Weaning from Bottles & Breastfeeding
Bottles and Breastfeeding
There is a lot of information out there about weaning away from the bottle or breast and there are various strategies on how to. We are going to discuss the main reasons to wean from the bottle or breast and several strategies for doing so.
When is The Right Time to Transition Away from Bottles or Breast?
Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, weaning will happen eventually, one way or another. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) & the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that breastfeeding is allowed and encouraged way beyond feeding from bottles.
For breastfeeding mothers, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding for as long as the mother and child are comfortable doing so. The WHO has recommended for up until 2 years of age, when it has been shown to be most beneficial for a child’s health. There is no recommended age for ending breastfeeding.
For bottle fed babies, it is recommended that by 12-14 months a baby should be completely weaned from all bottles, transitioning to only solid foods and 8-16 oz of whole milk (assuming no milk allergy) via a regular cup or sippy cup.
Studies are showing that the longer a child is bottle fed, beyond 12-14 months, the higher the risk of childhood obesity. When breastfeeding, it is almost impossible to overeat as the mother’s body adjusts to the child’s caloric needs, therefore no risk of childhood obesity.
Continuing bottle feeding beyond the year has also been linked to dental malocclusion, a misalignment of the jaw causing long term bite problems. They are also at a higher risk for middle ear infections. Now, both are also true for pacifiers as well, but that is another discussion! Since the breast/nipple contours to the shape of the child’s mouth, if there is no lip or tongue tie, breastfeeding has not shown to cause any long-term dental issues. However, there is a link between feeding to sleep (bottle or breast) leading to cavities in babies/children since the sugar from the milk (even breast milk) can cause cavities in the baby teeth. Avoiding feeding to sleep and practicing proper dental hygiene will prevent having that issue.
If you can’t imagine putting your baby down to sleep without using the breast or bottle, I’m here to help! Just click here to schedule a Free Sleep Evaluation call to discuss your situation in more detail and see how my customized sleep plans can help!
Before 1 years old, babies should only be drinking formula or breastmilk as both of these provide all the hydration and nourishment a baby needs in their first year. You should not be giving your baby any other liquids unless recommended by your doctor.
After 1 year of age you can start on whole cow’s milk (or milk substitute) and water, avoiding juices, teas, or soda as they contain high levels of sugar and or caffeine which are not safe for toddlers. If you are going to give juice or tea, it is recommended to dilute them with 3 parts water to 1 part juice or tea.
Too Much Milk?
Avoid giving too much whole milk as this can negatively impact the child’s weight, nutrition, and development. It’s recommended that a child over 12 months old get 8-16 oz of dairy per day, including yogurt and cheese. Getting over the recommended amount of milk can cause sleep disruptions as well as weight loss and or poor nutrition. A healthy diet should have a wide variety of food with whole milk use to fill in some calories and fat intake; you do not want the child to have so much milk that it’s entirely replacing a healthy snack or meal.
Sippy Cup vs. Regular Cup
Once a baby is showing all the physical markers that they are ready for solids (usually around 6-7 months), you can begin to offer breastmilk/formula in a cup with solid food. This introduction should be done with only 2-4 ounces of liquid and allows them to learn to grab to cup and gain control when drinking. I recommend using a regular cup that is the appropriate size for the child to handle but some parents may prefer a sippy cup, and this is still a good option when traveling out of the house. The earlier the introduction of a regular cup the sooner they will learn how to avoid spilling. If you are choosing a sippy cup, dentists recommend getting a hard straw or top instead of a softer silicone or rubber top.
Ready to wean from breastfeeding, now what?
Weaning from breastfeeding is a very personal choice and I believe in waiting until the mother and child are ready. I recommend reading through and deciding based on your child’s personality which option you think they will fight less. Understand that any change may cause some protesting, fussing or crying but with time and consistency children do great!
If you’re going to choose baby-led weaning, then the best option is to offer solid foods before the breast to help the child fill up on food before milk. I recommend offering the breast 10-15 minutes after a meal or snack to give the child’s brain time to register whether they are actually still hungry or not. You can start with lunch or breakfast and once they are doing well with the transition you can move to the next meal or snack and eventually bedtime. Remove the bedtime or night feed last as this will be the hardest feed to drop.
