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At some point, it will be time to transition your baby from your milk onto something else, whether that is formula (if your baby is under 1 when you stop pumping, or if you need to supplement), or to milk if your baby is at least 12 months old. Here is how to do it.

Figuring Out What To Transition To 

If you stop pumping before your baby turns 1, you will need to transition to formula. After your baby turns 1, though, you have to figure out what exactly your kid should be drinking instead of breast milk and/or formula, such as cow’s milk or other alternative milks like soy milk. It’s a good idea to talk with your baby’s doctor about this – some doctors recommend whole cow’s milk for 1-year-olds, others say 2% or whatever the rest of the family drinks is fine (mine actually said whole for one kid and 2% for the other, so who knows).

It also might depend on your individual baby’s circumstances; for example, a doctor might be more likely to recommend whole milk for a baby on the lower end of the weight curve or an alternative milk for a baby who doesn’t tolerate lactose well.

Alternative Milks

If your baby has dairy allergies or doesn’t tolerate it well, there are alternative milks that you can feed your baby instead of cow’s milk:.

  • Soy Milk – Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, and has some iron, but does not have sufficient calcium for babies. Some people have concerns about isoflavones in soy products and what is does to our reproductive systems, though the true effects are still being debated.
  • Almond Milk – Nut beverages (of which almond milk is the most popular) are created by grounding nuts, straining, then liquifying the final product. These milks tend to be deficient in Vitamin B12 and have little protein compared to soy milk.
  • Rice Milk – Rice milk is processed from brown rice, and it is the least allergenic alternative milks for allergy-sensitive families. The nutritional value of rice milk is very small, however, except for the fortified additives. 
  • Hemp Milk – Hemp milk appears to be a good alternative – it is a good source of protein, magnesium, iron, and vitamin E. It is generally well-tolerated by those with soy, dairy, and/or tree nut allergies. It is created from the seeds of the same plant used to make marijuana. 
  • Goat’s Milk – Goat’s milk contains lactose, so it might not be a good fit for kids with a cow’s milk allergy, but it is similar in composition to human breast milk and may be a good choice for some families. A multivitamin including iron and B-vitamins is needed for kids who drink goat’s milk.

Making the Transition

Making the transition to a milk other than breast milk (or formula) can be as easy as just going cold turkey: one feeding your baby gets breast milk in a bottle, and the next he gets the milk or formula that you’re transitioning him to.

You can also do it gradually. On my son’s first birthday, I put just a splash of whole milk into his bottle to see if he’d take it and whether he had an allergic reaction. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other – or even notice the change – so over a week I gradually began increasing amount of whole milk in each bottle. He was in daycare at the time, so I just kept bringing his milk in in bottles, as I always had, they were just made up partly of cow’s milk. Once he’d taken some bottles that were just cow’s milk, I stopped bringing in milk at all, and let the daycare serve him the milk that they had for the children as part of the program. At this point, when he got breast milk (I kept pumping for two months after he turned 1), I gave him only breast milk, and the same with cow’s milk, no more mixing it up.

Switching to Sippy Cups

One other thing to think about: if you’re switching to milk at age 1, you’re also at about the age that you make the transition from bottle to sippy cup. If you’re nervous about these transitions, it might make sense to tackle them separately: get your baby drinking milk first out of a bottle, and then switch from a bottle to sippy cup, or vice versa. (My son had a really challenging transition to sippy cups – I literally bought 10 different kinds before finding one that worked. Now we have an entire cabinet in our kitchen devoted to rejected sippy cups.)

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Today’s question deals with exclusively pumping from very early on, waiting for your supply to regulate, and getting engorged. (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

I’ve had a really tough time with the whole breastfeeding experience, as it seems like a lot of your readers, including yourself, have had. My baby girl wouldn’t latch at all the first day and was a big baby at 9 lbs 7 oz and was screaming bloody murder because she was so hungry, so I gave her a supplement with formula. Since then, I’ve been pumping enough supply to give her exclusively breast milk, while still attempting to get her to latch. Let’s just say that the negative experiences are piling up with these breastfeeding trials as every latch is painful, and I’m sure she’s learned a different suck pattern with using a bottle.

That said, I’m thinking that exclusively pumping is in my future and seeing your blog makes me think it can be done.

She’s five days old, and I got engorged around 3 days. I’ve been pumping every three hours, and these are my questions:

1. How long does it typically take for your breast to become “regulated”? I get so swollen after three hours and am worried that I’ll never be able to develop a schedule like you suggested.

2. Is there a problem with pumping your breast dry each pumping session while you are becoming regulated? Everything I read out there says that you need to feed as much as possible to get over the engorgement period, but that pumping will make you increase your milk supply in a bad way. I think this is referring to breastfeeding and pumping, not just exclusively pumping, but I was wondering what you thought. I don’t want to get into a cycle that I have to pump more and more frequently to get relief.

3. You said that you pumped according to your baby’s feeding schedule. I was doing that when she was feeding every 3 hours, but now she’s feeding every 1.5 hours off and on, which obviously, I don’t want to pump double what I’m already doing. Do you just pump one of every two sessions, or how do you handle “extra” sessions and variability in the newborn feeding schedule? Is this going to affect how and when I need to pump in the future?

Thanks so much!

Congratulations on your brand new baby! I am really sorry that breastfeeding has been a such challenge for you and has made this harder. I had pretty much the same experience with my first. You are doing a great job!

Okay, on to your questions:

1) Supply regulation happens within the first month or so. For me, it was somewhere between 2 and 3 weeks with the baby I exclusively pumped for (a little later for the baby I nursed). Things will probably change a lot after that happens – all of a sudden I had a lot less milk and stopped leaking all over the place.

2) I think that the advice not to pump too much relates more to women who are nursing AND pumping, as you said. Nursing moms can struggle with oversupply, which makes it harder to nurse because the baby gets milk sprayed all over their face, and they get too much foremilk. It’s not an issue for exclusively pumping moms, because your baby eats from a bottle that has everything mixed together. After you regulate (which will happen regardless of how much you pump), your supply should stabilize – and then, if you want to reduce the supply, you can do it by dropping a pumping session or two. I wouldn’t recommend limiting your pumping now because you might get a clog, or when your supply regulates it might not be as much as you end up wanting to have (that happened to me).

3) As far as pumping when your baby eats – I think it’s totally fine to just pump every 3 hours, especially if you’re getting enough milk to feed her. I should clarify – if my baby cluster fed I wouldn’t necessarily hook myself up to the pump every time – it was more that I pumped the next time he ate after it had been at least two hours.

Finally, if you do end up exclusively pumping, it absolutely can be done long-term! It is a lot of work, but rewarding and totally doable. It is worth it to keep trying to get her to latch if you are up for it, just because it will be less work for you over the long term. Some babies just don’t cooperate though!

I hope that helps! Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

And a few search terms:

Can I pump into cold bottle from fridge?

Absolutely, it’s a lifesaver when someone forgets to wash the bottles! Make sure that you treat the milk as if everything in there was pumped when the original milk in the bottle was pumped. So, if you pumped 2oz on Friday and stuck it in the fridge, then pulled it out on Sunday and pumped 2 more ounces, you should treat the entire 4oz in the milk as if it was pumped on Friday.

How often do breast pump parts need washing if refrigerated?

I wouldn’t go longer than 24 hours, but other than that it just depends on your comfort level. I usually used two sets of pump parts (one for work, one for home) and washed them both in the evening. So the work pump parts would go from 9am-3pm in the fridge, and the home set would be in there from 6am-10pm.

Extreme nipple pumping?

I have nothing for you, but good luck!

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