Introducing A Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby
“My baby won’t take a bottle.”
“What is the best bottle for my baby?”
“When do I start introducing a bottle?”
“My baby has nipple confusion!”
First, stop…take a breath. There’s a lot going and too much to navigate right now. Feeding one’s baby has become such a stressor, that in times of distress we have to take the time to destress. There are some things we know for certain:
A baby will not willingly starve itself
Babies have an innate need to suck or suckle
It takes an average of 7 attempts for baby to “catch on” to most anything
So with that knowledge, we can indeed take a breath. It’s going to be okay. These moments are very VERY tiring and trying. We know, we understand, we hear you! We want your baby to feed successfully just as much as you do. So how can we turn a trial into a triumph? Here’s some steps to help guide you through introducing your breastfed baby to a bottle to your baby for the first time.
1. Don’t offer the bottle when baby is overtired or hungry.
Why: This sets the mission up for failure right away. A tired baby wants to be left alone to slumber. A hungry baby will hold out until you give in, or cry themselves to sleep. Neither of which is ideal. This will also heighten your cortisol levels.
Instead: Offer bottle 20-30 minutes before baby’s feeding time. Getting them used to the nipple texture and allowing time for you both to become familiar with how the bottle works. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more baby will be receptive to the bottle session.
2. Avoid the temptation to mix milks together.
Why: Breastmilk is a familiar taste to baby, and the bottle nipple is a new venture. Therefore, the familiarity of the breast milk taste will help entice baby to take the bottle. The benefits of the breast milk work best solo. If offering a bottle of formula for the first time, give breast milk first then the remaining ounces in formula.
Instead: Give baby tastes of the breast milk by putting some on the lips and allowing baby to taste it. Once baby has developed the feel of the bottle and the breastmilk in the bottle, offering a supplement of formula if needed will be easier for baby to accept.
3. Try not to overcompensate feeds with feeding more than baby is used to
Why: Because nursing doesn’t offer the opportunity to measure baby’s intake, generally under 12 weeks old, the 2-2.5 ounce is the standard ounces of milk for a bottle. Some feed well over this amount, which in turn can generate tummy, growth, and weight issues.
Instead: Offer smaller ounce bottles. Give an ounce or two of the chosen food. This will avoid wasting of excess if feeding ends up not being successful those first tries. After baby has taken the bottle, offer the remaining ounces.
4. Forgo positioning baby into a nursing position.
Why: This may confuse baby into believing that they are going to be nursed. Given an unfamiliar object instead will set one up for an unhappy baby and feeding session.
Instead: Paced bottle feed baby. Sitting baby up, will help baby to direct the flow of the milk whereas the milk does not flow too fast from the bottle. Allowing baby to control the milk flow will also teach them to stop feeding when they are satisfied. Just like when they are at the breast.
5. Remember to control the feed
Why: This will help get the burps and gas out that causes tummy discomforts, and not over shadow baby’s natural feeding abilities. A too fast flow, will turn baby off from the bottle. This goes hand in hand with paced bottle feeding.
Instead: Burp baby halfway through the feed, and switch sides. Again, allowing baby to control the feed and pace of the bottle. This will be wonderful when introducing sippy cups.
6. Consider using wide mouth bottles.
Why: Wide mouth bottles creates the same jaw motion and latch of being at the breast.
Instead: If using a standard sized nipple, look for nipples similar to breastfeeding.
When introducing your breastfed baby to a bottle for the first time, remember to bring your patience and support. With any goal, if you’re not all in it won’t work. Enlist help, support and come ready to be a team. You Can Do It!