Gradual Wean Down:
If you are ready to wean off the breast entirely but don’t know where to start, then I recommend starting with the daytime feeds. Keeping the first and last feeds of the day but stopping the midday breastfeeding giving solid meals and snacks instead. Wait 3-5 day or until the baby is no longer looking for the breast throughout the day, then you can remove the morning feed by offering breakfast with a cup of milk or water. Waiting another 3-5 days or until the baby no longer expect breastfeeding. Following the same process for nighttime or dinner feed, which should not be too difficult.
You may also consider shortening your child time on the breast at each feeding, shorten the total feed time by 1-2 minutes every 3-5 days. However, I have found that babies and toddlers don’t appreciate having their mealtime cut short. While this is an option, it is not my go-to solution for weaning.
Cold turkey is also an option, but it will be a rough few days. You will also need to consider pumping for a minute or two to avoid any painful engorgement or risk of infection.
Ready to wean from bottles, now what?
When weaning down from the bottles there are a couple options that are popular. I recommend reading through and deciding based on your child’s personality which option they would fight less. Understand that any change may cause some protesting, fussing or crying but with time and consistency children do great!
Just like Baby-led Weaning off the breast, if you’re going to choose baby-led weaning, then the best option is to offer solid foods before offering the bottle to help the child fill up on food before milk. I recommend offering the bottle 10-15 minutes after a meal or snack to give the child’s brain time to register whether they are actually still hungry or not. You can start with lunch or breakfast and once they are doing well with the transition you can move to the next meal or snack and eventually bedtime. Remove the bedtime or night feed last as this will be the hardest feed to drop.
You can also use baby-led weaning in conjunction with one of the strategies listed below if your child is having a hard time giving up the bottle with baby-led weaning alone.
I recommend starting with removing all or at least one of the daytime bottles. Keeping the first and last feeds of the day but stopping the midday bottles by giving solid meals and snacks with milk/water in a cup instead. Wait 3-5 day or until the baby is no longer looking for the bottle throughout the day, keeping the bottles out of sight will make this process easier too. Next, you can remove the morning feed by offering breakfast with a cup of milk or water instead of the bottle, and then waiting another 3-5 days or until the baby no longer expecting a morning bottle. Following the same process for nighttime or dinner feed.
If you are concerned that your child isn’t eating enough during this transition, I would recommend offering a top off bottle (2-4 oz) 10-15 minutes after eating, allowing time for their brain to register if they are full or still hungry.
Watering Down Bottles:
The other popular option is to water down your child’s existing bottle with water. Again, I recommend starting with the midday bottles and working your way up to the morning bottle and then lastly the nighttime bottle. This involves starting with 3 parts milk to 1 part water for 2-4 days then adjusting to a 1 to 1 ratio of milk and water for another 2-4 days. Finally moving to 1 part milk and 3 parts water for another 2-4 days.
The idea here is that as you transition to more water than milk your child will drink less. I am not a huge fan of this option as it can still fill your little one with liquids, not leaving room for solid foods. However, you child may just become angry that you’ve watered down their bottles and may throw or reject the bottle entirely. This may mean that the best strategy for you is to switch to the Bottle Elimination strategy discussed above.
Reducing Milk Wean Down:
As with the Water Down strategy, this involves giving less milk per bottle until there is no milk left. This strategy may backfire as your baby could become quite upset that they aren’t getting a full meal. However, if you choose this route you will want to reduce the total milk per bottle by 1-2 ounces for one or more of their midday bottles until there is no milk left. Once you have removed the midday bottles you will move to the same process for the morning bottle and then eventually moving to the bedtime or nighttime bottle. This process can also take weeks or months to completely remove the bottle so make sure you are consistently working down and do not get stuck.
Cold turkey is also an option but will be a rough few days or for toddlers a rough week. If you go this route, make sure to remove all the bottles from your house so they do not see the bottles and become upset.
*It is important to note that when making any changes to a child’s diet (formula or otherwise) you should talk to your child’s doctors first.
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If you can’t imagine putting your child to sleep without using the breast or bottle, I’m here to help! Just click here to schedule a Free Sleep Evaluation call to discuss your situation in more detail and see how my customized sleep plans at Good Little SleeperZzz can help!