Mother’s milk is considered the best diet for the baby. It has all the antibodies and nutrients that help in building a baby’s immunity. But in some exceptional cases, the mother’s milk can even be expressed and given in a bottle. The biggest challenge, however, is “how to introduce a bottle to breastfed baby”. It is a question that bothers all parents as with time the bottle has to be introduced as they have to stop breastfeeding for some reason.
Here we provide a brief outline of the tips to introduce the breastfed baby to a bottle along with a few topics related to the same.
When Can You Introduce Bottle To Breastfed Baby?
As parents, it is very tough to find the right time for introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby. Also, there is confusion between how to introduce a bottle to breastfed baby at 1 year or how to introduce a bottle to breastfed baby at 6 months? There is no set time for introducing as suggested by the lactation specialists, it is appropriate to wait for introducing a bottle till breastfeeding is well-established, which is generally after a month or so.
In case the mother is planning to resume her place of work and has to leave the baby behind , the process of bottle feeding should start at least two weeks in advance so that both the mother and the baby get adjusted. Another question to ponder is “should I introduce a bottle of formula to a breastfed baby?”
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The process of breastfeeding and being bottle-feeding are two different ones. Sucking milk through a bottle uses distinct tongue and mouth movements than the process of breastfeeding. This is also the reason why the baby takes time and is slightly confused. Parents also wish to know if “giving a breastfed baby a bottle of expressed milk at night is helpful”. It is thus advised to follow the steps below for a smoother transition.
1. Let someone else from the family introduce the baby to his first bottle
Mother is the first contact of the baby. The baby always relates to her for feeding. In case the mother tries to introduce the bottle, it can be confusing for the baby as he/she is used to her breast milk. In case the bottle is introduced by someone else in the family, chances are that the child can accept it more easily.
2. Offer the bottle at feeding hours out of his schedule
It is always advisable to offer or introduce a bottle out of the regular feeding hours of the baby. This is important as he needs to get used to sucking milk through a nipple. Also, starting with a smaller quantity is more helpful than filling the bottle. It is recommended by health experts to start with half an ounce.
3. Try by responsive feeding or feeding on demand
The baby always offers clues when they are hungry, if the baby is fed on demand, it is a similar process to breastfeeding. Doctors also suggest keeping the bottle in a horizontal position, using a nipple where the flow is slow, taking required pauses, keeping switching sides similar to breastfeeding, and stopping when the baby indicates being full.
Related Reading: 6 Benefits And 5 Concerns Of Comfort Feeding
4. Step out from the house
Elders and health experts believe that the baby knows the smell of the mother. A mother’s presence can add difficulty while looking for a transition. If the mother wants a successful transition from breastfeeding to a bottle, she should step out so that the baby starts getting used to not having her and getting fed when he is hungry without creating many problems.
Following the above steps may be helpful yet the baby initially might not eat too much and keep getting restless in between or even at night in case he does not see you much during the day but with time, the habits will be formed. This is normal, and one needs to have patience for the same1.
What Can I Do If My Baby Resists Taking A Bottle?
Since all babies are different, a breastfed baby refusing a bottle is not a common scenario. Some babies are not fussy and can easily shift to bottles while others are reluctant and pose a challenge to the parents. It is best for other members of the family to introduce the bottle to the baby, rather than the mother herself.
Following certain pointers can always help and they are:
- Offering the bottle out of the regular feeding schedule of the day- If the baby is refusing the bottle at his normal feeding hours during the day, it should be offered for a night-time feeding or the other way round. The bottle should be given to the baby when not hungry or when too hungry
- Adding some breast milk on the nipple for the baby to get the taste– Since the baby knows the taste of the breastmilk, it is possible that getting the same taste on the nipple helps him to suck more, and thus making him used to take milk through a bottle
- Try using a bottle nipple similar to the pacifier- If the baby sucks to a pacifier, using a latex bottle nipple would help. Do not use a silicone pacifier but a latex one. Put the nipple in warm water for a few seconds so that it is softer
- Let the baby explore the nipple- If the baby plays with the nipple, he can get familiar with it. If he chews on it, he can even start sucking thus making the process a smoother one. Also, try to let the baby latch the bottle all by himself than by putting it directly
- Change the position of the baby– Keep the infant in different positions like an infant seat or holding him in your lap, only to ensure that the baby is in an upright position. Once the baby is comfortable latching to the bottle, the original position of feeding can be resumed. One should not only change the position but even try and move around while feeding the baby than sitting in one place
- Experiment with different temperatures– Every baby has preferences to have the milk slightly warm or cold, so changing the temperature of the milk before offering it can help as well
Related Reading: Bottle Feeding Premature Babies-All You Need To Know
10 Tips For Introducing Your Breastfed Baby To The Bottle
Since all the babies are different, what works for one might not for the other. So, the question arises” how to introduce a bottle to breastfed baby”. There is not one thing that can be adopted and proves successful, so given below are a few tips that can help the parents smoothen the process of introducing the bottle to the baby.
