How to Wean your Baby
Once you have decided when to wean your baby off the breast, the next question is how to wean.
How you wean your baby depends on how old your baby is and his disposition.
Infants are the easiest to wean. They are so small that they have not acquired an attachment to the breasts yet. As well, milk flows out of a bottle-nipple faster than the flow of milk out of a breast. So, as long as you provide them with food, an infant may happily take the bottle instead of the breast.
Babies who have developed an affinity for the breast. These babies may be more difficult to wean. They like the taste & smell of breast milk, and they like the warmth & comfort of mother’s breasts. To wean such a baby, you may need to leave the room and have someone else (husband, baby sitter, Grandma) offer the bottle. With you absent, he will not be reminded of your breasts, and being hungry, he may be enticed to drink from a bottle. If he will not drink from a bottle, try feeding him from a cup, a spoon, an eye dropper, or a syringe (with the needle removed).
How to wean toddlers who are down to 3 or 4 feedings per day, will depend on the art of distraction. For example,
After you have decided to wean your baby, you can choose how to wean: slowly & gradually, or to wean quickly and definitively (cold turkey). If you actively work towards weaning, then it is called "mother-led weaning". If you allow your baby to wean himself then it is called "infant-led" weaning. Infant-led weaning is the least stressful for your baby, but it may take a long time before you are done.
Weaning slowly is probably easier for you and for Baby. Here, try to eliminate one breastfeeding session at a time. Allow a few days to pass before eliminating another breastfeeding session.
By weaning slowly, you will allow your breast to adjust to the lower demand. Less demand will lead to less supply. You may experience some fullness and leaky breasts, but these inconveniences are minor and quite tolerable. Your baby will adjust to bottle feeding better if you wean slowly. Instead of denying him of your breast, cold turkey, you allow him a few weeks to transition from the breast to the bottle.
If you have no time and need to wean quickly, this is doable as well. Your breasts will become engorged and you may feel pain and have milk leak out of your breasts. However, these discomforts will lessen within 4 or 5 days. You may still have milk in your breast for a month after weaning, but it won’t leak out and your breast won’t feel engorged.
Weaning quickly may be difficult for your baby (unless he is a young infant and hasn’t developed an attachment to your breasts yet). Your baby may be used to having his meals at your breast and may refuse to eat something different out of a bottle. Here’s a few things to try:
Regardless as to when or how to wean your baby, whether you wean quickly or gradually, it is important to remember that they will be weaned. No baby has ever starved to death because he is too stubborn to drink/eat from another source.
For babies under one year of age, you will need to provide them with expressed breast milk or baby formula. Typically, this is in a baby bottle, but if he refuses to drink from a baby bottle (because the nipple on the bottle is not the same as the nipple on your breasts), then you can try feeding him with a small plastic cup, a no-spill sippy cup, or a spoon. Depending on his disposition, you may need to be creative as to how the formula (or breast milk) is delivered.
For a baby one year of age or older, you can give him cow’s milk or “second step” formulas that are designed for older babies.