When to Start Weaning Baby Off Formula

Weaning of any kind can be a stressful transition for either or both parent and child. But how do you know when to start weaning baby off formula? If you’ve poked around a bit on the net, you have seen that weaning from the bottle can cause tantrum build up, anxiety and emotional fixations towards the much latter part of the child’s life. This part of a growing child’s need can not be taken lightly.

However, as in all things parenting related, you don’t have to stay up all night worrying about ruining your child by weaning him. With a little help, weaning can actually be an opportunity to help guide your child towards his next big adventure.

Is there a right time?

For most caregivers, teething and a growing interest in solid foods signal the baby’s readiness to be gradually separated from bottled milk. While some babies outgrow formula milk feeding quite naturally, some struggle to let the formula go no matter the amount of bribing and mind-setting is made for them.

Once the baby has complete set of milk teeth and is still on formula, mom, it might be time to step on it and start the weaning process. You can check with your pediatrician, but after 12 months of age, your baby can drink other kinds of milk.

It is quite understandable to avoid stress by doing it slowly. If you already took baby through the transition from breast milk to formula, you’ll have an idea of how this will go. If not, read on.

When is the proper time to say ‘It’s time to start.’? Do we mark it up the calendar or do we wait until the baby is ready?

Baby-Led Weaning

Baby-led weaning is an unconventional approach to weaning a child off formula milk by introducing the wonderful world of solid foods. A vast variety of food assortments are served to the child, pre-chopped, pre-cooked and ready for nibbling.

According to Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in the book Baby-Led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food,  encouraging the little ones to love solid foods is the “healthiest way” to go about easing them through this season. They believe that more than puree-feeding, encouraging the kids to do their own food exploration will help develop self-experimentation and independence in trying out new things and new foods, thus lowering the chances of the child growing up as picky-eater.

RISK. While the idea of baby-led weaning is gaining popularity among the childcare study community, there are also undeniable risks that are causing quite a discussion. Choking is one of the risks attributed to independent food exploration among toddlers.

Parent-Led Weaning

Parent-led weaning is the traditional and is probably the most well-practised way to getting the baby to lay off the formula. It’s when most parents and caregivers decide when  to and carry it out in a deliberate fashion. Convenience of time is a great factor most parents consider when weaning this way. When a working mom is off on a break and there is enough wiggle room emotionally to focus attention on helping the child.

RISK. One of the challenges in parent-led weaning is delayed weaning. Fussy-eating or picky-eating noted by kindergarten teachers and caregivers are attributed to late weaning. When the parents or caregivers don’t have enough time to pay attention to the child’s eating patterns, the child’s body mass index is greatly at peril.

Bottom line is, weaning is an integral part of the baby’s early childhood development which may or may not involve a battle of wills between parent and child but must be won together at all costs.

How to win the battle of wills

Share your game plan. The key to smooth transitioning is communicating to your child what your plans are. Use the same pattern of routine used during breastmilk to formula milk transition. Read them bedtime stories that related to saying goodbye. Introduce colorful and interesting foods creatively. Tell them what good food does to the body. Set goals with them. Remind each other before bed and first thing in the morning of the plan.

Assert gently. Don’t wait on the child to give signs he or she is ready to be weaned. Solicit their cute little ideas on how to say goodbye to the bottle. Make them feel it was their brilliant idea when it was your craftiness the whole time. Set up a reward system they can look forward to when the going gets tough. Don’t forget to acknowledge their efforts and little successes. Engage you child in a symbolism of letting the bottle go creatively to make sure there is no going back.

Swedish toddlers go through a ceremonial hanging of their pacifiers high up on a tree as a form of bidding goodbye to it for life.

Provide alternatives. For moments when you seem to be backtracking instead of progressing, be prepared to offer an attractive alternative to stay on track. A sippy cup with their favourite cartoon character, or the yoghurt drink in a box you saw on TV. And if worse comes to worst, ‘give in’ by giving them a diminished portion along with a withheld household privilege like watching cartoons or playing a gadget. Offer a few options for  distraction but stick to your guns.

Talk through. There is no stopping at talking your child through to this transition. The only sure fire way to get through to this weaning phase is listening to each other. Make your child listen to what you want to achieve. Help them understand why. In turn, listen to your child’s needs as they struggle through this challenge. Do your best to ease them through it. Remember, healthy parent-child relationships are built from the ground up. These are perfect moments for it.

At the end of the day, there is no contesting to the fact that every child is unique. Therefore, every child may require a different approach to weaning. There is not one particular set of approach that will fit all babies. Whatever works best is it. What’s important is making sure that both the child and caregiver/parents’ well-beings are benefited during this stage.

Thanks for reading! But before you go, check out another one of these great articles from the Mom Advice Line contributor community: