Having difficulty finding or affording the formula you usually feed baby? Or, does it seem like baby is having trouble digesting the formula they’re currently on – or that they might have an allergy? We have your back. If you’re thinking of switching the formula brand you give baby for any reason, here’s what you need to know.
Is switching formula safe?
It’s perfectly safe to switch the formula you’re feeding baby, for any reason. All infant formulas sold in U.S. stores must meet the same strict nutritional and safety standards. They are carefully regulated so every formula has the right balance of nutrients for babies, no matter who makes them or how they’re priced.
All infant formulas mimic the nutritional value of breastmilk. This means that you won’t lose out on any main benefits no matter what brand or type of formula you’re giving your little one. And you can switch between powdered, ready-to-feed and concentrated formulas with no issue.
NEVER water down formula, even if you’re having difficulty finding or affording it. This is unsafe, as it dilutes the formula and prevents baby from getting its full nutritional value. It may affect baby’s growth and overall health. Switching to the full concentration of a new formula is much, much safer for baby.
Reasons why you may want to switch formula brands
Any reason for wanting to switch formula brands is perfectly valid – especially since switching formulas is completely safe to do. But here are two of the most common reasons why parents and caregivers want to switch.
You can’t find or afford baby’s current formula. If you’re having difficulty tracking down baby’s usual formula in stores, or want to try a less expensive option, remember that every formula is equal in its nutritional value.
You think baby has an allergy or intolerance to standard cow’s milk-based formula. If baby experiences repeated GI issues, reflux, colicky crying, or traditional symptoms of a food allergy, talk to your pediatrician. Explain the symptoms baby has experienced, and ask if you should stop feeding baby regular formula and switch to a specialty formula designed for babies with allergies and food intolerances.
Concerns when switching formula
There are two main concerns to keep in mind, that may make some types of formula unsafe for certain groups of babies.
If baby has an allergy or intolerance to formula, you’ll need to make sure that you give them specialty formula – hydrolyzed formula, or elemental hypoallergenic formula.
- A regular formula will make their symptoms return.
- But hydrolyzed formulas contain broken-down milk proteins that are easier for babies with milk allergies or intolerances to digest and process.
- And elemental formulas are made with amino acids instead of proteins, so they’re meant for babies who can’t tolerate even the broken down proteins in hydrolyzed formulas.
And if baby is a preemie younger than 3 months old, or immunocompromised and under 3 months old, don’t feed them powdered formula. Stick to concentrated or ready-to-feed formula, as these babies might not be ready for powdered formula yet.
How to switch baby formula
It’s usually best to switch to a formula brand that has the same base as the previous formula. In other words, if you previously fed baby a cow’s milk-based formula, you’ll probably want to choose another cow’s milk-based formula. Don’t switch bases unless your doctor recommended the switch for allergy or intolerance reasons.
Before giving baby new formula, make sure it is not expired, just like you would with any formula.
It’s fine to switch baby formula instantly, especially if you can’t find baby’s usual brand. Babies usually tolerate the instant switch well, so don’t stress over this. Remember: even breastmilk changes from day to day based on what moms eat – so breastfed babies are enjoying slightly different milk at each feeding. Babies are equipped to handle changes!
However, if you still have some of baby’s current formula on hand, it’s advisable to gradually switch over. This will get baby used to the new formula’s taste, and help you make sure that baby isn’t sensitive to the new formula.
Ideally, you’ll gradually switch formulas over the course of a few days to a week. Slowly add more of the new formula over a few days until baby's drinking only the new brand.
If you need to mix each formula before feeding, prepare each formula separately so the concentrations are correct and baby gets the full nutritional value of each. Make sure to use the scoop or measuring device provided with each formula to measure out the percentage of that formula, since the serving measurement sizes can sometimes vary.
Consider this schedule for a gradual switch:
- Day 1: 25% new formula, 75% current formula
- Day 2: 50% new formula, 50% current formula
- Day 3: 75% new formula, 25% current formula
- Day 4: Fully switched over to the new formula
What to watch for when you switch formula?
When you switch formula, baby might get gassy, constipated, poop more frequently, or have poop that looks a bit different than usual. If this happens in the first week or so of the new formula, that’s normal – baby’s digestive system is adjusting to the new formula.
Wait a week to 10 days and see if baby is still experiencing GI symptoms. If they are, you may need to switch over to a sensitive formula or hydrolyzed formula. Contact your doctor first, though, to get more information.
If baby experiences allergic reaction symptoms at any time during the formula switch (such as hives, bloody stools, or difficulty breathing), stop feeding baby the formula and call a doctor immediately.
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