Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weaning a 6+ Mo. Baby From Breastfeeding to Bottle Feeding

I am a Breastfeeding advocate! I have breastfed my (4) babies for as long as possible, including pumping sessions in the NICU for one of them. However, eventually there does come a time when you are either faced with saying goodbye to breastfeeding because your baby has grown, or you are faced with the daunting task of having to train your breastfed baby to take a bottle. This was our recent journey. We have succeeded and I want to share how we did it.

Wean Completely or 50/50?
Decide whether you will be weaning from the breast completely or alternating bottle/breast. If you are weaning completely then I suggest doing so slowly. This reduces the risk of becoming uncomfortable or even ill due to excess milk.
If you have to wean immediately, I recommend taking two days aside when you won't have to function much and you have help with the baby (and any other children.) Then take Benedryl around the clock according to the recommended directions (I think medical maximum dosage is 20mg if I remember right.) This will make you very sleepy. But it really helps dry up your milk. I am not a Dr. So don't take my advise as such. I know this from experience. When my baby in the NICU passed I needed help drying up my milk ASAP. The pharmacist recommended this and it was a life saver in many ways. So, that is how you can dry up your milk if you have to. I hope you'll be able to take the weaning process slowly. But if that's not possible. I hope this helped.

- Gather Materials and Set Up a Plan -

FORMULA:Find out which formula tastes best. Here are some parents who taste-tested several formulas (BLESS THEM! eeewww!) Or, if you know your baby has sensitivities choose the best formula for him.
BOTTLES: Buy some bottles. I have a box Full of bottles I've tried throughout my babying years. I have determined that the best nipples are those that are like the baby's pacifier. If they don't take a binky, I suggest NUK or a brand that has tried to mimic the breast. Stay away for the $20+ bottles, especially the adiri Nurser. Maybe I got a defective one, but it was a Pain and a waste of money. The least amount of parts to the bottle the better! Luckily for me, JJ (7+ Months old) chose a NUK pacifier. I also found the BreastFlow bottles that are a neat concept. Also, start with a 4oz size bottle. Breastfed babies aren't used to drinking a whole lot. Use a newborn stage bottle nipple. Breastfed babies are used to working for their food. It is difficult for them if it runs out and chokes them.
BREASTPUMP: An electric double breast pump is heaven sent. If you can not afford one, contact your local WIC office. They usually rent them out for free. Or if your lucky enough to live in a big city (I live in a small town) look in your phone book for a lactation specialist who rents breast pumps. If you can to buy one, look for one on Amazon or or at your local Walmart or Target. There is another little add-on to the breast pump that I will never be without again if I end up having to pump again. It's a Hands Free Breast Pump Bra. I made my own, but you can purchase them online. I took an old bra and slit holes that fit the breastpump shields. Ahhh, so very helpful!!
BABY BOTTLE WARMER: I found that this is actually one of the most important tools if you are going to pump and use breast milk. It is very difficult to warm up breast milk safely when you have a hungry baby without one of these handy gadgets (more on this later). We just purchased to one that Wal-Mart had. But Amazon has a good selection. Never microwave breast milk or formula! It ruins the nutrient content of the milk and it causes possible hot pockets of milk.

I tried for a week to feed JJ straight formula. He struggled and struggled. I knew that breast milk is a lot sweeter then formula so I even added a bit of Xylitol (a very safe sweetener.) But he still wasn't taking it willingly. I so don't like pumping! That's why I tried to go straight to the formula. But once I finally decided in my mother heart that bottle feeding JJ was best for him and me (I need to be able to take certain medication and herbal sups that aren't necessarily safe for breastfeeding babies) I decided that a little sacrifice was in order. So I pulled out my breast pump.

I have the bittersweet benefit of producing ample amounts of breast milk. So when I double pump for 10 minutes (which is the length of time my baby nurses on one side total) then it wasn't uncommon for me to pump up to 4oz of milk total in a pumping session. So, the first pumping session I put 1 ounce of milk in separate storing cups and stored it in the fridge. I used this round the following day. For one week I pumped twice a day when I could hide away for ten minutes. I would freeze one session and store the other session in the fridge for the following day.

For the first week I made every bottle 50% formula and 50% breast milk. And the key to the whole success was the TEMPERATURE of the mixed bottle. Just a Note: Swirl the breast milk to mix it in the formula as shaking causes damage to the milk, it can curdle it. I started with 2oz feedings at first. I found that for the first few days JJ only wanted 2oz at a time. Gradually, he has moved up to about 4oz. Oh! Don't be alarmed if you breast milk separates and has a funky color to it. Believe it or not, it's normal. And, Always! Always! Always! Hold your baby while you feed him a bottle! Never prop the bottle in their mouth! This is not only unsafe, but it is damaging emotionally! Hold your baby close just as you did when you breastfed him. Caress his skin and make eye contact. All of this helps sooth and explain to him that this change is not necessarily a bad one. It is simply that, a change. And letting him know that you will be by his side through the big changes in his life is vital to his healthy development.

Gradually, I have run out of stored breast milk and JJ now accepts formula as long as it is warm. When mixing a 100% formula bottle I simply use warm water to mix the powder. This means that the bottle warmer is not used very often. However, I still warm up unused bottles if it's within the safe range of time to use it.
As I began the process of seriously weaning JJ I realized how much I value the bonding and soothing time that breastfeeding gives JJ and I. I also found that bottle feeding made nighttime a whole lot more difficult. Especially since JJ still wakes often through the night. So, since I haven't started any hard medication yet, I decided to follow a 50/50% plan. I bottle feed during the day if needed or desired and I breastfeed at night or during the day on occasion. And it is working out really well for us. I still advocate 100% breastfeeding. But if it can't be done, do the best you can with your options and love yourself!


Janee said...

Weaning is definitely difficult. I loved breastfeeding my kids so it was a bittersweet experience for me. I had no idea that Benedryl can dry up your milk!

I nursed Maya until she was 10 months and then she totally lost interest. I felt so rejected and would cry when she didn't want to nurse anymore!

Then I nursed Jadan until he was 14 months. That boy probably would have never stopped if I didn't wean him. I probably wouldn't have stopped either truthfully but I had to study for the bar.

Thanks for posting these great tips! Oh and if you know anyone who needs a breast pump, I have an awesome Medela that I'm selling for $45 (no attachments though because I think that would be unsanitary).

Lena Baron said...

Thanks Janee! Good to hear from you!

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