Breast to Bottle

If breast milk has been your baby"s primary nutrition source through the first six months of life, you will need to introduce her to solids during the coming months (if you haven"t started already).

But should you switch to formula feeding as well? The answer depends entirely on you and your baby. On one hand, if the two of you are a smoothly functioning nursing team and everyone is quite happy with this arrangement, there"s absolutely no need to change. If a well-meaning relative thinks you"re "getting a little carried away with this breast-feeding thing" because you"re still nursing a baby who is nearly a year old and perhaps starting to walk, you can let her know, without any embarrassment, that this arrangement is working very nicely for you. In other words, at this point in your baby"s life, "if it ain"t broke, you don"t need to fix it."

On the other hand, baby or mother (or both) may be ready to make a change during the months approaching the first birthday. As babies become more mobile and fascinated with the world around them, they may also become squirmy and distracted during nursing sessions especially during the day when they are wide-awake and their hunger is being satisfied by other foods. They may suck a few times and then display body language that says, "Sorry to eat and run, Mom, but I got things to do!" To add injury to insult, some babies may absentmindedly chomp into a nipple with their newly erupted teeth.

Many moms have their own reasons to wean a baby from nursing to formula between six and 12 months of age. Perhaps they feel the need to devote more of their time and attention to other people and activities within the home, to educational pursuits, to outside employment or to a combination of these interests. Some begin to long for "having my body back," especially if nursing is starting to feel more like alligator wrestling. There may be a budding (or even full-grown) desire to pursue weight reduction and physical conditioning without worrying about affecting a baby"s nutritional well-being.

Even more fundamental and important for many mothers is the realization that an inevitable passage is arriving. The totally helpless and dependent newborn, who derived all of her sustenance from her mother who carried and nursed her, is now taking the very first steps toward independence. She now needs more nourishment than she can obtain from milk. She is starting to move in all directions under her own power. She most certainly needs to be loved and cherished and must have plenty of Mom"s attention if she is going to thrive, but her direct physical attachment to her is coming to a close. Whether it occurs now or sometime after the first birthday, allowing this brief season of intimate dependence to end is but one of hundreds of ways in which she will need to be released, step by tine step, over the next 18 to 20 years.

Whatever your reasons might be, if you are ready to move from breast-feeding to a bottle or cup:

  • Substitute the bottle or cup for a feeding in which your baby tends to be distracted or not interested in a long nursing session. (Usually this is one in the middle of the day.) Each week, add a bottle substitution to a different feeding. Usually bedtime nursing is the last to go.
  • Eliminate nursing for reasons other than nourishment. If you need to comfort your baby, caress and rock her rather than using the breast as a pacifier.
  • Cut down the duration of nursing sessions. If your baby wants a "hit and run" session, don't try to keep her at the breast longer than she seems interested.
  • Express just enough milk to stay comfortable. Often as your baby nurses less often, your breasts become engorged and uncomfortable. If you empty them fully, they will produce larger quantities of milk.

A final note: If you have second thoughts during this transition and decide to maintain your nursing relationship for a few more months, you can reverse the process by having your baby nurse longer and more often. Your milk supply will increase accordingly.

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