From Breast to Bottle-when and How to Wean

Updated on September 01, 2008
N.J. asks from Cimarron, CO
27 answers

My son is 7 1/2 months old and exclusively breastfed. He will take bottles of breastmilk, but not bottles with formula. I only give him bottles when necessary (ie. if with babysitter). I am beginning to think of weaning him because I have to go out of town for an overnight trip next month. I think I can pump enough milk for the day and a half that I won't be with him (and can pump on my trip), but then am wondering if he would even go back to the breast. Which makes me wonder if I should just try to wean him to formula now. Any suggestions on this would be helpful. Also, how old does he need to be before I can only nurse him 3x a day. Currently, I nurse him every 4 hours, 4-5x a day.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the advice and encouragement! I have decided to not wean him and just have breast milk on hand for when I am away. I did forget to mention that I do feed my son solids 2x a day. Thanks again, everyone!

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A.A.

answers from Boise on

I went out of town for a weekend when my 1 1/2 year old was still nursing, I thought she would lose interest also but upon my return she asked for num nums and didn't miss a beat. The weekend was kinda hard on my husband as my daughter kept asking where I was, but didn't have any long turm effect on anyone. I would guess every baby would react differently as they do with everything else. I would just go with the flow, if your baby is ready to wean he will.

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S.B.

answers from Cheyenne on

For your trip I would suggest pumping. Your son should go back to the breast after such a short time. But if you do want to continue breastfeeding that is the best way to do it.
If he is on solid foods he is old enough to go to feedings three times a day. If it is hard to get him to take fewer feedings take them away one at a time.

A little about me: SAHM with 3 kids ages 9, 6 and 7 1/2 months

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C.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I breast fed my first and now doing the same for my second. With my first I traveled, for work, during her first year. I pumped every day to store the milk. The longest trip I had was 7 days. Each time she would drink from the bottle while I was away as well as the breast when I returned, no problem. I will do the same for my new little girl. She is 3 months now and will be taking the bottle as well when I have to go back to work full time as well as do some light travel for work. I have had my husband give her a bottle a few times a week to get her used to it. I pump an extra bag each day to store. We finally found a bottle she likes (MAM) and so far she is fine with the bottle and then breast feeding again. I hope this is helpful.
Good luck!

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J.O.

answers from Denver on

I am a firm believer that nothing is better for your baby than breast milk. On the other hand, you and only you will know what is best for your family.Good luck with your decision.

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J.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Good for you to be breast feeding. It's best for baby and the one of the sweetest experiences. In regards to weaning, or even getting down to 3 feedings a day: 1 - Baby will really let you know when to do these things. As you give him more and more solids, he will need less and less breast milk. It will still be his beverage, however, which brings us to number 2 - Do you only drink three times a day? You baby is not likely to either, in my opinion, until you can safely offer him other beverages to keep him hydrated. I think water (when he is eating mostly solid food) and juices (again when his diet becomes more solid food than breast milk, but not too many juices - too much sugar, and fructose can cause as many problems as sugar, so don't overdo), and even milk (after baby is at least 1 year old). 3 - Please avoid giving formula unless you really have to. I know, babies do fine on it, but really, it is synthetic. No matter how good the advertisers say it is, it will never be as good as your breast milk. So there's no need to even contemplate it unless there is a real necessity. In regards to baby not wanting to breast feed after your trip, don't borrow trouble. No need to deal with that issue unless it becomes an issue. I'm sure he will love going back to the breast when you come home. Best of luck!!

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M.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I think he'll do fine going back to the breast after that short of time. I wouldn't stress yourself out with weaning for a quick trip. If you're happy breastfeeding, just keep at it till he's a year or so old.

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H.F.

answers from Pocatello on

Don't wean him yet, it is not nessesary. He will go back to the breast after a day apart, I imagine he will be very happy to do so! Breastmilk is so much better for your baby and so much cheaper than buying formula. Keep it up you are doing a great job providing your baby with the beast food on Earth!

