Weaning 0-6 Months
Bottles are the bottom line when you're weaning a baby under 6 months old; for every nursing session you drop, you'll substitute a bottle feeding. Sounds simple, but convincing your baby to accept that tasty bottle may not be so easy, especially if he's more than 3 months old. "Infants become more aware of what's going on around them between 3 and 4 months," says Lerner. "So you may encounter more resistance at this point."
She recommends integrating a few bottles of breast milk into your feeding schedule early on, at about 6 weeks, so that your baby will be comfortable with both ways of feeding. But if your thirsty baby refuses to take the bottle anyway, the key to success is patience and experimentation. Try having someone else offer the bottle, feeding in a different location, or holding your baby in a new position. And, above all, keep calm. "Babies pick up on our tension and become more tense themselves," Lerner says.
"In the first few months, your breasts will be very full," says Rosenfeld, "and if you're not careful, you can end up with engorgement." Your breasts will be uncomfortably hard and heavy, maybe even red and hot to the touch. This can lead to plugged ducts, which can lead to mastitis, so it's important to treat symptoms early.
The slower you wean, the less likely you'll suffer from engorgement, says Rosenfeld, but if you do end up with uncomfortably full breasts, ice them for about five minutes whenever they feel painful. If this doesn't do the trick, you can pump for relief, but be sure to limit it to three minutes or so, just enough to feel some comfort.
Alleviating your body's aches and pains is relatively simple, but finding comfort for the emotional woes of weaning may be more of a challenge. For Kari Bennett, of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, breastfeeding was an uphill battle from the start, and after a bout of mastitis and losing her milk supply in one breast, she decided to wean daughter Jorja at 6 weeks. "I cried for a while, but I knew it was what I needed to do," she reflects. "Once I stopped pumping and nursing, I was so relieved, and I had more time to spend with my daughter."
Jane Machin, of Blacksburg, Virginia, was ambushed when her 6-month-old decided he was through with nursing, well ahead of her schedule. "I was a mess," she recalls. "It felt like Jordy was rejecting me personally. If he could take a bottle from anyone, then what use was I?"
New York City mom Lyss Stern, on the other hand, knew from the get-go that she'd wean at 3 months since her job as a teacher made it tough to pump. Being prepared, both physically and emotionally, made her weaning relatively pain free: "I loved our breastfeeding bond, so I did feel a little disconnected from my son at first," she admits, "but we quickly discovered other ways to be close."