The usual advice is to wait three to four weeks to introduce a bottle so you can build up your milk supply, but many experts and moms (us included) say you can do it at more like two weeks if breastfeeding seems to be going smoothly. It's helpful to devise a game plan for weaning away some of your baby's breastfeeding sessions: Just like your body didn't learn to make milk overnight, it can't stop it suddenly, either. Quitting breastfeeding cold turkey would be a painful experience -- think how hard and sore and ready to explode your breasts start to feel when your baby nurses just an hour later than his usual feeding time simply because you were out somewhere or he took a longer nap than usual! In addition to the excessive engorgement that would occur, you would be in danger of developing clogged ducts because milk would become backed up inside them, which can be excruciatingly painful. And the clogged ducts can then become infected and result in mastitis.
"We did both breast and bottle. And with each home bottle we made half-and-half from the formula and pumped milk. It gave me the satisfaction that my baby was still getting breast milk and enough to drink." -Sarah, Roswell, GA
That's why the general wisdom is to gradually drop breastfeeding sessions, at the rate of about one a week, so that your body has time to adjust. You'll still feel a bit swollen and sore for the first two or three days at the time you skip a feeding (and you may leak more than usual), but it should be more than bearable. Some women find as little as four or five days is enough for their breasts to get the signal that they've turned off the tap at that point in the day. If you get engorged, express just enough breast milk to relieve the pressure (pumping too much will just make your breast produce more milk again).
The breastfeedings you choose to drop will likely depend on what works best for your family. It may be the middle-of-the-night nursing session when your partner feeds a bottle, and then you breastfeed in the early a.m. while your hubby takes his turn getting some shut-eye. Or it can be midday breastfeedings if you're going back to a 9 to 5 job. Many working mothers continue just the morning and night nursing sessions to maintain a close bond with their babies. As long as you wind down your feeding schedule slowly enough that your body is comfortable, your miraculous breasts can keep up this truly personalized and pleasant routine for as long as you desire.