There is a lot of confusion about the ins and outs of switching baby formula.
Sometimes, it really matters. (As in: you’ll be up at 3am with a screaming baby matters.)
Sometimes, it really doesn’t. (As in: you’re stressing over nothing.)
Actually, it’s really easy to figure out when you need to be careful, and when you don’t.
All you have to do is think of your baby’s formula like he’s a mobster.
Determine the Formula Mob Family
A Formula Family is a group of formulas that are designed for a specific purpose or made with specific ingredients.
The first step to ensure your switching will go down like a boss is to determine the type of formula you’re using, and the type of formula you want to switch to.
If they are in the same family, you’re fine. Switch away.
If they’re not…you’ve got a bit of work to do.
The Dairy-Based Formula Mob Family
This formula family has the most members.
If your baby doesn’t have any health issues and is drinking formula, he’s most likely drinking a formula that is built around the cow’s milk dairy proteins.
So if you’re using Good Start and want to try switching to a baby formula like Similac, go for it. Watch your baby carefully for signs of fussiness the first day, but generally the transition is pretty easy.
That doesn’t account, however, for taste. Although Good Start was generally my favorite formula for Lauren, Elena could never stand the taste. Buy a small case or get a sample first to see if your baby likes it.
You can see the specific dairy-based formulas here.
The Soy-Based Formula Mob Family
If your formula container says “soy” on it, you shouldn’t switch to another non-soy formula without going through the steps I’ve outlined below.
I’ve listed the major brands of soy formula in my article Should You Switch to a Soy Formula?
The Low-Lactose Formula Mob Family
The formulas in this family are all partially broken down, and are usually sold under the names “Sensitive” or “Gentle”.
They are most commonly given to babies who are showing formula allergy symptoms.
The Hypoallergenic Formula Mob Family
These are the top-tier expensive formulas that are generally given to babies with severe allergies and colic.
They are completely lactose- free, and the proteins are so small that your baby only has to absorb them. There is almost no digesting at all. They are made so that ALL the proteins are already broken down.
Not sure if your baby needs a hypoallergenic formula? Read this and find out!
Introduce the Families Slowly
The worst thing you can do for your baby’s tummy is to switch abruptly between the mobster formula families.
They don’t take kindly to having other families take over their territory, and tummy rebellion is common.
To avoid these feuds, set up a schedule for switching baby formula on a gradual basis.
- Start by mixing one part of the new formula with three parts of the old. For example, if your baby drinks a 4 oz bottle, 1 oz would be Neocate (hypoallergenic) and 3 oz would be Enfamil premium.
- Stick with that mixture (1:3) for a day. If your baby seems like the transition is going well, up the mixture to 2:2 for another day.
- On the third day, switch entirely to the new formula.
Watch Your Baby’s Reaction
The best sign that you’re baby is switching baby formula effectively, is to watch your baby like a hawk in the first 24 hours.
Specifically, watch for these things:
- excessive gas (as in: more gas than normal)
- constipation (poop is thicker than peanut butter)
- diarrhea (watery, drippy poops)
- blood in the stool or in vomit (which would cause a good parent to call the doctor)
- hives or a rash (signs of an allergy)
- other signs of illness (limpness, clammy skin, etc.)
Any of these signs are indicators that you need to try a different brand.
These are just a few of the cues your baby gives about how he’s feeling. Here are the other baby cues that are helpful to learn.
Force the Mob to Get Along
Switching baby formula is really a lot easier than you may think. Just keep these things in mind:
- If you’re going to switch to a formula that has a different function and main ingredient than what you’re currently using, introduce the new one a little a time.
- Watch your baby closely during the transition to make sure no allergies are popping up.
- Talk to your doctor if you think a specialty formula (low-iron, hypoallergenic, lactose-free, etc.) may be required.
If your baby seems really fussy on his current formula, by all means try switching baby formula.
Give that a week or two to see how it’s affecting him, and then, if you need to, switch again. I mean it! Don’t switch to more than one formula in a single week! His little body needs at LEAST a full week to try out the formula before you can know for certain. Switching too many times, too fast can really mess a baby up.
And then keep trying (in weekly increments!) until you find the formula that is the best baby formula for your baby.
The more you try, the more you’ll know don’t work, and the closer you’ll be to the one formula that fits your baby.
How did your baby respond to switching baby formula?
Was it an easy transition for you? Or did it take weeks of trial-and-error?
Meet Heather Taylor
Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others. If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.