Introducing bottle to a breastfed baby can be a confusing time for both parents and baby.
After working so hard to learn how to properly latch onto the breast, your baby may have no idea what to do with the nipple of a bottle.
A good latch to the breast requires your baby to flair their lips and that is often hard to do on a standardly sized bottle nipple. So patients and persistence is the best practice when dealing with a baby that won’t take a bottle.
Try these tips for introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby, learn how to avoid nipple confusion, and find out what some of the best bottles are for a breastfed baby!
Introducing Bottle to a Breastfed Baby Tips, Tricks, & More!
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Most lactation consultants agree that a bottle should not be introduced to a baby until they are at least a month old and breastfeeding is well established.
The way a baby drinks from the bottle requires a different sucking method and may take your baby a while to get used to it.
If you are returning to work after maternity leave, then it is best to start a few weeks before your first day to ensure your baby is comfortable with the bottle.
Tips for Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby:
1 – Start with a slow flow nipple
Babies have to work to pull milk out of the breast for the most part so taking a bottle will likely flood them with too much milk until they get the hang of it. Try a slow flow nipple, to begin with.
If you plan to breastfeed and bottle feed, a slow flow nipple is a good idea to stick with to help avoid “nipple confusion” (see more on that below).
2 – Start with a small amount of breast milk
It may be best to offer only an ounce or two at first.
Your baby may not take to the bottle right away and offering more than that at a time might mean wasting some of that precious liquid gold (breast milk). If it doesn’t go well, then stop and offer the breast after about 10 minutes if baby gets upset.
Try again another time.
3 – Let someone else give your baby the bottle
It is best not to be near baby when trying the bottle at first.
Often times babies will not accept a bottle from their mother because they want to nurse instead. It can cause some distress on both sides.
Have Daddy or Grandma give the baby a bottle while Mommy takes a relaxing shower or rests in the other room.
4 – Try different bottle brands
Sometimes finding the right bottle is the key to getting your baby to take it.
This is why it is generally advised not to go crazy with buying a ton of bottles and washing them before trying one to see if your baby will take it. So keep all bottles in their box until you are ready to use them, then wash and sterilize one to see how your baby does.
That way you aren’t stuck with a bunch of bottles you can’t use. See more about the Best Bottles for a Breastfed Baby below!
5 – Try holding your baby in different positions
This will be a foreign experience for your baby. She is used to being held close to Mommy. Try different holds to see what she prefers.
If you use a nursing pillow to breastfeed, using it to lay your baby on can help make the experience more familiar.
6 – Offer bottle when your baby is happy and relaxed
Trying a bottle for the first time when your baby is hungry and crying will likely not be successful.
Try watching for hunger cues from your baby and catch them early before baby gets upset. They are much more likely to take the bottle when they are relaxed.
7 – Try dipping the tip of the nipple in warm breast milk
This will help entice baby to suck and they will be able to smell the milk making it more familiar.
8 – Be patient!
Some babies may take to bottle feeding right away while others take many attempts. Remain positive and keep trying!
How to Avoid Nipple Confusion
Moms are often concerned about nipple confusion but the term “nipple confusion” is a little misleading.
Babies do not start to prefer the nipple of a bottle over the nipple of the breast but rather the flow of the milk. Breastfeeding is hard work. Baby’s have to work hard to pull the milk down.
It is also not a constant flow of milk. It comes in a series of letdowns. Slowing the flow and giving your baby natural breaks before another letdown.
A bottle flow, of course, is fast and furious with no slowing in the flow of the milk.
This is what baby’s start to prefer. They don’t have to work as hard and like the fast flow of the milk.
This is also why a lot of breastfed babies have difficulty when offered a bottle for the first time and seem to choke and become wide-eyed. The flow is very fast for them!
As I stated above, Lactation Consultants recommend waiting at least a month (if not more) before trying to introduce a bottle. The reason for this is to ensure that proper latch and supply are established.
Of course, there are times that a newborn needs to be given a bottle and not all breastfeeding journeys are the same so following the below tips will help ease the transition from breast to bottle and back again!
Tips for Avoiding Nipple Confusion:
- Wait at least a month to introduce a bottle
- Ensure mother’s milk supply is well established (low supply will lead to baby preferring the bottle)
- Practice Paced Feeding
- Use the slowest flow nipple
- Increase Skin to Skin contact when breastfeeding to help them transition back to the breast
- If baby will not take the breast, the use of a nipple shield can help get them back on the breast
- Consult a Lactation Consultant immediately if the baby will not go back to the breast
Best Bottles for a Breastfed Baby
Helping a breastfed baby take a bottle is much easier when the bottle is created to mimic the breast.
Standard sized nipples are narrow and small and do not allow your baby to “latch” to them as they would the breast.
There are a lot of wide-mouthed bottles on the market today that make this process much easier and to help your baby be more familiar with the shape.
Below are 3 of my favorite bottles for breastfed babies on the market today. I suggest starting with one of these and seeing which your baby prefers.
1 – Comotomo Baby Bottle
The Comotomo Baby Bottles are designed with a naturally shaped nipple that mimics the breast. It is made of soft, skin-like silicone that makes it easy for baby to grip. It doesn’t leak and has dual vents to help reduce the air ingested by baby. This is a great choice for a breastfed baby!
2 – Mimijumi
I had the pleasure of seeing the Mimijumi bottles at last year’s ABC Kids Expo. I was blown away by the design of this bottle.
It is designed with the widest mouth on the market, has very few pieces so is easy to clean and assemble. Its innovative design stimulated oral and dental development just like breastfeeding. But more importantly, it allows your baby to control the flow of milk making it easier to switch from breast to bottle.
The nipple is a natural shape and has a venting system that reduces colic. It is also made of food grade silicone and nylon and feels like skin.
The Mimijumi is one of the most natural feeling and breast-like bottles I have tested. Perfect for a breastfed baby!
3 – Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature
The Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature line is award-winning. Their wide neck bottles are designed to mimic the natural flex, stretch, and movement of mom’s breast. It features an easy vent value to help reduce air. They are BPA free.
Tommee Tippee is a favorite among moms and a go-to bottle if you are having trouble finding a bottle your baby will take.
Have some tips or questions about introducing a bottle to your baby? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!
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