Introducing a Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby
Many mothers will need to utilize an alternative feeding method at some point during their breastfeeding journey. Mom may be returning to work or needs to be away from her baby. In this post we will discuss some helpful tips to introduce a bottle to your baby.
Many mothers have questions regarding when to start offering a bottle. It is recommended to wait until 4 weeks of age to introduce a bottle. Any sooner may inhibit the establishment of breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding early on also helps build mom’s milk supply. A good window of opportunity is between 4-6 weeks of age. Many babies older than this have developed a feeding preference and may not accept a bottle as readily.
Often a nursing baby will refuse to take a bottle from their mother. It is suggested that someone else offer the bottle. Mom may need to leave the room as a baby can smell her and can refuse to feed from a bottle. Offer mom’s expressed milk in the bottle. It is healthier for baby and tastes familiar.
Pay attention to the position your baby is being held when offered a bottle. Walking with your baby facing outward or propped up on your lap may help your baby to accept a bottle. These positions are least similar to nursing. Combining them with motion such as rocking in a chair or swaying may also help.
Start by offering a small amount of 1-2 oz of expressed milk. This will avoid any waste if the feeding is unsuccessful. Try offering a bottle at a time when your baby is happy and not too hungry. Another good time can be when your baby is relaxed and drowsy. Stop if your baby becomes agitated at any point.
Warming up the nipple under running water makes it feel similar to mom’s breast. On the other hand, if you have a teething baby that is uncomfortable during feeds, try placing the nipple in the refrigerator to cool it down. Experiment with varied temperatures. It is safe to offer your baby breastmilk warmed under running water or cooled from the refrigerator.
Confusion may arise when trying to choose what nipple to use. The most important things to look at are the size of the nipple base and flow rate. A wide based and slow flow nipple typically works best when going between breast and bottle. Try to stick with the same nipple for at least 3-4 days. Your baby’s jaw should be positioned over the base of the nipple, similar to breastfeeding. You can also refer to one of our previous blogs on paced bottle feeding for more details on this.
If you have tried several of the above tips and are still struggling to get your baby to accept a bottle, try cup feeding your baby. A medicine cup, spoon, or sippy cup with a straw can be used. A medicine dropper or syringe are other alternatives. Avoid pouring milk into your baby’s mouth. Place the cup on your baby’s lip with the fluid at the rim. Your baby’s tongue should come forward and lap out the milk. A baby older than 6 months who is taking cereal or solids can also be offered a drink cup to satisfy hunger while he waits for mom to breastfeed.
Allow your baby time to adjust and be patient. Rest assured that your baby will eventually learn to feed from a bottle or a cup as they do not want to be hungry. Once your baby begins to readily accept a bottle continue to offer it a few times per week. This will help prevent refusal and reinforce these skills.
If you are having difficulty getting your baby to take a bottle contact The Care Connection today at 716-725-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with or schedule an appointment with an IBCLC.