There are as many reasons as there are mothers for deciding to transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. It doesn’t matter what the reason may be, making the change is a difficult choice for some mothers.
“Every mother experiences mixed emotions about weaning and usually feels some sadness about bringing nursing to an end,” says Kathleen Huggins, RN, author of The Nursing Mother's Companion.
Huggins offers several tips for mothers who have made the choice to switch.
At around 6 months (some parents start even earlier), babies are beginning to eat solid foods. Since these foods are more filling, many babies may want less breast milk. If you’re considering switching to the bottle, this is a good time to introduce bottle-feeding - a little at a time.
“Most moms consider weaning when there are natural transitions,” says Natasha L. Burgert, MD. She's a pediatrician in Kansas City, MO. “As baby's diet is changing and his immune protection from vaccines increases, many moms decide to cut back on their nursing.”
An important tip is to make sure you are ready for the commitment it takes to change yours and your baby’s routine. There isn’t a “normal” time to stop nursing your baby. There is only an average time. Some mothers continue to breastfeed up to a year or longer – that’s their choice. Don’t allow others to pressure you. If you try to switch and something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts.
“In my experience, moms are typically not disappointed if they are truly ready,” Burgert says. “If moms are emotionally torn about weaning, maybe it's not time.”
Breastfeeding is often a close bonding time between mothers and their infants. It doesn’t have to stop because you are switching to a bottle. It can also allow dads to experience the unique bond of feeding time.
Just because you begin using a bottle, nothing has to change in how you hold your baby. You can still hold he or she close and have skin-to-skin contact.
“Babies want to be close to you, hear your voice, be warm and snug, and get their tummies full,” Burgert says. “Both bottle and breast can equally do those things.”
If your baby expects you close at mealtimes, don't hand her a bottle, even if she's old enough to hold it.
“I suggest that she be held for all of these feedings,” Huggins says. “In this way, the baby and mother can continue to experience the close, loving bond that comes with nursing.”
Of course breastfeeding isn’t the only time for close bonding. Moms can still snuggle, cuddle and kiss their babies. None of that goes away with the introduction of a baby bottle.
Take your time when introducing the bottle. Make is a gradual transition by dropping one session every few days. Begin with a daytime feeding.
“Babies are busy playing and interacting with their environment,” Burgert says.
“Once solid feeding is going well, roll right into a bottle in the morning, rather than a nursing session.”
Once you start making the switch, ask for help from your husband or partner or other family members.
“It's best if someone else offers the bottles, so the baby associates breastfeeding with the mother,” says Laurie Beck, RN, of the U.S. Lactation Consultant Association.
It's often hardest for babies to give up bedtime nursing.
“To be successful, the routine has to change,” Beck says. You can “offer a drink from a bottle or cup and then try walking around to put the baby to sleep. Or let someone else put the baby to sleep so that they do not associate going to sleep with breastfeeding.”
While baby is adjusting to a new routine, mom’s body is also going through quite a few changes. When you cut back on breastfeeding, your full breasts can be painful. Even when you are slowly changing over, breasts can feel very uncomfortable.
To relieve the pain try these methods:
Chill your breasts. “Ice packs help to constrict and feel good if the breasts are warm to the touch,” Beck says. You can get the same relief by putting chilled cabbage leaves in your bra. (Really!)
Remove some milk. Use a breast pump to take off some pressure. Don't pump for too long or your body will think that it should maintain its milk supply. “There's a difference between pumping 15 to 20 minutes to fully empty the breasts and removing just enough milk to make yourself comfortable,” Beck says.
Leave your breasts alone. Once you stop nursing, keep breasts off-limits to help your milk supply stop. “Avoid any breast stimulation, including forward-facing showers and sexual foreplay,” Huggins says.
There’s nothing unusual about switching from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, millions of women have made the same choice. They key is to be ready and to take your time.
Source: Lisa Fields, Roy Benaroch, MD, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/bottle-feeding-15/weaning-from-breast