Making the Transition From Breast to Bottle Feeding
Ready to wean baby from the breast or add bottles to the feeding schedule? Here’s how to make it smooth for both of you.
Bottle Feeding: Deciding When Baby -- and Mom -- Are Ready continued...
Two signs that your infant is ready to transition to a baby bottle:
- She sucks on your breast a few times and then stops nursing.
- Baby just starts losing interest in your breast.
Babies aren’t in this weaning thing alone, of course -- mom is also a big part of the picture. Sometimes a baby is ready to transition to the bottle, but mom isn’t so sure.
“It was so easy [weaning him to the bottle], I felt a little bad!” says Natalie, mom to Quentin, on the WebMD parenting boards. “I had hoped he'd put up a little fuss, wanting mommy more, but nope! He took it right away.”
It’s natural to be a little sad when you begin to breastfeed baby less, say the experts, but it can be a freeing time as well, with both you and your child becoming more independent. Each mom and baby must handle the transition in their own way.
“[Breastfeeding] was a very special bonding time,” says AllieGirl77, mother to Sarah Elizabeth. “I still hold her to me skin-to-skin from time to time just to bond and have her feel that comfort.”
Introducing Bottles: How to Wean Your Baby From Breastfeeding Only
Once you’re ready to supplement breastfeeding with bottle feeding or to wean your baby from the breast completely, parents and pediatricians all recommend taking it slow. Weaning baby gradually is best for her and for you.
You can start by dropping a feeding every five to seven days. “Try the bottle at the breastfeedings baby is least attached to,” suggests Shu. This not only keeps stress low, but “helps mom reduce her breast milk flow" -- stemming its production gradually to avoid uncomfortable breast engorgement.
“I highly recommend having Daddy give the bottles,” says mom Courtney, who weaned her daughter to the bottle at four weeks. “While introducing the first few bottles, Mommy should not be in the room, sometimes not even in the house! Babies are smart; why would they take a bottle when the source of the good stuff is right there?”
Getting fathers involved also gives them a new bonding time with baby. But what if you need to wean baby immediately and can’t take days and weeks to make the transition?
“Put breast milk in the bottle and make sure someone else besides mom feeds the baby,” Shu tells WebMD. “Once the baby is hungry enough, he or she will take the bottle.”
To help relieve the engorgement of mom’s breasts, Shu says “cabbage leaves are one thing that people swear by.” Try slipping a cold leaf into each bra cup and leaving them on until they wilt. You can also try “cold packs, cool compresses, or a damp washcloth,” says Shu.
Expressing a little milk out of your breasts -- just enough to provide relief -- can also help with engorgement. But don’t pump or express too much or you’ll run the risk of keeping breast milk production going.