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P.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I guess I'm wondering why you feel the need to give him bottles of formula? A baby will wean himself when HE is ready...it's quite natural! You seem to be trying to force your baby to do something that's not in-line with his path. Relax and go with his needs,,,he'll wean soon enough, naturally...don't force him...its stress on both of you. You'll miss it soon enough!

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S.B.

answers from Denver on

It has been a couple years for me. I weaned one at 9 months because I was pregnant and the other at 6 months because it just wasn't working out for us. the first, I did gradually adding formula to pumped milk. I began to offer sippies at meals and only nursed for 'snack." the second was easier and quicker as we weren't working out and it was frustration. It took maybe two weeks to encoursge more formula with meal times.

As far as feeding. At that age, we had a wake up feeding around 6 am. then sippies at meals. I also moved the night feeding forward by 15 mnutes at a time until it was about 6 pm...just after dinner was done and cleaned up and before baths. During weening, I fed them a little 'snack" after bath. So I don't know that they go to 3 drinks until like three years, actually. He'll still need snacks. But you can have the milk be only during the meals baout 9 months and the snacks be water or diluted juices.

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C.F.

answers from Denver on

N., Are you ready to stop nursing or getting ready? If not, there is no need to wean him. If you're still enjoying it, then I would pump enough milk for him to have while you're gone and keep on. He will start eating more food between now and when he's a year old, and as he eats more, he will nurse less. My kids never nursed on a schedule, sometimes they nursed a lot in a day and sometimes less, they know when they need it. If you leave him for a day or two, he will most likely pick right back up with your breast when you get back, if you want that. If you are ready to start weaning, consider doing it gradually, realizing he may have "set backs" for teething or illness, etc. The Baby Book by Dr Sears has some good suggestions for weaning to formula.

At his age, he can go to a sippy cup rather than a bottle, but keep in mind that a baby's sucking needs can extend to 3 or 3 and a half, so he will need some other way to satisfy that - a pacifier or he might prefer a bottle just to suck. Some people start with bottles of pumped milk and then gradually change the ratio of mostly breastmilk and a little formula and then more and more formula. This way his body can get used to the change and you can see if he has any allergic reactions.

I am personally a big fan of extended nursing, it comes in SO handy, and is, in my opinion, so great for your baby and you! Here are some of the advantages I have found: mom's breast can fix most anything at anytime. That's a great tool to have. I've always felt it helps me to chill out and be tuned into my babies and toddlers. (not saying you can't be if you're not nursing, i just think it helps) The skin to skin and eye contact is great for bonding (you can do that with a bottle too). You can't beat the nutrition of breastmilk which actually changes to meet the needs of your baby as your baby grows which i find miraculous! i think babies turn to mom's breast for so much more than just nutrition, and there is no other reassurance quite like it for little ones (just my opinion).

Having said all that, I am a big fan of listening to your gut about when you are ready to stop.

In my experience, 8 months to 2 years is a time of getting teeth and beginning to individuate. my kids nursed a lot for comfort at those ages. so, just be aware that those are real needs for him that nursing used to satisfy and think of ways to replace that for him. if he doesn't get your breast, he gets something else, a cuddle and a pacifier or a teething something or a warm bottle of rice milk while you hold him and sing to him or whatever. know that he is looking for the whole package that was nursing for him, not just food, and your weaning will be more successful for you both, in my opinion. good luck to you and your baby, you will do great.

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A.U.

answers from Provo on

I personally think that choosing to wean your son just because you are going out of town and you think that he might not come back to the breast is not a good reason to go ahead and wean him. You don't sound like you have other issues with breastfeeding (like not enough milk, discomfort, or his rejecting it, etc...) so give your son the benefit of the doubt (and the benefit of your milk) and give continued breast-feeding a shot.

As for your other question, the routine I would follow with my kids was to start the weaning process at about 9 months of age. I would drop one nursing session (go from 5 to 4) and instead give my child juice or water in a sippy cup with one daily meal. Then, at 10 months drop to nursing 3 times a day, 11 months, two times, 12 months, one time, and then stop totally about 13 months. The gradual reduction worked very well for me and my kids. I'd ask your pediatrician his/her thoughts on this one though.

