Introducing the Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby
There are many reasons to introduce the bottle to your breastfed baby and supporting flexibility around feeding is one of them. Whether you will be returning to work full-time or are just looking to make sure your baby can be fed if you are apart for a few hours, we have some tips to help this introduction go smoothly as well as ideas on how to move forward if it does not.
Most importantly, do not wait until you are unavailable to introduce the bottle! Many parents have told me that they returned to work and just left the baby and bottle with the caregiver without ever practicing before. That’s not fair to the baby or the caregiver! Advice such as “she’ll drink when she’s hungry enough” is not true and can cause a lot of stress for all parties involved. Introduce the bottle several weeks before you will be away from baby and only during times your baby is happy and not overly hungry.
Be consistent with when and how you offer the milk. If your baby seems to be refusing initial attempts with the bottle, do not feel the need to try more than 2-3 types of bottles/nipples (such as narrow/standard and wide-based). It is not likely that changing the bottle or nipple type will make a huge difference. Instead, offer the same bottle every day around the same time for several days to a week and give your baby time to get used to it.
If your baby does not take a pacifier and gags every time you put a bottle in her mouth, consider other methods of feeding. Using a spoon-feeder or a medicine cup may be an option. The goal is to help your baby safely and happily accept milk from a source other than your breast. For a baby who is 4 months or older, trying a soft-spouted sippy cup with handles may also be successful.
Finally, remember to be a responsive feeder. As with all feeding transitions, let your baby take the lead and watch carefully for cues that she is stressed, backing off as needed. Bottle-feedings are mostly controlled by the adult and that alone can be stressful for a baby. Show her that you are listening and allow her to move through this experience at her own pace. If you and baby continue to struggle, please seek help to get you through this transition.