Baby, Meet Bottle

happy mother feeds her baby with a bottleIf you’ve been breastfeeding exclusively for the last two months, you might be thinking about switching to a bottle for at least occasional feedings. Maybe you’re going back to work, and you plan to pump breastmilk for your baby to take from a bottle. Maybe you want your partner to be able to do a nighttime feeding, so you can get some much-needed sleep. Or, maybe you just want a little more freedom from being a snack bar every three hours. Whatever your reasoning, we’re here with a few tips to make introducing your baby to the bottle a little easier.

When to Start

If you’re planning to go back to work, you’ll want to begin introducing the bottle at least two weeks beforehand. Your baby will need some time to adjust, and so will you. To prepare baby for the new routine, leave the house for a couple of hours, and let an alternate caregiver try a bottle while you’re gone.

How to Start

It can be challenging to move a breast-fed baby to a bottle, even if the bottle contains mom’s milk. Here are some ideas to make the transition go more smoothly:

  • If possible, have someone other than you give the bottle. Babies can smell their mothers from quite a distance, so you may even want to leave the room (or the house) so your baby knows the bottle is the only food available right now.
  • If your baby is two months or older, you may try a slow-flow nipple, so the flood of milk isn’t overwhelming.Speak with your pediatrician to see if this is an option.  
  • Don’t force the nipple into baby’s mouth; put a little breast milk on the tip, place it against baby’s lips, and allow the baby to draw in the nipple like they would from the breast.
  • Feed the baby in different positions than your typical nursing positions, to help establish in baby’s mind that this is different, but still okay.
  • When baby loses interest in feeding, or drowses off and lets the nipple fall out of their mouth, don’t try to make them finish the bottle. Just like when breastfeeding, your baby knows how much to eat and when to stop.

What if Baby Won’t Take a Bottle?

Sometimes this happens. You can try different types of bottles and nipples, different milk temperatures, different feeding positions, and any number of variations—but sometimes, a baby just will not accept a bottle. Some mothers have better results going straight to a cup, either one with a spout or with a straw. You might also talk to your pediatrician about introducing cereal mixed with breastmilk to keep your baby’s tummy full while you’re away.