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Weaning Your Baby

Baby Doctor

If you breast-feed your baby, the gradual, one-meal-at-a-time reduction of her sucking will reduce the supply of milk produced in your body without causing as much discomfort. But be sure to wait until your breasts have adjusted to the elimination of one feeding before you try to cut out a second one.

Q-tip

Because your baby no doubt associates you with breast-feeding, especially at certain times of the day, it will help to have your partner or another person give your baby the bottle for the first week or two, until she is weaned. If no one can help you, try facing your baby away from you while giving the bottle. That way, she won't have to stare at the now taboo breast while getting used to the bottle.

Q-tip

You will have an easier time weaning your baby from the bottle if, from the very beginning, you treat the bottle as if it were a breast. Make the bottle a "part of you" so that your baby associates it solely with being fed formula while in your arms. Do not let your baby carry the bottle around with her. As your baby becomes more active toward the end of the first year, she will probably want to crawl or walk more than she wants to eat-and this desire can motivate her to wean herself.

Whenever you decide to wean your baby from the breast or bottle, whether at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, or 18 months, do it gently and gradually. If you suddenly and arbitrarily refuse to let your baby suck from your breast, she will feel rejected. "Cold turkey" weaning will also cause discomfort and even pain for you, too. Because your breasts will continue to produce milk at the same rate for several days, they will become painfully overfull if you try to go from three to six feedings a day straight down to zero.

Take it slow and easy. When your baby begins to eat three meals a day (around six or seven months), the fun and fascination of eating foods will probably cause her to abandon at least one of her mealtime breast or bottle feedings. She will want to eat more and suck less. Within a few months of beginning solids, your baby may be down to just two or three bottles or breast-feedings a day:

  • At bedtime
  • At naptime(s)
  • In the morning (perhaps)

If you want to wean your baby, at least partially, and she doesn't start to give up mealtime breast or bottle feedings on her own, you may have to give her a little nudge. Do it gradually, one meal at a time. First, eliminate the pre-meal nursing. Offer up a solid meal and be sure to offer her a cup (not a bottle, unless you intend to wean her from the breast to the bottle) of juice or water with the meal. Offer your breast (or a bottle) only after the meal. Within a week or two, she will probably eat more solids and no longer need any breast milk or formula after the meal.

After you've replaced all daytime breast or bottle feedings with meals in this gradual, systematic way, your baby will probably nurse or take a bottle only in the morning (when she's so hungry that a solid meal might not fill her up) and before bed (when she probably wants the security more than the nutrition). Many babies give up their single nighttime feeding somewhat willingly at around a year. But you don't need to rush it if you want to continue with this nursing.

When you do want to wean your baby completely, you can try either of two methods. You may find it easiest to use the switch method, replacing the final nursing of the evening with a final bottle feeding. (Of course, this method means you'll later need to wean her from the bottle, using the cold turkey method.) To wean from the breast to a bottle, simply substitute the bottle for the breast.

If you still breast-feed your baby more than once a day, then eliminate just one nursing session at a time. Offer the bottle instead of the breast at your baby's hungriest feeding. He's most likely to accept the substitute then, and eliminating this feeding will prompt the greatest reduction in your breast milk production.

If you don't want to wean your baby from the breast to the bottle, or if you've decided to wean her from the bottle, try the cold turkey method. Give your baby a big meal an hour or so before bedtime and then, if she's still hungry, a snack right before bed. Have a sipper cup of water ready next to your baby's crib. Then, if you haven't yet done so, establish a regular bedtime routine that will serve as an affectionate, comforting replacement for the routine of the breast or bottle. Try to show your baby a little extra love, affection, and understanding during this period. She needs to know that you still care.

More on: Babies

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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