Health experts agree that a baby should ideally start to be weaned only after she is six months of age. Any form of outside food or liquid should be introduced only after this age.

However, at times, because of lack of breast milk, or the necessity to return to work, you might have to give her the bottle earlier. 

Here are some tips to make the transition from breast to bottle or cup a smooth one.

1. Give Time To Adjust

Sucking from the breast requires a completely different mouth and tongue movement as compared to sucking from the bottle. Have patience for she will need time to adjust herself.

If you are planning to return to work then start the bottle at least a fortnight before your return date.

Find out what is the best time to begin weaning your baby: The Best Time to Wean your Baby

2. Gear Up For Refusals

There will be times when your baby will refuse the bottle. Stay calm and give her some time to relax.

For example, you could give her the pacifier for a few seconds and once she is calm you can take it out and put the bottle nipple in.

The point to be kept in mind is to not to offer your breast at her first refusal but rather to keep trying with the bottle patiently.

3. Offer Expressed Breast Milk

Babies know and like the taste of breast milk. So when you start with the bottle instead of directly switching to formula feed fill it with expressed breast milk.

If you are unable to express breast milk then give her the formula feed at the same temperature as the mother’s milk. This will make it seem to her that it is mother’s milk.

Find out how a mother weaned her child using neem oil: Weaning with Neem Oil: Is it Safe?

3. Offer Bottle Or Cup When Hungry

Hungry babies will drink. So when your baby is hungry, instead of a breast feed, offer her the feed from the bottle / sipper cup. Babies often tend to refuse this new mode of drinking if their stomachs are already full.

4. Take Help Of Others

Your baby associates you with your breast. So, while giving the bottle or the cup:

  • Ask someone else to do it
  • Do not be around when the bottle is being offered to her. If your child sees you then knows that she still has a chance to get the breast.

5. Distract Your Baby

Distractions will help your baby to start sucking from the bottle.

For example, if you have no help then put your baby in a carrier and place her in front of you. Then walk around with her with one of your hands patting her back gently and the other holding the bottle to her mouth.

6. Make The Bottle Familiar

Before giving your baby the bottle run the nipple through warm water and also put some breast milk on the nipples. This will make it seem more familiar to her when she puts it into her mouth

7. Experiment with Bottles and Cups

If your baby is habituated to a pacifier then use a bottle nipple that is similar to it.  

Try out different nipple holes. Some babies prefer sucking from nipples with a slanted hole instead of a round one.

8. Choose the Correct Position

You might have to experiment a little to understand what your kid’s preferred position is.

  • The younger babies like to be cuddled while having the bottle.
  • The older ones who are trying out the sipper cup prefer a more upright position.

9. Give A Bath Before Bottle

Give your baby a bath before you give her the bottle. This will calm her down and also make her a little drowsy. Then hold her close and while rocking her on your knees introduce the bottle nipple into her mouth.

10. Use Gentle Persuasion

If your baby is old enough to hold the cup but refuses to, then teach her by gently tilting her face and then pouring a little bit of the beverage into her mouth. This way she will slowly learn how to use the cup.

As a parent whose baby is just beginning to try out the bottle or the cup just remember that a lot of patience and hand-holding is required. For example, if your baby is starting off with the cup, you could teach her by gently tilting her face and then pouring a little bit of the beverage into her mouth. This way she will slowly learn how to use the cup.

You might want to read more on best foods for weaning here: Foods for Weaning Your Baby.