Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding | Weaning | Bottle
Weaning from Breastfeeding
Age to Wean
Most professionals, including the Acting Surgeon General, Steven K. Galson, suggest breastfeeding is best. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s public health report, “health professional organizations… officially recommend that most infants breastfeed for at least 12 months. These organizations also recommend that for the first six months infants be exclusively breastfed, meaning that they not be given foods or liquids other than breast milk” (356).
Some women combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding (with or without expressed breast milk). For information how to transition from breast milk to formula, please refer below. Many women wean around the time the child is over a year and thus simply transition to whole cow’s milk in a sippy cup.
According to Sears, "weaning occurs when the sucking need dissipates - sometime between nine months and three and a half years" (195). Remember it is a mutual decision, when both mom and baby are ready. Or if mom wants to wean and baby is not ready (baby has sucking need), then mom could try transitioning to a bottle.
Combine Breastfeeding with Bottle Feeding
You can still give the baby breast milk exclusively and still bottle feed the baby. A lot of research discusses the issue of “nipple confusion,” when the baby either rejects breast for bottle or vice versa. I read according to Hogg that “[i]f an infant is under three weeks old, it’s relatively easy to get him to take a bottle if he’s been on the breast, or vice versa, and for him to continue to do both.” Dr. Greene also suggests families to occasionally bottle feed once breastfeeding is established, “usually by 2 or 3 weeks” ("Breast to Bottle").
Generally, the earlier you introduce the bottle (once breastfeeding is established) the easier it is for the baby to take a bottle. Otherwise, the baby may reject the bottle. If you are having problems getting the baby to drink from a bottle it may be best to let someone other than yourself feed the baby such as Daddy or Grandma. In addition, try substituting the “least favorite feeding first” (La Leche League). When selecting a bottle, consider a “nipple that closely matches your own. For example, if you have flat nipples, try the Nuk, if your nipples are firm and erect, the Playtex, Avent, or Munchkin might be best” (Hogg 120). For us the Tommee Tippee bottles worked best with my daughter who preferred breastfeeding. For more information on nipples, please refer here. We found that our daughter liked her bottle very warm, since she was use to the breast milk warm temperature. Make sure you test the milk and make sure it is not too hot for your baby.
Transition from Breast Milk to Formula
If you are trying to wean from breastfeeding to formula feeding, the Gerber web site has a sample schedule, please refer to this link. The schedule states to try the following assuming eight feedings a day.
- Day 1, 2, 3 switch out one feeding with formula.
- Day 4 and 5 switch out two feedings with formula.
- Day 6 and 7 switch out three feedings.
- Day 8 and 9 switch out four feedings.
- Day 10 and 11 switch out five feedings.
- Day 12 switch out six feedings.
- Day 13 switch out seven feedings.
- Day 14 switch out all feedings.
If the baby rejects formula you may try mixing it with breast milk. I generally didn’t mix it since my first baby didn’t mind the taste of formula and I didn’t want to waste breast milk in case my baby didn’t finish the bottle of formula/breast milk mix. With my first baby I didn’t start mixing it until I didn’t have enough breast milk and had to start supplementing with formula. With my second baby I'm going on 7 months and she hasn't had any formula yet.
Transition to Sippy Cup
There is not an exact time that is right to transition to a cup or sippy cup and it will depend on the baby. “When babies are able to sit up by themselves without using their hands for support (usually between six and eight months)” they are generally able to start using a sippy cup themselves. Many breastfeeding mothers may never give the baby a bottle and simply transition to a sippy cup (Sears 235). I started giving my baby girl a sippy cup with a water/juice mix around 7 months to help her learn how to use one. She didn't really drink much from it but I just want her to get use to the sippy cup so she'll be ready if and when I need to fully transition her.
I breastfed my first baby for the first six months although I did not breastfeed exclusively. I bottle fed my first baby with breast milk and also supplemented with formula. For more information, on whether to combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, please refer to the “Breastfeeding: To or Not To?” article. I did not have to worry about weaning my first baby from breastfeeding since it occurred naturally for my baby and me. I gradually fed my baby more bottles and the more bottles I fed him the less breast milk I produced and thus the more formula he drank from a bottle. With my second baby, she is 7 months old and has only had breast milk. She primarily breastfeeds although we do occasionally give her a bottle with breast milk to make sure she is able to take one. I do not have a set date in mind when I plan to wean her from breastfeeding. I think I'll just know when both her and I are ready and as of now, neither of us are ready.
Wean When Ready
As with everything, you have to do what is right for you and your baby. Breastfeeding your baby is not just a means of providing your baby with nutrition; it is a special bonding time for both you and your baby. When the time is right for you and your baby to wean from breastfeeding, you may want to substitute the breastfeeding time with additional cuddle time such as reading a story together. No matter when you decide the time is right, I would do it gradually. You will know what is right for you and your baby. Good luck and remember to treasure the time together; it goes way too fast.
Galson, Steven K. “Surgeon General’s Perspectives: The Status of Breastfeeding Today.” Public
Health Reports 124 (May-June 2009). 8 Nov. 2009 <http://www.publichealthreports.org>.
Gerber. “Transitioning from Breast Milk to Formula.” 8 Nov. 2009
Greene, Alan M.D., and Cheryl Greene. “Breast to Bottle – Nipple to Cup.” drgreene.com. 8 Nov. 2009.
Hogg, Tracy and Melinda Blau. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and
Communicate with Your Baby. New York: Ballantine, 2001.
La Leche League “How Do I Wean My Baby?” La Leche League International. 4 Feb 2010
Sears, William M.D., Martha Sears, R.N., Robert Sears, M.D. and James Sears, M.D. The Baby Book:
Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby - From Birth to Age Two. New York: Little, 2003.
Last Updated: June 2011; February 2010