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When it's time to stop breastfeeding and move baby onto a bottle, you can make the process easier by following our expert tips
You've done so well to give your baby the best start in life by breastfeeding. If you're thinking of stopping, here's how to help make it work for you and for baby.
There's no right time
There isn't an ideal time to give up breastfeeding. Some mums breastfeed for up to two years and beyond. It's best to give your baby only breast milk for the first six months, but after that, once they're on solids, the milk feeds can be reduced, as they'll be getting more nutrition from their food. You'll still need to give them milk as well as solids, up until they are a year old. The longer you breastfeed, the more health benefits you and your baby will gain, but it's up to you when you stop. Don't be pressurised by other people – make the decision when it feels right for you and your baby.
Stop breastfeeding gradually
Your body – and your baby – will need to adjust if you start to cut down on breastfeeding, so do it gradually. Some mums leave it up to their child to decide when to stop, continuing to breastfeed as and when their little one wants it. This is a gradual process lasting months or more, as the feeding sessions become shorter and less frequent. Many mums decide to stop breastfeeding at around a year, when their baby is getting plenty of nutrients from solid food. You may decide to give up if you're returning to work, so build in time to wean before your start date.
Your eight-point guide
If you stop breastfeeding too quickly, your breasts can get uncomfortably full, so follow our guide.
1. Reduce the time your baby spends on the breast and leave longer gaps between feeds.
2. Stop daytime feeds – though you may want to keep a comforting night or early-morning feed.
3. Start by breastfeeding your baby as normal, then offer a small portion of solid food after. As your baby gets used to solid food, try switching the process, so you offer a meal then a small breastfeed.
4. Instead of a breastfeed, offer a drink in a cup – or bottle if they can't manage a cup. You can give formula milk your baby is less than a year; whole cow's milk is fine after a year.
5. Try another comforting activity together – singing a song or reading a book.
6. If you're weaning a toddler, set guidelines by explaining to them that 'Mummy's milk is just for bedtime', or give them a date – their next birthday, for example – when breastfeeding will stop.
7. You may feel a bit upset about giving up breastfeeding, but remember, you are doing a great job as a mum. Lots of cuddles with your gorgeous baby or toddler will give you both a lift.
8. Try mixing your breast milk with formula to get your baby used to the taste.
Introducing a bottle or cup
When your little one has been used to your lovely, soft, warm breast, a plastic bottle or cup can be very unattractive, and you may have some resistance. Follow these tips to help make the transition easier:
• Start getting your little one used to a teat. Dip the bottle teat in your breast milk to encourage them to use it.
• Trying them on a bottle of your expressed milk first may help.
• Give your baby lukewarm - not hot - formula milk for comfort.
• Try a trainer cup with a soft mouthpiece at any time from six months to a year.
• They may prefer to drink milk from a bottle and water from the cup – that's fine.
• Use the cup yourself, to show them how to tip it back to get their drink.
Need more help to stop breastfeeding?
* National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212, breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
* National Childbirth Trust: 0300 330 0700, nct.org.uk
By Julia Shaw