Time to Stop Breastfeeding: Signs Your Baby May Be Ready
For mothers working outside the home, the decision to stop breastfeeding may be based on the requirements of their employment or on the willingness of child care providers to manage the added demands of bottle feeding expressed breast milk on a daily basis. Other mothers may find that their milk supply naturally decreases over time, necessitating additional formula feedings and making the transition a natural decision. Additionally, the first sharp little baby teeth breaking through the gums may prompt some women to stop breastfeeding. Whatever the reason, there are a few clear signs that it may be a good time to switch to bottle feeding or discontinue breastfeeding.
Starting Solid Food
Most babies start eating solid baby food at around four to six months. At this time, some parents begin training the baby to drink from a cup rather than using the bottle or breastfeeding. Depending on the baby’s level of readiness, this can be a good time to begin the weaning process and slowly transition the baby from breast milk to formula and solid food. This should be a gradual process since a baby’s delicate digestive system can be upset by a sudden change in diet. In most cases, babies get the bulk of their nutrition from formula or breast milk until they are one year old, so it’s important not to withdraw formula while introducing these new foods. In general, babies should be weaned from the bottle after one year in order to protect developing baby teeth against decay.
Emerging Baby Teeth
Most women call a halt to breastfeeding when baby’s first teeth begin to break through the gums. These first teeth are very sharp and can cause significant discomfort during feeding; additionally, bottle feeding may not be safe if the baby shows a tendency to chew as a part of teething. These sharp little teeth can sometimes detach a part of the plastic nipple, creating a choking hazard. As a result, babies should be taught to use a sippy-cup or other drinking method when they begin the teething process.
Some parents must wean their babies due to a reduction in the milk supply produced by the mother’s body. This is normal and is not indicative of a general problem; in most cases, formula provides an adequate substitute until real weaning can begin. Most babies are weaned from the bottle between six months and one year of age, but may continue to drink formula from a cup for some time after that depending on their nutritional needs and the recommendation of the attending pediatrician.