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R.C.

answers from Boise on

With both of my children I went on a vacation while exclusively breastfeeding, they did take an occasional bottle of breast milk though as practice for the trip. I did pump and they did fine taking a bottle from my mom while my husband and I went out of town for 4 days with each of them, my daughter was 10 months and my son 5 and 1/2 months so he was exclusively nursing and wasn’t on any solids. When I came back both of my children were so happy to see me that they had no problem returning to breastfeeding. I also pumped while on vacation (which I would say was the worst part, just a pain) and it went totally fine. I would say to not wean your child unless you don't want to continue breastfeeding anyways or unless you don't want to have to pump so much. But with my experience it worked out fine and I would guess that an overnight trip would be very easy for your little one to handle. Good luck!!! :)

Oh, and on when to wean your child to nursing 3 times a day... I have no clue :) I feed on demand and so sometimes I nurse every two hours (I am so bad at making a schedule). Take care!

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S.G.

answers from Colorado Springs on

I also have a son who is 7 1/2 months old. If you planned on not weaning until a year, like is reccomended, I would try to stick to that plan. It's just an overnight trip so I say pump enough milk for him and try it. I wouldn't worry about him not wanting to go back to the breast. I don't think he will have a problem with that. And if he does, then you can make the decision on whether or not to wean him at that time. I know you said he will take a bottle, but I would make sure to give him a bottle a little more frequently over the next month so that he is used to it and has an easy transition to being bottle fed while you are gone. As for the frequency of nursing, that is really different for every baby. My son is the same age and he nurses after he eats his baby food (3x per day) as well as 3 additional times throughout the day and once during the night. If your son isn't acting as hungry when you feed him, you can probably try to feed him a little less frequently.

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R.R.

answers from Provo on

The amount of times for a child various from one to the other. I did not have very much luck with Breast feeding do to having so much produced. Some times the child will go back to breast feeding and some not. It was so much better and moving around and going places with a bottle then breast feeding. The best amount of milk for your baby are the first 8 months after that it really dosn't change anything as far as how heathy the child will be. I am a 35 year old mom married 13 years with three children 12, 10. and 6. I breast feed them all. First one 6 months then she quit, secound one ate so much that 11 days I quite and he went through 12 cases of milk formula at Costco a month. Yes, he ate a lot. The last one mybe three weeks and then I couldn't monitor my milk and would rouine all my clothes from leaking. I hated it. They are all healthy and never sick. My sister in laws family breast feed over a year, no solid foods and she had three and they are always sick. So you never know if its do to the breast milk or healthy living. I wish you luck and have fun on your trip.

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D.K.

answers from Denver on

No offense Michelle, but do not give him water!! Kids under 9 months of age DO NOT need any water if they are breast feeding or having formula regularly, it can effect his kidneys! Talk to your Pediatrician. It fills them with empty calories and their kidneys do not process it well, it isn't processed as breast milk or formula is in their bodies.

I know breast feeding that first year is best, it is your personal choice however. So if you are ready, then go for it, if you are just worried he won't want the breast when you get back, 24 hours isn't that long and I am sure he will.

Mine had to be weaned early for different reasons, both now 4 years old and 7 years old are VERY STRONG, HEALTHY and SMART, NO ALLERGIES and they were not any less because I stopped before the year mark!!!!!!! PROMISE! So it has to be totally what you want and what you are ready for.

Try mixing formula with breast milk. Since you can pump enough for your trip then that is great, however if you want him to take the bottle which is a lot easier to measure amounts he is taking and others to feed him then try pumping and have someone other then yourself introduce it. As long as he can smell you there will be issues.

It sounds like he is eating a LOT more frequently then a 7 mos old should. I fed my kids at that age, three meals of solids, cereal, veggies and some fruits, with a 6 oz bottle with each meal first, then two or three other bottles throughout the day before bedtime.
If you do the bottles you can measure how much he is actually taking in.

Talk to your Pediatrician about any of your concerns.

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F.N.

answers from Denver on

You should not have any problems with him nursing after your trip just make sure you pump while you are gone.

