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Changing From Breast to Bottle Feeding

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

Maybe your baby finally learned how to fall asleep on her own, so she doesn't need to nurse at bedtime anymore. Maybe she's less excited about breast milk since you've offered finger foods. Or maybe your plan to pump milk at work every day is tougher than you thought.

There are many reasons why you might need to help your baby switch from breast to bottle for some or all of her meals. And you likely have strong feelings about the change.

“Every mother experiences mixed emotions about weaning and usually feels some sadness about bringing nursing to an end,” says Kathleen Huggins, RN, author of The Nursing Mother's Companion.

If you and your baby have trouble with your new routine, these tips will help.

Take Cues From Your Little One

The weaning process, when your baby eats foods other than breast milk, begins at 6 months with solid foods. Since your baby will get calories elsewhere, she'll naturally nurse less often. This milestone can help you start to use bottles.

“Most moms consider weaning when there are natural transitions,” says Natasha L. Burgert, MD. She's a pediatrician in Kansas City, MO. “As baby's diet is changing and his immune protection from vaccines increases, many moms decide to cut back on their nursing.”

Make Sure You're Ready

Some moms switch to bottles when a relative says the baby seems too old to nurse. But don't be pressured. It's up to you when you do it. If you try to switch and something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts.

“In my experience, moms are typically not disappointed if they are truly ready,” Burgert says. “If moms are emotionally torn about weaning, maybe it's not time.”

Keep Mealtimes Special

With nursing, you hold your baby close and have skin-to-skin contact. There's no reason why you can't keep these rituals as you use bottles together.

“Babies want to be close to you, hear your voice, be warm and snug, and get their tummies full,” Burgert says. “Both bottle and breast can equally do those things.”

If your baby expects you close at mealtimes, don't hand her a bottle, even if she's old enough to hold it.

“I suggest that she be held for all of these feedings,” Huggins says. “In this way, the baby and mother can continue to experience the close, loving bond that comes with nursing.”

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