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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.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

You enjoy breastfeeding, but you’ve also started dreaming about sleeping through the night again. Or going back to work. Maybe both.

That means one thing: It’s probably time to give your child her first baby bottle. Maybe the bottle will contain breast milk, or maybe you’ll be switching over to baby formula. Either way, you’ll need to wean your little one from breast-only feeding to taking a baby bottle -- a transition that isn’t always easy but doesn’t have to be difficult.

To help you make that change, we asked pediatricians and parents on WebMD’s parenting message boards for their tips on easing the transition from breast to bottle feeding. Here’s what they had to say.

Bottle Feeding: The Key to the Transition

Weaning my baby to a bottle was easy as pie, says one parent.Getting the baby to take a bottle was a nightmare, says another. Most parents’ experience is probably somewhere in the middle.

“It’s true that weaning your baby to a bottle can be difficult,” says Laura Jana, MD, pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. “But I also like to start by pointing out that it isn't always.”

The key to making a smooth transition from breast to bottle feeding is to start early, but not too early, Jana tells WebMD.

When Should You Introduce Your Baby to Bottles?

Because every baby and situation is different, the answer is that there really is no standard time.

But there is a good rule of thumb: Introduce babies to the bottle when they are “fairly good at breastfeeding but not so used to it that they won’t do anything else,” says pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD, co-author, with Jana, of Heading Home With Your Newborn, and Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup.

Most babies are well adapted to breastfeeding in the first two to six weeks, Shu says. You’ll know breastfeeding is established when baby begins putting on weight, and can latch on easily to your nipple and feed until she's done.

Why wait until baby is good at breastfeeding if you’re trying to introduce bottles? Because many moms “combination feed“ -- offering the breast perhaps first thing in the morning and last thing at night, with bottles of breast milk or baby formula the rest of the day.

Bottle Feeding: Deciding When Baby -- and Mom -- Are Ready

Not every baby is ready to make the transition to bottles by six weeks, so let baby tell you when the time is right. Like other milestones, such as walking and talking, your baby is the one to set the pace and tell you when she’s ready.

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