For breast fed babies:
Choose the right time. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed exclusively for the first year, most moms begin to wean their babies off the breast between four and seven months. But only you will know when the time is right for you to wean your baby, so follow your instincts.
Take it slow. Gradually reduce the number of breastfeedings and offer your little one a bottle (or a sippy cup if the child is older), says Alan Greene, M.D., a California-based pediatrician and author of Raising Baby Green. Even if you're planning to breastfeed past one year, you still want to introduce a cup to baby before then.
Eliminate a feeding every few days. For the first two days, you can substitute one bottle for one of the breastfeeding sessions, says Dr. Greene. On day three, substitute a bottle for two feedings, and so on.
Get Dad involved. It's a good idea to let Dad do a few of the feedings, as your child associates you with breastfeeding. At first, your baby might take the bottle more readily from your spouse than from you.
For bottle-fed babies:
Stop before 18 months. Long-term bottle use is the chief culprit behind tooth decay in children, especially if Baby is allowed to take the bottle to bed. Research also shows that bottle-feeding your child too long (more than 18 months) increases his chances of an iron deficiency and anemia. "By 18 months at the latest, he should be off the bottle completely and drinking his cow's milk or breast milk from a cup," says Dr. Greene.
Introduce the sippy cup before his first birthday, allowing him to get used to holding it (don't expect him to drink from it right away, though).
Offer fewer bottles. Once your child hits one year, begin by putting milk in the sippy cup and start offering him fewer bottles throughout the day, says Dr. Greene. "You can take away one bottle during the day; a few days later, take away another one. Do it gradually until you are using the sippy cup completely."
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