Transitioning from breast to bottle and combination feeding
The WHO advise to exclusively Breastfeed until six months with the introduction of solid foods then, as well as continuing breastfeeding up to 2 years or beyond. However, it is a personal choice for Mum, when to wean from breast to bottle. Choosing how to do it is important.
While weaning or transitioning your baby from breast to bottle can happen naturally at the right time for both you and baby, it can also be a gradual process or it can be partial, where you choose to combine both breast and bottle feeding.
Here are some explanations of the different ways you can wean your baby off breastmilk.
Gradual Weaning from Breast:
This is easier on both Mum and baby as it allows Mum’s milk supply to gradually reduce due to the decreased demand, thus preventing a build up of milk, which can result in blocked milk ducts, engorgement. This can lead onto mastitis if not resolved. It also allows baby to adjust to a new method of feeding and eases the transition from breast to bottle, or combination feeding.
Gradual weaning takes about 2-3 weeks to accomplish but can be done more slowly depending on the reasons for doing it. However, if your baby is older or at toddler stage, it may take longer. Time and patience is most important to make weaning a positive experience.
How to Wean:
- Start by eliminating one feed per day every 2-3 days or go as slow as you like. This will help to reduce mums milk more gradually.
- If breasts feel full then you can express enough off to make them feel comfortable but do not empty them. Massage also to relieve any lumpy areas, this is often easiest in the shower or bath.
- If your baby is under 12 months you will need to substitute with formula milk by either bottle or cup, depending on baby’s age, as your baby still needs an adequate milk intake.
- With the older baby/toddler changing daily routines, bargaining, being flexible, offering healthy snacks to substitute.
This is when your baby decides to move on from breastfeeding and is usually a gradual process too. When solids are introduced and possibly cup drinking the gradual demand reduces as does mums’ milk. Eventually baby stops looking to breastfeed and naturally moves on.
Weaning is “letting go” which can cause feelings of loss and sadness for mums, but it in itself is a natural progression and this too will pass.
Partial Weaning Combination feeding:
This is often a good alternative for some mums especially when returning to work. Partial weaning involves eliminating some breastfeeds while continuing others and is often referred to as combination feeding or mixed feeding.
It is still possible to continue with morning and evening feeds and maintain a good supply without becoming uncomfortable at work or needing to express. It also eases the return to work for mum as she has the feeding time to look forward to on her return and time to reassure and connect with her baby.
For more information on how to combination feed check out our article here
Brighter futures start here
Discover more about infant development to help shape your baby's future
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a varied, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant formula should be considered. Improper use of an infant formula or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant formula, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice about feeding your baby.
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.