Everything about baby formula is shrouded in mythology, including the lack of bacteria present in it. This may be why the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) likes to compare breastmilk to unpasteurized goat milk more than they do to formula. So while experts might disagree on how long it takes for a baby’s digestive system to adjust and develop, with or without any dietary changes, there is no debate that switching a baby from breastmilk to formula will have an impact on their health that ranges from mild digestive upset, colic with gas pain often associated with gas build-up at least until 24 months of age, as well as possible diarrhea up until six months of age.
So, let’s answer the question, how to transition from breastmilk to formula?
- Expect plenty of spit up.
When comparing the effects of switching from breastmilk to formula, look no further than the digestive system of the baby. Everything they ingest will pass through the digestive tract, from feeding to elimination. So, if breastfed babies are more likely to be gassy due to a relatively immature digestive tract, then organic formula-fed babies will have less gas because their systems are more mature and geared for digestion as a result of how long they have been eating solid foods. This is true for breastmilk from cows and goats as well as human milk.
- Expect decreased nutrient intake due to the same reasons as breastfed babies.
Until a baby’s digestive system matures to match the solid foods they eat on a daily basis, their bowels will continue to process their proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the same manner as breastmilk. This is why it is important for formula-fed babies to have complementary foods sooner than when breastfed babies are ready for solids. In addition, the quality of formula will be of major importance as well. If a baby is transitioned too early or if they have issues with digesting formula (i.e. lactose intolerance, poorly digested proteins) then the baby will need to be fed more formula or even formula mixed with breastmilk. When you feed your baby cows’ milk, it is carefully pasteurized in order to keep bacteria out of the product. However, there are many parents who believe that their babies can safely transition to human milk when they are tired of breastmilk and feel that it is time for solid food.
- Expect a transition period of up to six months before full digestive function becomes suitable for any solid foods other than infant cereal (baby rice).
The digestive system and gut of a baby is unique and develops at differing rates. Some babies, like breastfed babies, can digest solids much sooner than others. Why? Breastfeeding moms have antibodies (antibodies are proteins in the blood that help to fight off infection) that help their milk pass through the digestive system intact when it should not be. Formula-fed babies on human milk have antibodies as well but to a lesser degree because this milk does not need to be fully processed in order for it to survive the digestive system. Manufacturer’s of formula make sure these antibodies are removed from their formula during processing.
It is a good idea, when transitioning from breastmilk to formula, to know what the effects are of switching from breastmilk. Hope you found the article helpful!