As a Lactation Consultant it’s my job to help parents make feeding their newborns as easy as possible. Many moms who choose to breastfeed eventually want the option to give their baby a bottle. Whether you’re going back to work or just want a night out, there are steps you can take to make the introduction to a bottle a seamless one.
Introducing your breastfed baby to a bottle takes some planning and patience. For a smooth transition, start offering the bottle somewhere between the third to fourth week when your milk supply is fully established and breastfeeding is off to a good start. This three- to four-week window is ideal because waiting longer can result in a baby who might reject the bottle completely.
Here are 5 tips for keep in mind when introducing your baby to a bottle:
· Experiment with different nipples and bottles. This will help you determine which works best for your baby. The best nipples require the baby to keep his mouth open wide while sucking, just like he does during breastfeeding.
· Have someone else offer the bottle. A breastfed baby will often refuse the bottle if he knows that mom is around. Sometimes it helps for mom to leave the house so the baby doesn’t sense her presence.
· Put some breast milk on the bottle nipple. Putting some breast milk on the nipple will give the baby an instant reward. Sucking instinctively initiates swallowing which can get the baby going in no time!
· Don’t wait until baby is hungry. It’s best to offer the bottle before the baby becomes hungry. Hungry baby = fussy baby.
· Offer the bottle once per day. Don’t be surprised if your baby refuses the bottle the first time it’s offered. The most important thing is not to force the baby to accept it. Patience and persistence is everything so if it doesn’t work today, try again tomorrow.
Remember, just because you want your baby to take a bottle doesn’t mean you need to introduce formula. Pumping and feeding expressed breast milk is the next best thing to direct breastfeeding and a wonderful way to continue providing the ultimate nutrition to your baby even when you’re not available.