1. Nipple confusion and preference
It is believed by parents that babies tend to get confused if they are first breastfed and then introduced to the bottle or vice-versa. However, this is a myth as babies just get used to a method and prefer that over the other. So, the parents need to have patience and keep trying with small quantities and gaps to make the baby used to it2.
2. Maintain the milk volume by pumping or breastfeeding
If the baby is being fed from the bottle, it is advisable to keep pumping the milk. When you are with the baby, keep breastfeeding the baby as the more the baby sucks the better is the milk production. If the frequency of the expressed milk is reduced, the production will also decrease3.
Related Reading: 10 Foods That Make Breast Milk Taste Good (Indian)
3. Always add a bottle once the milk volume is good enough
Add a bottle after a healthy milk volume is produced from the mother’s breast. If the baby is being exclusively breastfed then the bottle should only be introduced when the expressed milk is good in quantity, this usually takes at least four weeks after the baby is born4.
4. Always use a wide-based nipple for the bottle same as the size and shape of the human nipple
The bottle nipple should be similar to the human one as it makes the baby more familiar with sucking milk just like breastfeeding5.
5. Use one bottle and nipple style
Few babies are very choosy when they have been only breastfed. So, picking up a specific type of bottle and nipple at one time is helpful but it is important to ensure that the baby gets a proper feed from them before buying in bulk. It is also a good idea to try different bottles as well as nipples till the baby decides on the one, they like the most.
6. Start with a slow-feeding style
If the baby is fed in a slow feeding style it is similar to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a slower process, but bottle feed is quicker and requires less effort so giving time for the baby to swallow and breathe and then insert the bottle again encourages the process of feeding to slow down helping them to easily latch onto the bottle6.
Related Reading: 21 Breastfeeding Tips For First Time Mothers
7. Transitioning to bottle feeding takes time
Exclusively breastfed babies take some time in shifting to a bottle-fed after being breastfed. This process requires patience and many trials by the parents to be successful. One can start as early as two months. And soon the baby will start getting used to being fed by a bottle.
8. Early introduction of the bottle helps in a smooth transition of the process
Introduce bottle feeding two to four weeks before resuming work. This gives enough time and helps the baby to adjust to the new scenario. Also, it helps the mother to follow an expressing or pumping milk schedule if she wants to bottle feed her baby pumped breast milk rather than formula. It also gives time for the mother to see if the baby is getting the feed effectively from the bottle. Some babies of 6 months have fine motor skills which can allow them to play with the bottle and finally grab and suck milk7.
9. Let someone else offer the bottle to the baby rather than the mother
It makes a big difference if the mother does not introduce the bottle to the baby but someone else in the family. Babies tend to smell the mother and associate her with feeding. Thus, they tend to refuse the bottle given by their mother. However, the chance of successful bottle feeding is more if other family members introduce the bottle to the child. A great way for other members of the family to bond with the baby.
10. Trying different methods of feeding if the baby refuses bottle feed
If the baby does not want to be bottle-fed, the ideal way is to feed the baby through a cup, spoon, syringe, etc. The idea is to get the baby to leave breastfeeding and start taking milk through other means. If the baby gets used to being fed by other means, he would soon latch on to the bottle. One can start this process as early as four months onwards8.
Related Reading: 9 Biggest Challenges Of Breastfeeding No One Prepares You For
Thus, transitioning a breastfed baby to a bottle is not easy. As parents, it is important to keep trying different ways and have patience as it is as tough for the baby as it is for the parent. With more time, effort, and consistent trying, the baby will finally get used to being bottle-fed.
In case the baby refuses to take the bottle, one should try feeding with a bowl and a spoon, sippy cup, regular cup, etc.
The only thing to remember is that the baby should be in an upright position and let them drink at their own pace.
If the bottle-fed baby now prefers breast milk, it should only be offered when he is not hungry. Try to give the maximum number of feeds through the bottle.
If he gets used to the bottle and is reluctant to latch on to the breast, he might get breastfed with the help of a nipple.
If the mother is planning to resume work or office at six weeks, introduce the bottle two weeks before that. It is always advisable to start earlier so that there is enough time and fewer chances of the baby to refuse the bottle since he has already got too much time.
There is no assurance for the same. However, consider it just as a tip to be followed for better results.