Kicking the Can - How to Wean Off Formula

mom trying to wean baby off formula

Breastfeeding journeys can have unexpected detours. Nursing strikes, growth spurts, and illness can change your plans to exclusively breastfeed. The good news is that you can return to exclusive breastfeeding after supplementing with formula.

Depending on the amount of formula you are currently supplementing, the process of transitioning to fully breastfeeding could take 14 days or more. Before you start weaning from formula, you may want to talk to your local lactation consultant and your pediatrician for any input or special concerns they may have.

Ready to Kick the Can? Let's follow my friend, a mom named Lauren, through the process…

Day 1 - Lauren writes down the number of ounces her baby is drinking each day. This will give her a starting point. It's also good info to have when she talks to her lactation consultant or pediatrician. Lauren's baby girl is drinking 30 ounces of formula each day.

Day 2 through 5 - For these days, feed one less ounce of formula than your original amount. Lauren will feed 29 ounces of formula and put her baby to breast if her baby is hungry or fussy. Watch for the number of dirty and wet diapers, although keep in mind the number of poops should increase and type of poop will change color and smell as your baby gets more breastmilk.

Day 6 through 9 - Feed two less ounces of formula than your original amount. Lauren will feed 28 ounces of formula and put her baby to breast when she is hungry or fussy. Keep watching for the number of poopy and wet diapers.

Continue to decrease the amount of formula you feed by 1 ounce every 3-4 days and breastfeed when your baby is hungry or fussy. If your baby seems hungry after breastfeeding or the number of poopy and wet diapers drops, don't decrease your formula supplementation until your baby acts full and the diaper count returns to normal.

If you feel ready, start pumping too!

If you pump, you will have breastmilk instead of formula for bottles and increase your supply - win/win! Check out our debut episode of The Boob Tube for more on increasing milk supply.

If possible, use a double, electric pump and pump for 20-30 minutes (I know that sounds like a long time but it's just until your supply increases). A hospital-grade double pump will save time and maximize your pumping efforts. Use breast compression and pump for 2-3 minutes after the last drops of milk. See the best breast compression video here.

Aim for 10 breastfeeding or pumping sessions per 24 hours to boost your milk supply and keep it strong.

Remember, just because you started formula supplementation doesn't mean you have to continue. Reduce formula supplementation slowly and let your milk supply increase to keep up with the increased demand - you can Kick the Can!

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