The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends breastfeeding exclusively for your baby during the first six months of your life. After that, you can add solids to your breast milk until your baby turns one year old. The length of time you breastfeed your child is up to you.
It is not recommended that you wean your baby at any age. Weaning refers to the process of changing your baby’s diet from one that includes food and drink. Many moms decide to wean their baby sooner than they should for many reasons. If your baby is less than one year old and you decide to wean, breast milk should be replaced with infant formula.
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Formula vs. Breast Milk: Top Reasons to Switch
Dana Bloomburg, a certified nurse practitioner at The Midwife Center in Pittsburgh, says that some moms have to wean their babies because they are on medication or low milk supply. Another reason women choose to wean is to return to work.
Anne R. Eglash is a doctor, clinical professor and co-founder of American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She says that some women may not have a safe and clean place to breastfeed. Some women have difficulties with breastfeeding that can cause them stress.
No matter what your situation is, you can be confident in your decision by following this guide to weaning babies from breastmilk to formula. And if you still want to breastfeed, we’ll also help you.
9 Steps to Successful Weaning
Discuss Formula with your Family Physician or Paediatrician.
You will need to select a baby formula as you make the transition. Dr. Eglash says, “Ask your family physician or paediatrician what kind of formula to give your baby.” It doesn’t matter which brand you choose. The formulas are highly controlled and don’t differ that much.
Take your baby’s doctor’s advice into consideration, and familiarise yourself with the most common categories of baby formula.
- Cow’s milk-based formula The most popular formula, the milk-based formula, contains proteins from cow’s milk and other sugars or oils. Some formulas made from milk are easier to digest for babies. Milk-based formulas provide all the nutrients babies need during their early development stages. This type of formula is well-received by most babies.
- Soy-based formula This formula uses soy protein instead of cow’s milk protein and replaces lactose or glucose with sucrose. AAP states that there are very few reasons to choose soy-based formulas over milk-based formulas. Galactosemia is a rare condition that requires soy formula. He or she may recommend a hydrolyzed formula. The AAP says there is no evidence to support soy-based formulas helping with fussiness or colic.
- Hypoallergenic formulas These cow’s milk-based formulas contain proteins that have been hydrolyzed into smaller proteins. These proteins are so small that the body can’t recognize them for cow’s milk. This makes them suitable for babies who have allergies to milk protein and wheezing. On their labels, you might see words like “hypoallergenic” or “extensively Hydrolyzed”.
- Specialised formulas These formulas are usually for infants born prematurely or with certain conditions such as heart disease, malabsorption syndromes, and difficulty digesting fats or processing certain amino acids.
Strive for Stability
When your family isn’t experiencing major disruptions, it is best to begin the weaning process. If your baby is sick or teething, you should wait. It’s not easy for families to find a time when everything is calm and peaceful. It’s possible that there will never be the right time for you to wean your baby. Use your best judgement based on your knowledge about your baby.
Find the right bottle
You may already have a bottle that your baby loves if you have been pumping for a while. There are many options. Bloomburg recommends trying several different types because babies have different preferences. She suggests that you experiment with different neck sizes, such as a bottle with a wider neck or a smaller neck.
There are many types of nipples, so it may take some trial and error to find the right one for you. Depending on your baby’s age, there are different stages of nipples.
There are slow-flow bottles that are specifically made for babies younger than one year old. These bottles can be used to prevent the baby taking too much milk at once, which could lead to excessive weight gain, spitting up, and overfeeding. Dr. Eglash points out that “slow flow” is not regulated.
“Studies have shown that what constitutes low flow” varies from brand to brand. So experiment to find the one that is right for you.
Use Breast Milk First in Bottles
Your baby will have a much easier time adjusting to the bottle if it has the familiar smell and taste of breast milk. Start by filling a baby bottle with breast milk, if you have the time. A bottle of prepared formula can be offered. You can offer your baby breast milk, but with some prepared formula. Then, gradually increase the amount of formula you use. Your baby will soon be used to formula and you can gradually increase the amount of formula-based daily meals.
Be involved with other caregivers
Bloomburg suggests that someone else, besides yourself, take care of the first few bottle feedings if your baby has not had one before.
She says, “Let your partner or another familiar caregiver be the first to offer the bottle.” Your baby might refuse to nurse if you don’t.
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Paced bottle feeding
Dr. Eglash suggests a technique called Paced Bottle Feeding. This allows you to control the flow of formula or milk and makes it easier for your baby.
Your baby should be able to drink the bottle comfortably while sucking on it.
Dr. Eglash says, “When your baby stops sucking,” tilt the bottle so that the nipple faces up. This will stop milk from flowing further. When your baby begins sucking again, tilt the bottle back up. This will make it easier for your baby take breaks and then resume feeding once again.
Slowly drop feeding sessions
Give yourself at least two to three weeks to transition from formula to breastfeeding. Start by substituting one breastfeeding session for a bottle feeding, ideally one your baby will not miss.
Bloomburg says that the mid-afternoon feeding is usually the most important and the last feeding before bedtime is the least important. Your body will stop producing milk if you are consistent.
To relieve the feeling of fullness, you can express some milk, but not enough to completely empty your breasts. Otherwise, your body will continue producing milk. This gradual process reduces the chance of developing mastitis (a painful condition caused by blocked milk ducts).
Partial weaning is possible
Breastfeeding does not have to be a one-size-fits-all experience. You can also try combination feeding. This means that your baby gets both breastmilk and formula. You can, for example, breastfeed during the day while giving formula at night. You can breastfeed while you are with your baby, and then switch to formula if you’re apart.
Bloomburg says, “You might be able to nurse mornings or evenings, or whatever day you have off, provided they’re consistent.”
She warns, however, that this method must be able to produce enough milk to meet your baby’s needs. A well-established milk supply will ensure that you can produce enough breastmilk to satisfy your baby’s requirements.
You can also stay close to your baby by finding other ways
Breastfeeding is more than nutrition. Nursing is about more than just nutrition. It’s also about the skin-to-skin connection you have with your baby. As you wean, make it a habit of being close to your baby and snuggle them as often as possible. You may find it more enjoyable to spend time reading, playing on the ground, and other activities with your older baby. Social interaction is important for infant development. Keep that connection going for their good health.
How to take care of yourself during the weaning process
You may experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions as you stop breastfeeding.
Dr. Eglash says, “This is a time where self-care really matters.” Do things that bring you happiness. It’s different for everyone. Find what works for you. Whatever your choice, be proud of the breastfeeding you did.
Bloomburg says, “I will see moms who feel a lot guilty, saying, ‘I only breastfed for four months.’ I’ll tell them, ‘What do you mean? Your baby was breastfed for fourmonths. Your baby got off to a good start by being breastfed for em>four months.
Remember that your child still needs nurturing. You can help your child succeed in many ways over the years.