The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. Even though the AAP notes that there are health benefits of nursing for the child, it's not always possible. Some women may need to switch from the breast to the bottle and start formula feeding. Moving your baby from mother's milk to formula means transitioning her to the bottle and timing the change with both of your needs in mind.
Moving from the breast to the bottle may present a challenge for some babies. When you pick up your baby to feed him, he may associate your scent with the breast. Having someone other than mom -- such as dad or grandma -- give the first few bottle feedings may help to ease some of the struggle, according to the KidsHealth website. Even though you can take over feedings as soon as you -- and your baby -- are comfortable with the switch from breast milk to formula, removing yourself from the equation is a way to kick off this transition.
Even though you'll need to plan for your baby's transition from breast to bottle, you'll also need to consider how this will affect your own body. While your body will eventually adapt to the elimination of breastfeeding, you may experience breasts that feel full or plugged ducts in the meanwhile. The KidsHealth website suggests that you can pump when you would normally breastfeed to reduce your discomfort. Gradually phase pumping out, allowing your milk supply to diminish.
Unless there is a medical reason to suddenly stop breastfeeding, gradually weaning your baby can help both of you make the adjustment. Start the weaning process by eliminating one breastfeeding time every five to seven days, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Allowing your baby to wean slowly, instead of switching from nursing to formula feeding overnight, gives both of you time to adjust.
The AAP suggests waiting until your baby is ready to wean on his own. This typically happens by age 6 months, when your baby is starting to eat solids. He may be more willing to accept the formula if he initiates or starts the process himself. Slowly introduce a bottle or sippy cup of formula during mealtimes, instead of offering breast milk, as a way to transition him. This will mean making feedings more about getting nutrition than cuddling up to you.