If you plan to return to work, want other people to be able to feed your baby, or plan to bottle feed your baby within the first 6 months, you should introduce it early. Ideally the bottle should be offered about 1 month after birth.
If introduced much earlier than that, baby will be more likely to get used to the bottle and may have difficulty going back to the breast. Bottle feeding is easier than breastfeeding for most babies.
It is common for breastfed babies to get used to the breast and have a difficult time transitioning to the bottle. If you wait too long, you may run into this. This can add unnecessary stress for both you and baby.
If your primary goal is to breastfeed directly from your breast, focus on establishing this first. Once breastfeeding is well established, you can begin pumping. Focusing on breastfeeding the first 4-6 weeks should give both mom and baby enough time to establish breastfeeding and milk supply.
When you do start bottle feeding, only offer the bottle one time a day or even every other day. You want to offer it enough that is is familiar, but not so much that baby begins to prefer it.
When you begin pumping, start with just 1-2 times per day. If you pump too much while continuing to breastfeed directly, you will tell your body to make a lot more milk. This can lead to overproduction and engorgement.
While having too much milk may seem like the opposite of a problem early on in the breastfeeding journey, it can actually be quite difficult and painful.
How Much Should Baby Feed
Ask your pediatrician how many ounces baby should have within 24 hours. You can then divide this number by 8. This would tell you how many ounces to feed your baby approximately every 3 hours.
Store milk from each pumping session separately. Avoid combing fresh milk with previously stored and cooled milk. When combing milk from different pumping sessions, they should be the same temperature.
Once you have enough milk for a feeding, go ahead and offer baby a bottle!
For more information on pumping and safe milk storage, check out the CDC’s guidelines.
Alternative to Pumping
The Haaka has been a revolutionary invention for moms you want to breastfeed and bottle feed. You can use it on the opposite side during breastfeeding to collect small amounts. Many breastfeeding moms experience leaking on the opposite side while nursing. Why not collect that milk in a bottle rather than a nursing pad?
I recommend just lightly squeezing the Haaka enough for it to suction to your breast. If you squeeze it too hard the suction may be too strong. You don’t want to collect too much milk and there not be enough left in your breast for the baby.
What Type of Bottle to Offer a Breasted Baby
There are many strong opinions out there regarding what bottles are the best! There are always new bottles entering the market so the specifics change over time. Focus more on the features of the bottle and nipple rather than the specific brand.
Generally speaking, feeding therapists recommend bottles with nipples that have a gradual slope. The ideal nipple shape goes from narrow to wider gradually.
This means you may want to avoid bottles with nipples that are short and fat. Many wide based bottles tend to have these nipple shapes. The part of the nipple the baby sucks on tends to be quite short for these nipples. While these bottles were designed to be similar to the breast, they really are not. They actually make it harder for baby to get a deep latch.
I also recommend avoiding nipples that have a flat or square like shape. These can also prevent a deep latch and can reduce tongue cupping which is an important part of oral motor skills during feeding.
The most important factor by far is flow rate. If you are feeling stressed about picking the right bottle, don’t get too caught up on the nipple shape. The most important things is to use a slow flow or newborn flow nipple.
Some specific bottles I recommend include:
If you read about other recommended bottles elsewhere, make sure a feeding specialist or lactation consultant gave their input for the recommendations!
Positions for Bottle Feeding
Avoid feeding baby in a laid-back or reclined position. This will cause the milk to flow faster from the bottle. Generally, the breast tends to be a slower flow than most bottles. You want to avoid overwhelming baby with a fast flow. You also don’t want to get them used to a really easy flow rate. This can cause them to not want to work as hard at the breast!
Feed baby in a nearly upright position or in a sidelying position. This will help to slow down the flow, encourages more active sucking, and promotes safe swallowing. Check out this YouTube video for an easy explanation of the benefits of feeding in sidelying and how to do it.
Babies usually breastfeed in a sidelying position so while it may seem weird to bottle feed this way, it is actually quite natural!
Introducing Bottles to Older Babies
If your baby is already several months old (or more!) and you are just now trying to offer the bottle, don’t fret! While it is often more difficult with older babies, it is still possible. If you try the tips in this article without success and baby is over 6 months of age, you may be more successful just moving onto a cup. Check out our previous articles on Teaching Open Cup Drinking and Teaching Straw Drinking.
If baby is less than 6 months, start offering the bottle at least 2-3 weeks before you need baby to take it. Offer the bottle a few times per day to help baby adjust. See more tips below if you are still struggling!
Tips to Increase Bottle Acceptance
- Make sure the milk is warmed. Baby is used to warm milk when it comes directly from the source!
- Have someone other than mom offer the bottle if baby refuses to take the bottle with mom.
- Offer gentle rocking to help baby to get into a rhythm with sucking and to help keep them calm.
- Provide pacing to slow down the flow. This video is a great example of good paced bottle feeding.
- Try breastfeeding first so baby is somewhat satisfied. If they are too hungry, they may be less likely to accept the bottle.
- Try bottle feeding in the middle of the night when baby is more drowsy and (possibly) less aware of what you are offering.
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