While some nursing mothers continue for longer periods, many begin to wean their babies off the breast at between 4 and 7 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends breastfeeding for a full year, but returning to work or preferring the flexibility of bottlefeeding makes it difficult for many mothers to nurse that long. When you feel the time is right, follow these tips to ease the transition for yourself and your baby.
- Make the switch gradually. The amount of time it takes to wean your child will vary based on your needs and his. Start slowly and gradually increase the number of bottlefeedings you give your baby each day. For the first two days, substitute one bottle of formula for one of the day's breastfeeding sessions. On day three, substitute a bottle for two feedings. By day five, you can use a bottle for three or four feedings.
- Let Dad give the bottle. If you've been nursing him since birth, your baby associates you with breastfeeding and may be confused or upset if that changes. Try letting a family member give him the first few bottles, while you stay out of sight. After he gets used to the bottle, you can take over.
- Skip the bottle and head straight to the cup. If your child is older than 9 months, skip the bottle and introduce a sippy cup as you wean her off the breast.
- Experiment with different nipple types. If a traditional straight nipple doesn't work for your child, try one of the newer slanted nipples designed to be more comfortable to little mouths and to more realistically simulate a real breast. Also, try out different nipple holes. Some babies find it easier to suck from a slanted hole than from a classic round one.
- Don't stress yourself out. To make weaning as stress-free as possible for yourself and your baby, make the transition slow and gradual. That said, be flexible and don't get concerned if you backslide a bit.
- Expect some engorgement. As you begin to breastfeed your baby less frequently, you may experience some discomfort. Once you stop breastfeeding completely, your milk production will stop fairly quickly. In the meantime, you may need to express some milk for the first few days -- just don't express so much that you stimulate milk production. To ease the discomfort, apply cold compresses and take a mild pain reliever like Tylenol.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.