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Weaning from Breast to Bottle

When should I start weaning?

If you need to or want to stop breast-feeding, it’s best to wait until your baby is at least 4 weeks old. If you are going to use breast milk in the bottles instead of infant formula, this gives you enough time to have a good milk supply and makes it easier to pump your breast milk.

If your baby is older than 9 months, he is probably ready to wean straight to an open-rimmed cup rather than to a bottle.

How do I wean my baby?

Here are some tips for weaning your baby from breast-feeding to bottle feeding.

  • Plan ahead. Choose a time when your baby is alert and a little hungry. This helps him want to learn a new way to feed. On the other hand, don’t introduce a bottle when your baby is very hungry. An upset, very hungry baby will be in no mood to try something new.
  • Take your time: Give yourself and your baby plenty of time to give up breast-feeding. Slow weaning gives your baby time to adjust. It also allows your milk supply to lessen slowly and helps prevent swollen and painful (engorged) breasts.
  • Hold your baby: Hold and cuddle your baby while giving him a bottle. Try to make bottle feeding as warm and comfortable as nursing was.
  • Eliminate 1 nursing session at a time: How quickly you wean will depend on your baby. After you have replaced 1 nursing session with a bottle, wait 5 to 7 days. Then, if your baby is doing well, replace a second nursing session with a bottle. Do this until giving a bottle has replaced all nursing sessions.

    The early morning and late evening nursing sessions are usually the hardest for your baby to give up. Wean your baby from these last.

What if my breasts get engorged?

If your breasts get engorged because you are not nursing as much, let your baby nurse 15 to 30 seconds from each breast to relieve your discomfort. Make sure that you don't nurse any longer, however, or you will trigger your breasts to make more milk and the engorgement will get worse.

What if my baby resists the bottle?

Your baby will probably resist at first. Stay calm and go slow. When you first introduce the bottle, touch the baby's lips with the bottle nipple. Express a little milk from the bottle nipple onto your baby's lips or tongue. Do not force the nipple into his mouth. Let your baby draw the nipple in. If your baby is not upset by the bottle, move the nipple a little further into the baby's mouth and let him explore it. Keep smiling and talking in a soothing voice. Don’t stick the bottle into your baby's mouth with too much force. This may make your baby gag.

At first you may want to try putting breast milk in the bottle instead of formula. Because the bottle nipple smells and tastes different from your breast nipple, it helps to have a familiar fluid to drink.

Don't spend more than 10 to 15 minutes trying the bottle. Stop sooner if your baby or you are getting frustrated. It's better to end the session on a positive note and try again another day.

What if I have problems with weaning?

Setbacks in weaning can be caused by many things, including stress, major changes in meal or bed times, or illness. If you have a setback, it’s OK to wait until things calm down, and then continue weaning your baby. Call your baby's healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-18
Last reviewed: 2013-12-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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