13 Top Tips: Weaning Baby From Breast to Bottle
Do you feel like it’s time to start moving your little one from breastfeeding to bottle feeding?
Do you need to get back to work and won’t be around to breastfeed as regularly as you’d like to?
Are you dealing with pain or other physical limitations that keep you from being able to breastfeed regularly?
There are many different reasons why you might want to start weaning baby off breast to bottle. If any of these are true of you—or if you have some other reason entirely—then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll give you 13 of the most helpful tips for how to wean a baby from breast to bottle in no time. You’ll learn the best options for going about this process regardless of your baby’s age, your personal reasons for making this choice, and your ultimate goals.
Although the process of weaning a baby can be a little difficult in some situations, when you follow these tips, you should have no problem making this work for you. For some babies, it’s important to move from breastfeeding to bottle feeding before making the jump to solid foods. For others, this may not be as necessary, but it all depends on your baby and your individual circumstances.
Whatever your situation might be, we hope that our tips will be able to help you make a smooth transition for you and your little one both. Now, let’s get started!
1. Give the first bottle at night.
When learning how to wean baby from breastfeeding to bottle, this is one of the first tips you’re likely to encounter. Starting with a nighttime bottle is one of the best ways to get your little one accustomed to the idea of bottle feeding instead of, or along with, breastfeeding. There are many reasons why this is likely to work better than trying a bottle at different times of the day.
- Your baby is more likely to be calm and quiet at night. This means he or she will be more likely to take to something new without putting up much of a fuss.
- You should always offer the first nighttime bottle after your baby has been fed normally for the day. This way, he or she won’t be hungry and fussy and may be more inclined to try drinking from the bottle.
- But how many bottles should a baby have when weaning? This differs for every infant, but it’s a good idea to start with one bottle per day until your baby gets used to the idea. From there, you can start to replace breastfeeding sessions with bottle feeding over the course of the next month or so. However, remember that your baby may be slower or faster at this process than others, and it’s best to stick to his or her schedule.
2. Try putting some breast milk on the bottle nipple.
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to try the bottle nipple at all for the first time, you can try putting some breast milk on it to encourage your baby to suck on it. A little bit of breastmilk may show your baby that something tasty will come out of the bottle, and this may be all the encouragement he or she needs to start drinking.
- In the past, parents and caregivers accomplished this with a little bit of honey on the bottle. However, you should never give honey to a baby. In babies under a year old, honey can cause infant botulism, and this is more likely than you might realize. There’s also a chance of honey becoming a choking hazard.
- This method works best if you’re putting breast milk in the bottle instead of formula. In fact, the entire weaning process works better in this situation, but it is still possible to encourage your baby to drink from a bottle filled with formula by using some breast milk on the bottle nipple as well.
- If you find that your baby is just tasting the breast milk from the bottle nipple and then giving up on drinking out of the bottle, you may need to go another route.
3. Have someone else try the first bottle.
Of course, if you are a nursing mother, you likely want to be involved with feeding your little one whether you’re breastfeeding or giving him or her a bottle. You don’t want to be away from your baby during this important bonding process, but in some cases, it may be necessary to step back and let someone else take over for a little while. Your baby has gotten used to your presence already, and this means he or she will associate you with breastfeeding.
- If possible, you should have your partner be the one to offer the first bottle. This way, your partner will be involved in the process of feeding your baby as early as possible, and this will also encourage your baby to get more used to someone else in the family handling feeding times.
- If you do not have a partner or if your partner is unable to be around for feeding times, you may want to ask another family member who will be frequently caring for your baby to help out with the first bottle. This may be one of your siblings or perhaps one of the baby’s grandparents.
- It’s best not to let another one of your children feed your baby at this young age. Even older teens may not be responsible enough to know how to properly feed a young baby his or her first bottle.
4. Try a few different types of bottle nipples.
These tips for weaning baby from breast to bottle may not have solved the trouble you may be encountering, so it’s important to tackle the issue from a different angle in some cases. Sometimes, the texture or feeling of the bottle nipple may be the issue. If this is the case, you may have some luck trying different types of bottle nipples to determine which one your baby is the happiest with.
- There are some low-flow bottle nipples out there that better simulate breastfeeding for your baby. These can be a great option if you’re trying to wean a very young infant from breastfeeding to bottle feeding.
- On the other hand, if you’re weaning an older baby, you may have more luck with bottle nipples that allow more milk to come out at once. This is usually preferred by babies who want to drink more in one feeding than younger babies, as well as those who are less likely to gag with a mouthful of milk.
- Keep several different types of bottle nipples on hand for those times when your baby gets picky during the weaning process. They can help you save a lot of time and effort by simply switching to one your baby prefers.
