baby needs to be sleeping through the night without waking to eat. If he is still eating during the night, you must first nighttime wean.

Most babies are capable of sleeping through the night by 4 months old. It sometimes takes us longer to catch up to their potential, however.

There are many methods for sleep-training your baby. Choose one and spend a few weeks getting him to sleep all night.

Then you’re ready to tackle the daytime.

One Bottle at a Time

You can wean your baby from formula by giving fewer bottles of formula each day until he drinks only from a cup.

Start by replacing one bottle at a time with a cup or sippy cup. The midday bottle is often the easiest to eliminate first.

Allow a few weeks for him to adjust to this. Then replace the morning bottle with a cup as well.

The final bottle, the evening bottle, will be the most difficult to eliminate. Be patient, and in time he will give up the bottle completely.

What Should My Baby Drink Instead of Formula?

When your baby is ready to give up formula, food will take over as her main source of nutrients. She may still be used to the bottle, however. Using the above strategy, replace one bottle a day with a cup of one of the following:

Cow’s Milk

You can start giving your child cow’s milk at one year of age. Be sure to use whole milk. The butterfat in whole milk supports healthy brain growth in kids between 1 and 2. When your toddler turns 2 you can switch to 2% milkfat or less.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice should be avoided. It can:

  • Cause obesity
  • Leave your toddler full and not hungry for more nutritious foods
  • Cause diarrhea
  • Contribute to diabetes
  • Put your child at risk for cavities

If you really want to give fruit juice, choose 100% fruit juice and cut it with water.

Water

Some people choose not to give cow’s milk to their children for various reasons. If your child has an allergy or if your family is vegan, cow’s milk may not be an option.

If you switch from formula to water, be sure to give your toddler plenty of healthy fat. Try giving him half an avocado everyday so she gets the fatty acids he needs to grow a healthy brain.

If you have any questions, be sure to consult your pediatrician.

The Takeaway

  • Your baby should drink formula or breastmilk as his main source of nutrition for the first year of life
  • You can begin adding solid foods to his diet when he is 4-6 months old
  • Only give your baby solid foods if he shows signs of readiness
  • Waiting until he is 6 months old or older can have benefits
  • Once he is eating food, he will still need formula until 12 months of age
  • When he is 12 months old, replace one bottle of formula a day with a cup of whole milk
  • Do this until he is no longer drinking any formula, and no longer using a bottle

Many of the tasks of parenting can feel overwhelming. Hopefully, knowing when babies stop drinking formula will make this topic less frightening for you.
Do you have any other questions for us?

Hannah Tong
 

Hannah Tong is the founder of Omaby.com, a blog dedicated to providing accurate advice to mothers regarding childcare. She loves taking care of her kids and teaching them the right things. She is also enthusiastic and loves sharing her experiences to teach others about how to care for their families' health.

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