My daughter just returned to nursing after a month of bottles (of pumped milk).

Keep in mind for a peace of mind that if for some strange reason you little one does not want to nurse when you return you will have the pumped milk to give in a bottle instead of artificail milk (formula). (If you are flying you can take with you unlimited amount of Breast milk and ice packs even when you are flying without your child)

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J.L.

answers from Denver on

He will for sure continue to breast feed after you return from your trip. They don't forget that easily. I bottle fed my newborn for 2 weeks when my nipples seemed beyond repair (cracked). I pumped and fed her that way. We had no problem going back to the breast. As for weaning. WHen you are ready, use 3/4 breast and 1/4 formual for a couple of days and reduce the breast milk from there. Half and Half then the other way for formula. It was easy transition for #1. My #2 was the same. It was just for a short time for #2, 2 months and I did the same transition with her with formula and whole milk. Good luck

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J.L.

answers from Provo on

I have heard from other's in your similar situation that decided to wean them and then wished they hadn't. 1 reason is because formula is so expensive. But it is really up to you and what you want to do. He will most likely still breastfeed when you come back. In fact he will probably be excited to see you and that will be the first thing he wants. Hope that helps.

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S.L.

answers from Pueblo on

Dear N.,

I went out of town for four days to Acapulco, Mexico with my husbands company when my daughter was about the age of your son. I did not wean her, but kept the milk factory going while I was gone. She went right back on the nursing and we have a wonderful trip. The Le leche people helped me out. Go and have fun on your trip especially since he will take a bottle. Did you know that you can freeze the breastmilk for future use? When he begins eating solid foods then you will know when to nurse him only three times a day. Cherish these days. They grow up too soon.

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M.G.

answers from Pocatello on

Hi N.,

I was thinking on how frequent you nurse him... he is a good weight? Have you started solids at least once a day? If he's doing well with both of those.. there is no reason not to reduce the frquency of your nursing schedule. Coax him to nurse longer, urge him to fill up. Then instead of nursing him again in 4 hours, try waiting 4 1/2 or 5. He is old enough to learn some patience and he'll learn to nurse til he's satisfied. Eventually you can wean him down to only 3 or 4 times a day. Include a sippy cup of water with meals or after nursing, it'll help him become familiar with the mechanics of a cup. In regards to your trip, I would agree with pumping as much as you can, and having the sitter mix part formula with part breastmilk. The baby might complain, but if he's hungry he'll eat. And then think of all the smiles you'll get when you return to give him the real deal!

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M.B.

answers from Denver on

I think you can continue to breast feed, I wouldn't let going out of town one time deter you from making the year mark( if you do want to do that, at this point you really are so close and it sounds like you are comitted!). He must be eating some solids and juice as well? So the time of the trip he will be close to 9 months and he should be eating all kinds of foods by then! I would say start pumping at night two hours after he goes to bed so you will have some milk to pump. Then freeze the milk for when you are out of town. As far as weaning maybe in two weeks ( at the 8 month mark) cut one feeding? Maybe do am, give him juice at lunch, nurse before afternoon nap, juice at snack time, and nurse before bed. You really are on the downslide slope( it sounds like you might be getting a little weary of it?), this next four months will go quickly, maybe take the money you might spend on formula and buy yourself a treat! I did all my kids one year and they are so healthy, it is so worth it! Good luck!

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S.P.

answers from Great Falls on

If he likes the bottle, it wouldn't hurt to bottle feed him.
I know a lot of parents are going to say I'm wrong but I bottle fed both my kids and they are fine.

My sister breastfed her last two exclusively and it was hard on her. Like, she couldn't go berry picking with the rest of the family because the little one needed to eat. She doesn't get the break that bottle feeding gives to moms.

Also, think of how your husband will feel the first time he gets to feed his child. My husband, ex now, but I remember he loved it. Good luck!!!