5. Hold your baby close and be cuddly.
Making the move to bottle feeding can be a lot more convenient for you and any other caregivers who may be tending to your baby throughout the day. However, it’s important to remember that switching to a bottle doesn’t mean feeding your baby has immediately become a hands-off experience. You should plan to keep your baby close and cuddle with him or her during the feeding process for a long while to come, even once you start weaning.
- It’s understandable if you have to get back to work after having a baby and don’t have time to sit and hold your child while bottle feeding. However, be sure that the person who will be feeding your baby throughout the day does this in your absence.
- Some babies simply won’t drink from a bottle unless they are held and cuddled. This is because they associate feeding time with getting to be close to their mother. Especially during the first few weeks of weaning to a bottle, this can be a crucial step in making sure the process goes well.
- Sometimes, babies will be more inclined to drink from a bottle if they still have skin-to-skin contact for the first couple of weeks of weaning. If you’re having trouble getting your baby interested in bottle feeding, try this and see if it makes a difference.
6. Always hold your baby upright when bottle feeding, from the very first bottle.
This is a good practice to get into from day one, and it’s one of the more common tips on weaning baby from breast to bottle as well. Holding your baby upright—or as upright as possible—during bottle feeding helps for a variety of different reasons, and it’s commonly recommended by pediatricians as well.
- Upright babies are less likely to develop frequent ear infections from bottle feeding than babies that are fed lying down. Although there are many other factors that can cause ear infections in babies and young children, this is one of the most common.
- When you hold your baby upright for feeding time, this helps your child make a distinction between feeding time and normal cuddling time. This can be crucial when it comes to successfully weaning your little one.
- Finally, holding your baby upright can help aid in healthy digestion as well. This can prevent your baby from having bad reflux and will also make it easier for him or her to swallow while drinking.
7. Halfway through the bottle, switch sides.
This is another great habit for you to get used to when weaning baby from breastfeeding to bottle. Switching sides in the process of bottle feeding has several different benefits for both the baby and the breastfeeding mother as well.
- Switching helps keep your baby more mentally involved in the feeding process. He or she will have to sit up and look around while you’re switching, and won’t get into a feeding “trance” by staying in one place for too long. This will help keep your child more engaged with his or her surroundings, which in turn is better for his or her mental development.
- This process also makes it easier to prevent the baby from developing a preference for one side over the other. For a mother who is still breastfeeding in between bottle feeding, this can be a life saver, since your baby will be willing to nurse from both breasts. As your baby stops breastfeeding, however, it will also help you be able to shift his or her weight and keep your back and arms from being hurt or strained on one side more than the other.
- Bullet Point This can also help your baby’s emotional development over time. It can be a great first step in teaching your child that getting interrupted while eating isn’t necessarily a bad thing—and this, too, can help your baby understand that brief disturbances don’t necessarily mean something bad.2
8. Start with a brief nursing session if necessary.
Although you’ll want to eventually break this habit when weaning baby onto bottle feeding, it’s okay to try it at first to encourage your baby to bottle feed. Starting out with a few minutes of nursing is a good way to stimulate your baby’s appetite and encourage him or her to want to eat more.
- If you go this route, be prepared for some fussiness at first when your baby gets interrupted from breastfeeding. You should be ready to offer the bottle right away when this happens, so it pays to have one within easy reach before you get started.
- Only nurse your baby for about five minutes before you offer a bottle. This way, he or she will still be hungry enough to want to try bottle feeding instead of being too full to be interested.
9. If your baby is on solids (or purees) already, start with that.
This is pretty much the same as starting with a nursing session, but it’s a little bit different too. In some cases, babies may still be breastfeeding even after they’ve gotten used to eating solid or pureed foods. You may be ready to move your baby to a bottle at this point as well to make feeding even more convenient, so if possible, incorporate the foods your baby is used to eating into this weaning process.
- Try giving your baby some mashed banana or some other favorite treat right before you’re ready for bottle feeding practice. This will stimulate his or her appetite and make your baby more excited about eating than he or she might be starting from scratch.
- Remember not to feed so much of your baby’s favorite treat that he or she has no appetite left, however. Offer enough to get your baby thinking about eating, but take care not to go overboard with this.
- Also, be careful that you aren’t feeding so much that your baby is getting too much to eat in a given day. You want to offer just a few bites of solid or pureed food before you move to the bottle-feeding step of this method. If your baby successfully drinks from the bottle for more than a sip or two, you may want to finish up the session with another bite or two of a favorite food as positive reinforcement.
10. Try changing the temperature of the milk in the bottle.
You probably already know something about your baby’s temperature preferences, but since you’ve presumably been only breastfeeding up until this point, you may be unaware of whether or not your child has any temperature-related pickiness in terms of his or her food. If you find that your baby is unwilling to drink from a room temperature bottle, there’s no harm trying some other options to see if this encourages better feeding.
