Before my baby was born I had a general plan in my mind in terms of how long I would breastfeed for and when we would start giving her expressed milk in a bottle. I knew that it was necessary for me to have the ability to give my baby expressed milk relatively early on so my husband could help with feeds and prepare for when I needed to go back to work.
What I did not anticipate was the fact that transitioning from breast to bottle and vice versa is not always as simple as saying it.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are planning to introduce your breastfed baby to a bottle.
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Don’t start with the bottle too soon.
This was the most prominent thing my lactation consultant kept telling me when we were discussing my plan for breastfeeding. She thought my idea of offering the bottle within the first couple of weeks was a bad idea.
She warned me on causing nipple confusion for my baby.
Nipple confusion: aka nipple preference. He or she may start to prefer to take the bottle over breastfeeding directly because it is easier for them. This may cause your baby to refuse the breast, have difficulty with latch, and a subsequent decrease in breastmilk supply.
So what is too soon?
Lactation consultants will recommend that you wait at least one month before introducing a bottle. Did I listen? No.
I introduced the bottle to my baby within the first 10 days. She actually ended up doing fine taking the bottle and still nursing, but I can’t say for certain this would happen with all babies. It definitely depends on the baby and their temperament.
In my experience, I would give it at least a week before trying a bottle. When you do- start slow. If your baby resists, give them a break and try again the next day. It is hard in the first few weeks to muscle through breastfeeding because of how sensitive and painful your nipples will get. This is the make it or break it time. If you can get through the first few weeks, you can get through anything!
Don’t wait too long to introduce a bottle.
Doesn’t this sound like a conundrum? Not too soon but also not too late. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This porridge is too hot and this one is too cold. She needs the porridge just right.
If you wait too long to introduce a bottle your baby may have difficulty drinking from it because the way your baby sucks to get milk from a bottle differs from how they suckle the breast. So how do you find the sweet spot for your baby?
Trial and error honestly.
Start slow. Offer a bottle, and see how your baby responds. If they take it like a champ-great! If they fuss and have difficulty- take a break and try again the next day. Let your baby be your guide. Their instincts are pretty remarkable. Your baby can eventually learn how to drink from a bottle. It will just take practice.
Like I said, I started to introduce my baby to the bottle within the first 10 days and she seemed to do fine with that. She was able to get milk from the bottle without difficulty, and then easily transfer over to the breast and her latch was just fine.
Do I think 10 days is too soon to start introducing a bottle? No. I think that timing worked well for her. What I would do differently next time would be to offer less bottles early on. This brings me to my next point.
Keep breastfeeding as your primary method of feeding when possible.
I fell into a pattern of giving my baby a bottle of expressed milk more often because it was easier for both of us. Especially in the beginning when your nipples feel like they are going to fall off. Or you need a break and your husband takes over. Not to mention the time it takes for a baby to drink a bottle is usually less than when they nurse.
There are many reasons why offering the bottle is appealing.
My biggest suggestion to you is not to offer the bottle too often. The maximum I would suggest is once a day. I use the once a day bottle to give my baby her supplemental vitamin D mixed in it (read more about the importance of supplementing your exclusively breastfed baby with vitamin D in my article here).
There was a time period when my baby went through a nursing strike.
Alll I could think was, “Maybe the lactation consultant was right. I should have waited a month like she said.” But we got through her nursing strike, and you can read more about that in my article here.
I do not think it really had anything to do with the timing of introducing bottles.
Her nursing strike started when she became more aware of her surroundings and was more interested in looking around than nursing. I will suggest to you- definitely offer the breast as much as possible and keep it the primary feeding method for the first several months until your milk supply is established and your breastfeeding relationship with your baby is strong.
Choose the right bottle for your baby.
Your baby may not accept the first bottle you give her. Try a different kind.
Sometimes it is just a matter of finding the right bottle for your baby. I first offered my baby an Avent bottle and she rejected it. I was prepared for this, however, and had two other types to try.
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature- was the winner!
She has used these bottles ever since. I did not even try the last type of bottle I had because she did so well with the Tommee Tippees and I did not want to interfere with that.
This set of bottles was gifted to me off of my Amazon Registry. Once I determined this was the bottle we would be using I ordered two more in pink, and later on 3 more 9-ounce bottles.
I started with the 5 ounce bottles because for the first several months your baby won’t be drinking more than that at a time. I am still using the 5 ounce bottles as well because they can actually hold 6 ounces (the lines are only measured up to 5).
These bottles are superior to others because of the unique design of the nipple. The nipple mimics the feel of a breast. It is wide and softer than others I have seen.
I really feel like this is the best bottle you can use for your breastfed baby. My baby had no difficulty switching from this bottle back to breast. It is easy to clean as well, because it doesn’t have numerous parts like some other bottles.
Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best things you can do for him or her.
There is no equal substitute to breastmilk and I commend you on choosing this journey.
When you can’t always be there with your baby you can still provide them with your perfect nutrition once you introduce a bottle. It can be a scary thought because some people warn you that your baby will stop nursing and your supply will drop, but rest assured mama. Our babies are new to this world, but they are ever growing and developing their skills. You will be able to transition your baby to a bottle.
It won’t always be perfect.
There may be times when giving a bottle or breastfeeding becomes difficult, but
follow these tips and I believe you can achieve success.
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