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C.M.

answers from Provo on

When my baby was 4 months old I had to have surgery and knew she wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of the drugs in my system. It was supposed to be a same-day surgery and ended up being a bigger surgery then planned and I had to stay in the hospital for 3 days. I pumped while in the hospital and she had bottles of only breastmilk while I was gone and she went right back to the breast without hesitation. You should be just fine having him go right back to the breast. Unless you are wanting to quit nursing I think you should offer the breast when you are home. My other children seem to go to 3 nursings when they were around 10 months old. Around 11 months I would start distracting them with meals or snacks to start the weaning process. I like to be done nursing around their 1st birthday. I'm not much for breastfeeding past that but I have friends that nurse past 2 years. Good luck!!

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T.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

i think it's good to ask yourself a few questions. . are you not enjoying breastfeeding? can baby not go with you on this trip? he's only SEVEN months old!!!! i assure you time flies and soaking up every minute with your baby and traveling with him now is a lot easier than when he's 2. by the way, my 27 month old is still nursing more than 3 times a day. . . the world health organization recommendation for ALL children of the world is 2 years of nursing AS A MINIMUM. i realize a lot of people are uncomfortable with this information. if you go to your pediatrician, many peds are not super informed on not just the "advantages" of breastfeeding but the severe lacking in formula (neither are most moms really). can i recommend Martha Sears "the breastfeeding book" though I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate, i believe the first couple of chapters will talk anyone out of giving formula to their little ones. you don't know me, my opinion may not matter, but if you really are asking for advice. . . don't wean your baby and don't cut down his feedings if the only reasons you are thinking of doing this is because it's what you've heard you're supposed to do. . . . choose what feels right for you as a mom and listen to your heart, not popular opinion. you know your baby best!!!!

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L.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I feel that waiting to wean naturally is best. Since you are able to breastfeed & breastmilk is so healthy for him, I would not want to wean from breastmilk to formula. Wait until he is eating a lot more solids, to skip the formula all together. As for feeding habits & age, I don't think you can generalize. It depends on the baby's personality & feeding style, and on how much solid food they get. My 8-month-old does eat a little solids, but since we're lazy & don't want to put a lot of effort into that (breastfeeding is so much easier), she's pretty much exclusively breastfed still. She only tastes solids. (Besides being lazy, I do think it's a good idea to make starting solids a gradual transition.) She nurses pretty often but not very long since she's so distracted at this age.

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P.D.

answers from Denver on

I know it is challenging, but I want to encourage you to continue to breastfeed if you are able to work it all out with pumping, etc. for your trip. The experts really do recommend at least a solid year of nursing. And especially if he is refusing formula! I did get all of mine to take occasional formula, but nursed as long as I could. When they hit a year, sometimes they are more receptive to regular whole milk than they are to formula. (Personally, I think judging by the smell formula can't taste too great!) That being said, if your trip causes him to self-wean or for you to have some kind of problem nursing, (though the length of time you'll be gone probably won't be a problem) don't feel too badly either. While it is best to go for at least a full year, any time spent nursing is better than not nursing at all. Either way you sound like a great mom and he'll be fine!
As far as starting to cut back on how often you nurse him, you really need to have him willing to take another source of milk first. If he will only take breast milk, it is definitely easier to nurse him than to pump just to have one or two fewer nursing sessions. If you can eventually get him to take one serving of formula a day that would enable you to cut back without weaning. He may be more willing to take formula from a sippy cup too, which has the advantage of not having to break him from a bottle later. Just know that there is no rush to wean, and doing so gradually will make it easier on the both of you. Good luck!

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

You have so much advice already. This is really a bit of a tangent, but...
At 7 1/2 months he is old enough to start taking a cup. Without a lid (not a sippy). Start with a bit of breast milk and let him smell it, then taste it (I scooped a bit onto a spoon first since they were used to eating that way, then got the cup closer and closer). Help him by tipping the cup just enough to get some milk but not too much. It will take a few weeks and probably be messy, but in the end, you won't have to worry about a bottle or a sippy and the weaning from those later on. And its far better to give juice or other liquids in a cup anyway.
I know this doesn't apply to your immediate situation but I thought I'd put it out there for you to consider. It's not weaning him right now, just getting him ready for when you want to.

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