- Warming a bottle is a very common practice, and most babies prefer to drink from bottles that have been at least slightly warmed. Take care not to give your baby any bottles that are too hot, however, to keep from burning his or her sensitive mouth. Most of the time, babies are much happier taking a warmer bottle because it simulates the temperature of breastmilk they are used to drinking.
- However, you may have one of the few babies who prefers drinking colder milk from a bottle. Every now and then, babies will do better on milk that is colder than room temperature. Although your child may be uninterested in it, if you’re having trouble getting your baby to take a bottle, it may pay to try chilling it a little bit before you offer it next time.
- Rarely, some babies prefer milk that has been frozen previously and then thawed. You can freeze pumped breastmilk or formula and give this a try if all else seems to fail.
11. Consider leaving the house.
In some cases, your baby may be less likely to want to drink from a bottle if you’re anywhere nearby. You may have already tried getting someone else to feed your child, but if you’re standing in the same room or even in the next room, there’s a chance this won’t work. Try stepping away for a little while and see if your baby becomes more interested in his or her bottle without you in the general area.
- Babies are very in tune with their mothers, especially while they are still nursing. Your baby may be able to tell you’re in the next room even if you aren’t in his or her line of sight. If this is the case, your child may know there’s a chance to be breastfed, and this may make your baby even fussier when bottle feeding.
- Try stepping out into the backyard while someone else offers the baby a bottle. This is far enough that your baby won’t be able to sense you nearby, and it also has the added benefit of giving you a good opportunity to get some much-needed time to yourself!
- Ideally, you won’t have to do this for very long. Once your baby starts taking a bottle regularly for someone else, you should be able to step back in and offer the bottle yourself. However, this can be a great way to get other caregivers involved in the feeding process from day one, so don’t hesitate to give it at try.
12. Don’t try the bottle more than three times in a day.
It’s important not to give up, but it’s also important not to overwhelm your baby too much. He or she will eventually be happy to drink from a bottle—or go straight to a sippy cup—and it’s important to remember that your baby won’t be breastfeeding forever. The best course of action for the first stage of weaning from breast to bottle is to offer the bottle no more than three times a day.
- Start by offering bottles at nighttime after the last feeding of the day. If your baby is uninterested, wait a few minutes and try again a couple of times. If your baby doesn’t take the bottle after the third time you try, wait for the next day and try again.
- Once your baby starts taking a bottle at nighttime, try replacing a midday feed with a bottle as well. Once again, repeat the process, and don’t force your baby if he or she isn’t interested in the bottle after a couple of attempts.
13. Last but not least, don’t panic and don’t stress.
Your baby is okay whether he or she starts drinking from a bottle at one month or doesn’t get there until one year of age. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your child is going to develop at his or her own rate and that it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your baby just because he or she isn’t interested in drinking from a bottle just yet. Try hard not to stress about this process and just go with the flow as much as possible.
- Your baby can tell when you’re stressed. Your baby is very in tune with you and your body, and if you start to feel stressed and anxious, that’s going to influence your baby’s feelings as well. You may notice that your child is getting fussy more frequently or that the bottle-feeding process seems to be getting worse instead of better. If so, try your best to stay calm to help influence your baby in a positive way.
- Stressing may make breastfeeding more painful or unpleasant for you and your baby. Anxiety affects your body in many different ways, and if you allow yourself to become too stressed over this process, you may notice that breastfeeding hurts more or is more difficult.
- If you’re also trying to get back to work, stressing about bottle feeding may put too much on you at once. You may be trying to make the switch to feeding your baby from a bottle so you can get back to work on time, but too much stress may actually make this harder.
- Remember to take some time to breathe. Most importantly, you should try to find a couple of minutes to yourself and breathe every day.
- This can be hard when you have a young baby at home, but all it takes is two or three minutes to practice deep breathing exercises and keep yourself calm. Doing this can go a long way toward ensuring that moving your baby from breastfeeding to bottle feeding can go smoothly!
As you can see, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to weaning a baby from breast to bottle. However, when you take the time to educate yourself on these tips and understand a little bit more about the process, you’ll be doing yourself and your baby both a favor.
Weaning baby to bottle can be a challenging time for the both of you. Some babies start this process as early as one month old, depending on individual needs and circumstances, and that’s a very young age to deal with such a drastic change. However, when you follow our tips, you should be set in no time even if this process is a little bit difficult for you and your baby.
When learning how to wean baby off breast to bottle, it’s important to remember that your baby still needs breastmilk in his or her diet for the first two years of life. This is preferred to formula, but you can get the best of both worlds by using both formula and breastmilk for your little one when you need to start weaning. Also, remember that your baby should not have cow’s milk until at least one year of age.
As with any changes in your baby’s diet or lifestyle, be sure to speak with your pediatrician before you introduce new types of milk or formula or begin the weaning process. Your baby is an individual and his or her needs may differ from those of other babies.
Good luck, and happy weaning!