Weaning: Just the Facts
It’s a question all nursing mothers will eventually ask themselves: “When should I move my baby from breast to bottle?” Quite frankly, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to weaning.  Though the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that babies be breastfed for the first year of life, many mothers (especially those returning to work) find this constraining and virtually impossible. Essentially, your decision on when to wean should be based on the cues you get from your body and child.

Find out how to ease the pain of engorged breasts.

Getting Started
The prospect of weaning a baby from breast to bottle makes many mothers more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And rightfully so—babies see nursing not only as a time for getting food but also as an opportunity to lap up their mothers’ love. Breastfeeding is a comforting ritual that babies enjoy and even look forward to. When this relaxing routine is disrupted, tears and screams will soon follow.

So what can you do to make the transition as easy as possible for both you and your child? For starters, make sure you’re weaning your baby when there’s not a lot of extra stress surrounding you. Trying to wean your baby while moving to a new home or when she’s entering a new child care environment will only prove disastrous. Being separated from the breast is decidedly difficult for your little one, so make sure other routines (such as tummy time and nighttime lullabies) stay intact. A lot of kisses and hugs will help matters, too. Here are other pointers to keep in mind:

  • Wean Gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your baby to go cold turkey overnight. Start by introducing one bottle in place of one breastfeeding session each day. Because babies are generally more resistant to bottles in the early morning and at bedtime, many mothers suggest offering one during the afternoon hours. Gradually you’ll begin to replace more breastfeeding sessions with bottle-feedings until your child is nursing only once a day or once every other day. The entire process will likely take two to three weeks, but don’t be discouraged if your child needs more time. He’ll take to the bottle eventually.

  • Ask for a Hand. Have your partner or a family member give your baby her first bottle. This may prove less confusing for your little one, who’s apt to wonder why her mother is offering a bottle instead of her breast. You my want to leave the house while a trusted loved one offers your baby her first bottle. This will eliminate any confusion on your child’s part and may even improve her concentration.

  • Shower Your Baby with Affection. Bottle-feeding can be just as nurturing physically as breastfeeding if you cuddle up closely with your baby. One of the reasons babies dislike bottle-feeding is because it eliminates the human element. No longer are they held closely to the bosom, enjoying the milk, warmth and rhythmic heartbeat of their nurturing mother. You can simulate this enriching experience with a bottle, though, by holding your baby closely during feedings and always maintaining eye contact. Gentle caresses and kisses also will do much to calm and encourage your reluctant baby.

  • Try Different Types of Nipples. Sucking milk from a bottle requires different mouth and tongue movements than breastfeeding, which may fluster your child at first. Make things easier by trying out different types of nipples, such as the straight up and down style or ones with more curved angles meant to better simulate a real breast. Nipple holes also come in different shapes—the traditional round hole and a slanted hole. Buy an assortment, and see which one your baby enjoys most.

  • Be Creative. Try making the bottle nipple more like yours by heating it in warm water. You might also put some breast milk on the nipple so when your baby first tastes it, he’ll start sucking to get more. If these tricks don’t work, do not force the nipple into your baby’s mouth. Instead, let her draw the nipple in and get better acquainted with the bottle. Keep these sessions short—about 10 minutes—to minimize frustration. Eventually your baby will drop her guard and accept the bottle as her new source of food.

Weaning from Breast to Cup

Depending on your child’s age, you may want to wean her from breast to cup. Between 8 and 9 months, most babies can drink liquid from a cup if someone holds it for them. Babies will also, in most cases, be more accepting of a cup if they’ve started eating solid foods.

If you are thinking of offering a cup instead of a bottle, start with a “sippy” cup. These plastic-lidded cups are easy to grip and feature a tiny spout from which your child can drink without spilling the liquid contents. Colorful in shape and design, sippy cups engage the curiosity of older babies, who enjoy the novelty of drinking from a cup.